• Nicholas Gambin

DEEP DIVE: We’ve Lost The Ability To Have A Healthy Debate Or Discussion

We All Think Differently

Wherever you are in life, you’re going to come across people who have thoughts, beliefs & opinions that you probably don’t 100% agree with.

Values are passed down to us through socialisation from school & our parents. However, we all get to a point where we have to choose whether to accept or reject the norms put on us by society.

From the classroom to the workplace, from entering your local convenience shop to coming across people online, disagreements happen all around us. But we seem to have lost the ability to handle them in a healthy way.


Attack Or Defend

When someone feels like their opinion is being criticised, there are usually 2 knee-jerk reactions people often have:

  1. They go on the attack & continue firing their thoughts at you like bullets without much sense.

  2. They go on the defence & put up a wall, which makes them stop listening to you.

If they feel like they’re losing, they might also turn to hurling insults or attacking things that have nothing to do with the opinion, like someone’s appearance or upbringing.

Things can end up getting too personal or going on a completely different tangent from where the disagreement started from in the first place.


The Role That School Plays

School plays an important role in our ability to debate & discuss. Students should be able to ask questions about what they’re learning & not just absorb information passively word for word.

If debating is actually taught in schools, it’s usually done in a more formal & structured manner. Teams are given a specific topic, with one side arguing for & one against. Each speaker gets a certain amount of time to argue their point, while also being able to combat the other group’s points.

But let’s face it, we hardly ever find ourselves in a formal debate setting when we’re trying to prove a point. So all these formalities & conventions just get chucked out the window.


Stuck In An Echo Chamber

Most of the time, we exist in our own little echo chamber. We end up living in an environment where we only encounter information or opinions that reflect & reinforce our own.

It’s a form of confirmation bias, which is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour & recall information in a way that confirms or supports our prior beliefs or values.

It's a tendency to actively try & avoid looking at information that could contradict our opinions or undermine our arguments. However, we end up limiting our own perspective in the process, almost as if we’re living in our own little bubble.


Disagreements Can Be Beneficial

If we all thought the same, there would be nothing that makes us different or unique. We would also get very bored of reading the same opinions and thoughts over & over & over again.

When coming up with ideas, it can actually be super useful to get different people’s perspectives & open up the conversation to generate a wider variety of ideas & opinions.

Disagreements can also be an opportunity for growth & learning. Maybe the person you’re speaking to is more knowledgable about the subject & mentions arguments that you wouldn’t have been aware of before having that conversation.


Some Tips To Keep It Clean & Healthy

  1. Be open - start by agreeing to listen to one another & hearing each other out.

  2. Be respectful - shouting is the easiest way to lose your argument. Things can get heated but we’re all human, so try respect one another.

  3. Understand who you’re arguing with - some people will hear you out, others will just never see your side of the argument. Don’t waste your breath on the latter, it’s not worth it.

  4. Agree to disagree - sometimes all you can do is agree to disagree & walk away respectfully. Disagreements don't need to end with hatred.


How Can We Get Better At Having Disagreements With One Another?