Debating is a skill like any other and takes time to develop and then fine tune. The task becomes easier when we keep a few mental notes top of mind.

Look at controversial conversations with friends, family and peers as opportunities. They are. They’re a chance for you to work on personal growth.

Goals to work towards


-conveying point without being perceived as condescending

-communicating without “lecturing”

-commanding attention, avoiding being cut off or talked over


-constructing solid arguments

-maintaining train of though while waiting to speak

-making concise points-delivering points in a timely manner, not rushed

Mental health

-not feeling frustrated

-not leaving due to negative emotions

-staying calm, reducing anxiety



-discuss the subject with the intention of learning the other person’s view, not sharing your own

-accept that this will not be the only conversation. It’s just *part* of an ongoing discussion

-remind yourself that there is no deadline to get your views across, because, see above point

This takes a lot of the pressure off. It does take time to shift your mindset towards this. No dialogue happens all at once, nor is a topic ever discussed only once. We consistently circle back to various feminist topics.

Move your approach to this method in offline life too. People need time to digest new information. Especially when that information is ideas and challenges their world view.

Both of those things take some getting used to. It’s rare for anyone to change their mind immediately. Learning is a process, be patient.


-keep it short and sweet, literally

-repeat back what you’re hearing

-ask questions

It’s natural to get emotional when talking about human rights issues. Everyone does. Unfortunately, if we’re going to educate people on these topics we have to accept that emotional labour will be involved. It’s not fair, it’s reality.

Work on strengthening your ability to maintain composure. This sounds harder than it is, I promise.

When you focus on asking questions instead of providing information, it allows your brain to relax a bit. Remember, you’re learning more about the other person’s view at this point. That requires a lot of listening.


-resist the urge to control the conversation. Just follow it where it goes and ask questions

-keep it simple: use the “headline” approach (1-2 sentences that convey your entire thesis)

Asking questions and listening means that you surrender control over the conversation. This is difficult at first. But remember this is not the only opportunity for discourse. You’ll have your chance to speak, it just won’t be right now

This also allows you to stop keeping track of talking points. Which automatically decreases your stress and anxiety. Keep your portion of talking as concise as possible by limiting it.

This sounds odd but the intention is to make your point in an impactful way. Ideally one or two sentences. Even better, structure them as questions.

Mental health

-take deep breaths, focus on controlling your body. Unclench you’re jaw, lower your shoulders, open up your chest, straighten your spine.

-leave when you feel overwhelmed, it’s critical to prioritize your mental health

The only thing you need to keep track of during the discussion is your body. Focus on reducing physical manifestations of stress, as mentioned above. This will help you relax and strengthen your endurance in difficult conversations.

However, never continue to engage in dialogue beyond the point you’re comfortable with. If you need to, walk away.

When you’re ready, let’s move on to part two.