Now that you’ve learned the foundational part of debating, let’s continue to expand. The ultimate goal is to educate people on their blind spots. And to open their mind to views they presently oppose.

As mentioned in part one, this entire experience demands emotional labour of you. It’s not fair, but we need to accept this reality. Unfortunately, having unrealistic expectations isn’t useful and will only hold us back.



-ask probing, clarifying and humanizing questions

-curious, not accusatory

-use “we” language


-as before, keep is short and sweet

-ask, tell, ask

-create silences

Mental health

-gauge your composure

-measure their emotions and respond accordingly

-stop the debate when needed



It’s important to truly understand what they’re saying throughout your conversation. Often times we reach conclusions through innumerable assumptions. This is simply how our brains are wired.

Make the effort to get their perspective in their own words. It will greatly impact how your respond and can make the difference between a debate going as you hope and one that increases tension or animosity.

At this point focus on expanding the style of questions you’re asking. Probing questions are a great way to clarify someone’s thoughts. It also encourages them to question their beliefs and think critically.

Probing & clarifying questions

Probing questions are typically open ended. Some examples would be:

*can you expand on that?

*what are your thoughts on _____?

*how can you be sure that _____?

They differ from clarifying questions, though it is easy to confuse the two at first. Clarifying questions are targeted specifically at what’s already been said to ensure you’re on the same page.

Some examples would be:

*So you’re saying ____?

*When you talk about ______, are you also saying ______?

*If you feel ____ about ____, is it fair to say that you also think _______?

Understanding the difference

Where probing questions are mostly or exclusively open ended, clarifying questions should generally require yes or no responses alongside a quick clarification or confirmation.

These work well in allowing the other person to feel like they’re heard. As a result it naturally reduces negative emotions and tensions.

The last form of questions to focus on are humanizing ones. These are questions that can be structured however you choose, though typically probing questions work best.

The intention of them is to mentally place the other person in the shoes of the marginalized group they oppose.They usual involve hypotheticals.

Humanizing questions

Some examples would be:

*If you were subjected to _______, what would you do/think/feel/want?

*Have you ever had to ______?

*what would you do if _________?

This shifts the focus from an us and them mentality to a me mindset. We’re always more sympathetic to our own situation and experiences. That’s ok, leverage that to open their eyes.

Your probing and clarifying questions help you understand their world view better. Your humanizing questions help you apply what you know about them in a way that brings the issue into focus.

The value of proper tone

Tone is critical for this part. Especially when we consider how much of our conversations involve assumptions. Add emotion into the mix and your debate can go sideways fast.

For this reason, be sure to come across as curious not accusatory. You want to learn more about their beliefs and challenge the inconsistencies. You’re not blaming them for being bigoted or ignorant, you’re confused as to why they are.

It’s very difficult to be angry with someone who is confused by your position and genuinely trying to learn more about your opinions and thoughts.

This is why it’s also important to choose your words carefully. Be selective with when you say “you,” and be mindful that it’s at appropriate times. Whenever possible, use “we,” or “people,” as this also breaks down the us and them mentality.

For example, if I say, “you don’t understand because of your privilege,” that sounds accusatory and also condescending. Defensiveness would be a natural response. If instead I say, “we don’t understand because of our privilege,” that sounds much more supportive and understanding.

If instead I say, “people don’t understand because of their privilege,” that would go a long way to diminishing any emotional volatility that might be occurring.


People can only pay attention to something they’re reading online for a number of seconds. In person, for only a matter of minutes. For this reason, it’s critical to keep what you’re saying short and impactful.

A strong method is to ask a question, provide a statement and then ask another questions. How this flows will depend on your content. Sometimes it makes sense to deliver all three at once. Other times it is best to ask your first question, wait for a reply and then continue on.

For example, you could say, “Do you know how many unarmed people were fatally shot by police in America last year? Almost 1000. What do you think about that?” The first question engages, but it is not necessary for the other person to provide an answer. In contrast, the second question is open ended and does require a response.

Another example would be, “Do you think police shootings are a problem in America?” Depending on their answer, your next statement will vary, as will your second question.

Silence is welcome

A lot of people are afraid to allow a silence to happen in a conversation. Realistically, silence is a good sign. It means at least one person in the conversation is thinking. Try to create silences whenever possible to allow for information to be digested.

Resist the urge to rush your responses. And resist the urge to pressure the other person into rushing their responses as well.

Mental health

Throughout the discourse be sure to monitor how you’re feeling and how you’re responding. As mentioned earlier, emotional labor is required and this will naturally become taxing.

Take time to gauge your own mental health and ensure you’re still equipped to carry on the conversation. If you’re not, be sure to post pone the discussion for another time.

Equally important is gauging how the other person is handling the discourse. Emotional intelligence is a skill many people lack and it’s quite common for people to become emotionally volatile when controversial issues are raised.

If someone is feeling emotionally charged, they will not be able to clearly hear your points. Nor will they be able to articulate their own. This is just another reason why it’s important to pause conversations until everyone involved is feeling more balanced.

The Next Steps

Yes, sharing ideas is important. And yes, getting your point across is also important. Just like changing someone’s narrow minded or bigoted view is. But you’ve got time to work towards that.

For now, start with a solid foundation. One that allows you to remain calm, learn the other person’s perspective, ask probing questions that get them thinking, and protect your mental health in the process. Then keep building from there, strengthening your debate muscles until all of this becomes second nature.