Stay open-mined when debating

Someone once came to me for condolence after a strong disagreement she and a friend just had. The conversation had started off about animal cruelty, she told me, and her friend had some reasoning supporting health care products that used animal flesh — or something like that.

Nevertheless, she was crushed. As she told me how the conversation went, I deduced that their conversation had started off as a gentle debate and it ended as a screaming match. Her problem as I deduced, however, was that she was so firm in her beliefs, just as he was, that nothing was achieved other than a somewhat battered friendship.

A debate is, more or less, the engagement in argument by discussing opposing points. When you and a colleague get together and talk about whom the better baseball team was or which the better movie was, essentially, that’s a debate. Listening to one another, taking the time and effort to analyze those points and using logic and reason to back these things up all constitute what could be a friendly debate.

Yet, more and more, I am getting tired of overhearing, listening and worst of all, partaking in similar situations that evolve spontaneously throughout my day. They are not debates, per se, but grounds for insufferable commotion. The bottom line is that when two people are so steadfast in their beliefs that they refuse to listen and rationalize, the debate is futile.

Look at the issue of abortion. You believe very strongly in your stance on abortion. Thus, you wouldn’t engage yourself in a conversation with someone who holds the opposite belief at such a strong level. You’re not going to change what you believe, nor is he. Thus, a debate would be pointless, as is the case between any two closed-minded people. If you passionately believe in something, if you’ve critically analyzed the major components of your decision and if you’ve talked to a decent number of people in order to fortify your logic, then it seems as if there’s nothing left. Moreover, after time, you consider people who oppose your viewpoints dumb, and you’ve, for all intents and purposes, given into the “ignorance is bliss” mentality.

Whether you find this scenario right or wrong is one thing. The part that I am fed up with is when one of these people finds another and an emotionally charged onslaught of words happens as a result. The pending war with Iraq is a straightforward example. You believe that we shouldn’t go to war, and she does. You’ve both made up your minds about the issue, and it’d be impossible to sway you one way or the other, closing your mind to any alternative mentionable. So common sense would indicate that talking about the issue would not only prove to be a stalemate of influence, but it gives rise to group abhorrence, and in turn, mental (and sometimes physical) demolition.

My opinion is simple, and my charge is even simpler. In general, people should be open-minded about more things. There are always things that you don’t know about a situation. This is true for everyone, from the people who listen to issues addressed on the news to the experts themselves. If you stop talking and listen, you’ll get a new spin on something. That’s what life entails. But when there is something that you believe in so strongly and don’t want to adjust, then don’t debate it with people who feel the same way for the opposing viewpoints. They don’t want to hear your side just as much as you don’t want to hear theirs. Talk about the weather, the movies or the school — something that won’t initiate a public, passion-based fight. Don’t let your pride get a hold of you. Tell them that collectively, nothing will be achieved and agree to disagree. It’ll spare the world the temper and the rage — two of the fundamental factors incorporated in hate.