I guess all of us have, from time to time, become dragged into discussions that end up developing into arguments?  This week I want to explore the rapidly disappearing art of a well-constructed debate.  A debate, in contradiction to an argument, is supposed to explore differing views and opinions and to eventually come to some form of conclusion.  In a debate no one argument or opinion has authority over another. All are an essential component of the process.

In today’s politically correct world, the art of debate is becoming a rarer occurrence. Too many people are scared of being seen on the same platform as those with whom they strongly disagree in case of being somehow linked with their opponents. I even heard one politician criticize another for attending a debate where a well-known radical socialist was also talking part; it was as if he somehow sympathised with the views of his radical opponent.

The great thing about a really good debate is that it can end with you still liking the person but disagreeing, or even hating their views. I personally find tolerating even trivial racist comments and arguments extremely difficult, and yet, if I were to run away from them or to face up to them in an aggressive way then the debate would be over and never have a chance of advancing.

Spending time with those we disagree with, in the ambition to influence them into another direction, is never a waste of time for me. I have a few friends that I simply cannot align with on a number of topics, politics being one of them but none the less I always look forward to our inevitable after dinner debates.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better than finding a soul mate who shares your views and outlook on life, but that experience is rare and very special and tends to drive ones thoughts inwards.

The point I am trying to make is that in our business lives and families too, it is vital for us to find a structure in which intelligent debate and discussion can occur and where diversity has a voice. As Voltaire, the eighteenth century French enlightenment writer once said (but is more likely to have been Evelyn Beatrice Hall) “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Have a good a week

Harley