The Dandelion Group

Technique of the week

Surgical strikes

What is the best reaction in a debate? We should be quick on the trigger and put the other side on the defensive. An English programmer ranked the best levels of attack.

Paul Graham’s hierarchy of disagreement illustrates how you emerge as a winner. Insults, often used by politicians, might let you win a (TV) battle but lose the campaign. Addressing the tone or a contradiction are also common but not much more effective. We win an argument if we manage to rebut the other side’s central idea.

How to rebut

  1. Write down all arguments from the other side. If the speaker did not signpost and only used examples, identify the point s/he wanted to make.

  2. Summarise the arguments in one sentence to single out the central idea.

  3. Develop counterarguments that target the central idea only and present them with the help of a slogan or by asking challenging questions.

Exercise

UK Prime Minister Theresa May not only danced to ABBA but also gave a speech at the Tories’ conference in Birmingham in October 2018. She presented the Conservatives as the party of opportunity. Imagine you are from the Labour party or LibDems and have to react to the speech. Come up with three arguments plus examples attacking her central claim.

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Ben WilhelmComment