YOU DO YOU
Many people demur from engaging in debate or argument. All that conflict and tension, it can just be so…ugly.
Debate itself isn’t the problem. Healthy disagreements can sharpen critical thinking skills and improve ideas. But because confrontation is so often discouraged, most people don’t get enough practice arguing clearly and unemotionally.
You may have missed your chance to be a star on your high-school debate team, but it’s never too late to brush up on your debate skills and start gracefully disagreeing every once in a while.
Here’s a reading list and cheat sheet for improving your debate skills.
Book: Win Every Argument: The Art of Debating, Persuading, and Public Speaking by Mehdi Hasan
Cheat-sheet takeaway: Use the rule of three. “Make sure you have three main points, and make sure you have a beginning, middle, and end—because three also gives you what Cowan calls a ‘stable structure,’” Hasan says. “It helps organize your arguments in a way that people find easy to absorb, remember and, ideally, agree with.”
Book: Good Arguments: How Debate Teaches Us to Listen and Be Heard by Bo Seo
Cheat-sheet takeaway: Don’t try to win every argument. “But in my first book, Good Arguments, I propose that the opposite is true,” Seo says. “Students may train to win every disagreement, but they soon learn that this is impossible. Even the best lose most of the competitions they attend. What one can do is disagree better—be more convincing and tenacious, and argue in a manner that keeps others willing to come back for another round. In the end, the prize for all that training and effort is a good conversation.”
Book: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant
Cheat-sheet takeaway: Think like a scientist, or in other words, remain open and receptive to new ideas and information instead of sheltering your opinions like precious gems.
Book: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
Cheat-sheet takeaway: Avoid the fallacy of the single cause by remembering that life is complicated and events and situations result from complex interplaying factors and rarely from one single thing.
Book: Think Again: How to Reason and Argue by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
Cheat-sheet takeaway: Ask more questions. “The best way to reduce opponents’ overconfidence and make them open to your position might seem to be an overwhelming argument that shows them why they are wrong and why you are right,” Sinnott-Armstrong says. “Sometimes that works, but only rarely. What usually works better is to ask questions—in particular, to ask opponents for reasons. Questions are often more powerful than assertions.”
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Bragging: Do or Don’t
Before we dive in, let’s address the elephant in the room. “Bragging” is a subjective term. Something your mom considers bragging could be what your boss considers healthy self praise.
For our purposes, let’s use Social Life Tip’s concise definition to distinguish between bragging and sharing.
“Bragging is when you talk about something you have done or possess with the sole purpose of impressing the other people around you, so you will look better in their eyes.”
And now…to brag or not to brag?
Luckily for us, a team of social psychologists did an in-depth investigation to tackle this question. Here’s what you need to know about their findings.
The overarching takeaway: Bragging about the ways you’re superior to others is beneficial in some ways and harmful in others. Considering the pros and cons alongside what you want to accomplish can help you arrive at the best decision.
The identified pros:
- Bragging may increase others’ perceptions of your competence.
- Bragging may increase your happiness and overall self image.
- Bragging may decrease others’ perceptions of your morality.
- Bragging when available evidence refutes your claim decreases others’ perceptions of your morality and competence.
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Fast and furious (reading)
What is speed reading?
Speed reading isn’t just reading really fast. It’s actually a technique for skimming key sentences and phrases (and therefore key points) instead of reading each individual word. (How you likely read web content is a good example of the general concept.)
How do you do it?
The Scanning Method: Move your eyes down the page and linger on the first and last sentences of each paragraph, as well as headings, quotes, names, and numbers.
The Pointer Method: Swipe your finger (or even a pen) along lines of text as you read, moving your “pointer” a little faster than your eyes want you to.
There are also, of course, apps to help you give it a try:
How long does it take to learn?
To learn the techniques and train your brain to comprehend text in new ways will likely take at least a few weeks.
Is it worth it?
It depends. Speed reading doesn’t work for everyone. Some say it doesn’t help them read more and others swear by it. The good news? It’s not terribly hard to give it a try and see if it works for you.
Are we living in a post-privacy era?
No really—think about it. (Consider this your super-fun thought experiment of the day.) After you’ve noodled for a few minutes, take a browse through the round-up of expert opinions below.
Yes, unless users or technology companies significantly change their behavior. [The New York Times]
“In other words, the state of digital privacy is already so far gone that forgoing the use of digital tools altogether may be the only way to keep information secure, security researchers said. Leaving mobile phones at home would help evade the persistent location tracking deployed by wireless carriers. Payments for prescription drugs and health services would ideally be made in cash. For travel, public transportation like a bus or a train would be more discreet than ride-hailing apps.”
No, as long as we are proactive about regulations and transparency. [International Association of Privacy Professionals]
“Though existing data privacy laws provide at least some form of protection for consumers in relation to this emerging technology, there is an opportunity for us to proactively address the unique privacy ramifications of generative AI before it becomes even further ingrained in our everyday lives. Instead of regulating from behind, like we have attempted to do with targeted advertising, we can set the rules about data use and purposes for generative AI from the very beginning. This approach can mitigate some of the unanticipated concerns we may have with this technology, at least from a privacy perspective.”
Not exactly, but the onus of maintaining privacy (through Herculean effort) falls on individuals. [Forbes]
“These are steps in the right direction, but in practice, consumers have to be very proactive to get any of the benefits from the law: they have to read the fine print, make requests of companies and know everywhere their data resides. The burden is on the consumer and that burden is unimaginably heavy. You could dedicate your life to just opting out and still not regain any real control over your data. This approach lets companies off the hook and then blames the victims.”
No, because several states are taking action to stop that from happening. [Reuters]
“Historically data privacy laws here have been rooted in a “harms-prevention-based” hodgepodge of privacy protections, seeking to prevent or mitigate harms in specific sectors. In contrast, under the broader “rights-based” approach exemplified by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), individuals effectively own their personal information and thus presumptively have the legal right to control it, and who can use it is a matter for them to decide.”
“Following California’s lead, four other states — Colorado, Connecticut, Utah, and Virginia — will begin enforcing new GDPR-inspired statutes in 2023. More states are sure to follow. The implications of this fundamental shift in the underlying philosophical framework regarding data privacy protection will be profound in the years and decades to come. 2023 will mark the shift.”
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