What would you like to know? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
I believe that this is a very simple question but very much undervalued and misused.
Debates can be of many different natures. And many times are just entertainment. They can be the most time consuming activity you can engage in, but that does not always mean that they would be the most profitable. Every time, the profits depend on what are you looking for from the act of debating. Most of the time, debating is used just to consume time playing “wrestling” as a hobby. But, how many times have you engaged in a debate having something in mind that you wanted to know? and end up actually finding it out?
Among many of the postures we might find in most debates are about:
those who want to be recognised as being right,
those who want to know if what they think is right;
and those who want to know something.
Not so long ago, I was talking with a senior scientist whom was thinking in retiring from appearing in scientific congresses, even as a guess speaker, based on the lack of new data that this scientist could bring into the congresses. I said that I do not agree with that point of view. People who have been involved throughout their careers in so many debates and under so many circumstances, professionally and colloquially, know how easy is to find criticism from opposed postures and difficult to find support in adding efforts to achieve a common goal.
There are many things that can be learnt from others in a debate which are beyond feeding information. Things which are not told but that can be appreciated such as the ability to listen, to stretch your mind trying to understand different approaches, the progression applied to unfold an idea, the temper applied in defending positions and the capacity of integrating different pieces of information and points of view.
I am one of those persons who enjoys debating. I like when I find my postures reinforced by sharing points of view but further than that, I really appreciate the effort that someone else puts into understanding where I am coming from.
Many times I rather prefer to be considered “useful” than “right”. Because I consider other ways of thinking “useful” and even surprisingly inspiring, even when I do not fully agree with the conclusions adopted.
In several occasions I have encountered people taking the posture in a debate of just being right, period. And by expressing doubts and not surrender your own point of view the debate shifts into a trust issue (if you have doubts about what I am saying it is because you do not trust me…).
At this point I usually think to myself, what is more important in a debate, to find out what we know or to find out who is right?
What do you really would like to know?