Public Forum debate is a partner-based event. This requires communication, cooperation, and the ability to learn from each other to an extent that few debaters may have experienced prior to debating. Sometimes, this lack of experience leads to conflict between partners. Even experienced partners may disagree and eventually be upset at each other. Here’s three tips to better communicate with your partner:
First, it is important to have a proper mentality for approaching debate partnerships. Debate is a learning experience, but not just about political ideas, social problems and their possible solutions, but is also about learning how to navigate social situations.
Debaters should respect their partners as individuals and recognize that they might have a different perspective. Understanding a perspective that a debater disagrees with is central to debate as an activity. It is no different when it comes to disagreement with a partner. Insulting a partner, belittling their opinion, and other similar behavior hurts a partnership and should be avoided.
Second, debate is a communication activity. Debaters not only have to communicate effectively with the judge and their opponents. They must also communicate with their partner. Usually, both partners want to win debates. Therefore, the majority of disagreements between partners are just about how to best achieve this common goal. Unlike in a debate though, debate partners do not “win” arguments against each other. Instead, debaters should focus on communicating collaboratively to find a solution that both debaters find agreeable.
Disagreements should be goal-oriented. This requires focusing on solutions instead of arguing for the sake of arguing. If a problem does not have a solution, focusing on that problem generally just demoralizes partnerships without a sensible benefit.
Third, there is a time and a place to talk out disagreements with a partner. A debate round is generally not one of those times. It’s more important to cooperatively focus on a similar strategy than it is to argue with each other and focus on different parts of the debate in different crossfires and speeches. Appearing as a unified team is also important for influencing a judge’s perception of one’s professionalism, which is important for speaker points.
Overall, partners should be patient and kind to each other. However, they should also be demanding of each other. Navigating disagreements respectfully, with a goal-oriented mindset, and at the right time can help strengthen partnerships, which will ultimately translate into greater competitive success.