I was on the Speech and Debate team in high school and college (better known as the Forensics team). That is where I not only learned how to become an effective communicator but I also developed my debating skills. Over the years I have found this skill to be extremely useful—especially as a journalist sitting in editorial meetings trying to pitch why my story idea would be better than someone else’s.

Debating, unlike the “I’m going to win this argument at any cost!”, allows two or more people to engage in a dialogue that, often times, presents opposing views. Healthy debate allows us to share our thoughts, opinions, and even passionately disagree without yelling, screaming, cursing or causing irreparable harm to others. When conducted in a civilized manner, it can actually inspire good communication:

You learn to value others’ opinions and input: Learning to see another person’s point of view is important because it shows that even though you may not agree with their opinion, you can at least respect it and are open-minded enough to hear what they have to say and why they feel that particular way. And as you continue to express your own views on a subject or issue, you may enlighten the other person to information they may not have been aware of.

You become a better listener: Even if you don’t agree with what you are listening to, paying attention to what the other person is saying can make you more flexible in your own ideas, because being rigid or inflexible can really inhibit your thinking and thoughts. You may hear something that brings you in alignment to their point of view.

People who listen are often wiser than those who love to talk but fail to hear what other people say. Good listeners give themselves opportunities to understand other people’s viewpoints and widen their own.

You demonstrate respect: When we listen to other opinions that differ from our own, without judgement, we are showing the person that we respect them. We benefit from different perspectives that are brought out by the diversity another’s experiences, knowledge and background.

You learn how to become an Influencer: The really good communicators know how to command attention because they know how to articulate their thoughts and ideas with clarity but more importantly, they know how to speak with passion and conviction. That makes an impact on those around you who are engaging with you or just listening. You have the power to influence or sway their opinions. As an Influencer, people trust you and really listen to what you have to say.

The value of healthy debate is when we (1) listen with intent, (2) speak with respect, (3) communicate clearly, and (4) keep an open mind to the possibility that, heaven forbid, we might be wrong.

Here’s my motto: Speak in such a way that others love listening to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you—-and if you do that in a healthy debate (or in ANY conversation for that matter), you will INSPIRE good communication.

To learn more about how Forensics helped my debating skills click here: Debate