Debate season is starting up again! I first began debating during my freshman year of high school. Sometimes I wonder why I've spent the past eight years involved in this activity, but then I remember debate has forced me to grow in many ways. And while it is a school activity, the lessons learned extend far beyond the classroom.
In honor of the new season, here are five important lessons debate taught me:
1. Examine both sides of an issue
This one seems obvious, but I'm always surprised by how many people are unable to understand people who disagree with them. In order to debate successfully, you must research things that your opponent will say. You need to understand the arguments on the other side, which helps you strengthen your own case. Debate has given me the chance to learn about topics that I never would have imagined. I am a more well-rounded individual and I can better articulate my beliefs as a result.
2. You need to be able to think on your feet
Sure, you can construct a bulletproof case, but things never go as planned. Cross-examination can be full of surprises and every debater knows that you need to be a quick thinker if you want to survive. You must be able to answer the tough questions, both in debate and in everyday life.
3. Listening is as important as speaking
This one seems strange, since you obviously need to give a great speech in order to win a debate. But you cannot focus solely on what you want to say and completely ignore the person speaking. If you do that, you aren't actually responding to the arguments at hand. A debate without clash is hardly a debate at all. This illustrates a good life lesson: You can't expect to be successful if you don't actively listen to others.
4. Be capable of thriving in a competitive environment
I've always loved competition, but I know quite a few people who hate it. Some people will avoid confrontation at all costs. Debate is highly competitive, but it is relatively civil in terms of argumentation. This makes it a great opportunity to become comfortable with confrontation while it is in a structured environment. Debate is also a place where you eventually recognize that you can be successful even if you don't always win.
5. People are interesting, so get to know them
This is not to say that I love every person that I've met through debate. I certainly haven't. But debate is a great opportunity to branch out and meet people with a different worldview and different life experiences. The friends I have made through debate are a reminder that you can repeatedly disagree with someone and still maintain a strong relationship with mutual respect.
And for all of these reasons, this is why I don't regret my decision to join the debate team, no matter how frustrating or time-consuming it has been. The valuable lessons learned outweigh any negatives.