Basics of the Principled Approach to Negotiation and Debate

In my last article, I discussed the different styles of debate. In this one, I’ll be talking more about the Principled Negotiation method, which is probably the best method of debate. First, a short review of what we’ve learned so far.

In the Soft Approach, the participants generally see each other as friends. Therefore, the ultimate goal of the argument is to agree. As the arguing person does not want to fight, he’s soft on the problem and the person, and is willing to give up points in order to keep a good relationship. This sort of approach insists on agreement, but doesn’t really get anything done.

In the Hard Approach, participants generally see each other as enemies, so the final goal is to be victorious. This is generally the approach taken by strangers online. They are hard on both the opponent and the problem itself, and will win at any cost, to the detriment of their mutual relationship. This kind of argument is okay if you want to win, but you will probably not make a lot of friends or convince anyone that you’re right.

The Principled Approach, a sort of middle way between the two extremes, is probably the best approach to use if you wish to convince others that you’re right. You see each other as fellow problem solvers, rather than as friends or enemies. The ultimate goal is not to win or agree, but to find the truth. A principled negotiator is a skilled debater.

In my next four articles, I’ll be going over the four major components of the Principled Approach to negotiation or debate. First, you should learn to be at the same time soft on the other participants of the debate and hard on the arguments themselves. Secondly, you should more or less ignore the positions themselves in favor of the interests of the debaters. Thirdly, you should always keep an open mind and keep your options open. Finally, you should always insist on objective criteria.

With these four pillars, you’ll find yourself arguing and debating much more effectively, and will also almost never alienate your debate opponents. Tune in next time to see how to do this!

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