How to End a Debate

by Culture & Society Editor
Formal debate provides each speaker with a chance to give a rebuttal.

Formal debate provides each speaker with a chance to give a rebuttal.

Often, the most difficult part of any debate is trying to end it. With complex topics and moral or ethical considerations, it can be almost impossible to get either side to yield. Use some practical techniques to try and draw the debate to a close and silence the politicians.

Get the attention of the room by either raising your voice or standing up. Outline the need to end the debate by listing reasons simply. These could be anything from a lack of time to the need for an urgent resolution.

Inform all opposing sides they will have a few minutes to summarize their arguments before the close of the debate and give them a specified time to discuss their arguments and gather information. Set ground rules for the summary such as no interrupting of an opposing side and if necessary outline the consequences if they do not follow your rules.

Use a stopwatch and time each speaker as they give a summary of the main points of their argument. This way, all speakers get an equal opportunity to close and they won't be able to dispute that any side received an unfair advantage.

Make a visible list of the main points of each perspective as they summarize and display these, side by side in the same format, so it is easy to distinguish each perspective.

Ask if there can be a resolve to the debate by a show of hands for a simple yes or no decision. If the majority votes no, conclude the debate with the reasons why not. If the vote is yes, give extra time for each side to create a list of concessions. To speed things up, agree on a number to list.

Set a time limit for extra discussion and count down at regular intervals until each party has reached a common ground. Time out and verbalize the final agreement. If the debate consists of many minor details, determine a future time line to have any necessary documents or drafts completed.

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