Reasoning, research and even public speaking skills are just some of the positives behind learning how to be a great debater. From planning your argument (even if you don’t agree with it) to choosing your words wisely, debating will help you take on whatever life chooses to throw at you.

Debating is by no means the same as entering into a full-on argument. In fact, you will need to develop a succinct, effective argument, which will gain you support and kudos, rather than blindly attacking your opponent.

From Cicero to Churchill, history’s great debaters have helped shape the world we live in and resolve many of society’s issues. Here are 12 ways that debating can help you in your life for years to come.

1. Be a better critical thinker

While you might not debate on a day-to-day basis, chances are you will get involved in small disagreements and differences of opinion. Debating, instead of arguing, can help you defuse a rapidly escalating situation. Rather than raising your voice, take a step back and choose your words wisely.

Debating helps you to develop essential critical thinking skills – the ability to make reasoned and well thought out arguments in addition to questioning the evidence behind a particular stance or conclusion. Critical thinking will help you become curious about new ideas while also retaining a level of scepticism and building a healthy attitude to questioning. It will also help you to become more humble – well, you can’t be right all the time! 

2. Articulate your thoughts

Ever had that feeling when you just can’t get your words out quickly enough? Debating can help you become even better at explaining a whole variety of topics. From explaining complex mathematical equations to the plotline of your favourite book, debating helps you to identify your audience and choose the appropriate tone. Too formal a tone will only alienate you from your listeners, while being too relaxed might undermine your own arguments. The ability to articulate and plan your thoughts is key in debating, producing a well- planned out and sharp argument.

3. Education is key

In any debate the argument matters, even if you don’t agree with it on principle. The manner in which you deliver your winning speech is also incredibly important: keeping calm and maintaining eye contact are all proven as effective debating techniques. Last but not least is the method in which you put your debate together. Are your arguments coherent? Do they make sense?

A good debater will keep all of these in mind in addition to the core elements they have acquired through education (reading and finding sources, writing and drafting a speech, speaking confidently and being able to listen) – useful both inside and outside the classroom. 

4. Think on your feet

Think outside of the box, challenge your opponent and be ready to identify any loopholes in their counter-argument. The ability to think on your feet and respond to questions and comments is essential while debating – hesitating could cost you precious time and points. In fact, the ability to think on your feet could stand you in good stead in any situation which life throws at you, when time is of the essence and a decision needs to be made fast.

5. Conflict resolution

A good debater will remain focused and won’t stray from the issue they are discussing. Just like any successful orator, remember who it is you want to keep on side, and present a personable argument – you will appear instantly much more amenable and likeable.

Knowing how to lose graciously and accept your failings are important skills, both in debating and during everyday life. This will also help resolve any conflicts before they have a chance to begin. So, accept any criticism that comes your way. It will make you a much more polished and proficient speaker – and human being – in the long term.

6. Show some empathy

A successful speaker will always maintain a degree of empathy while debating – you might not believe in what you have been assigned, but empathy will help you understand and accept the beliefs of others. Nobody is asking you to agree with the other party’s argument, but empathy is an important life skill, helping you to improve your relations on a personal and professional level.

Picture courtesy of AZ Quotes

7. Keep your emotions in check

A good debater will also remember to retain an element of poise and composure – addressing the issue rather than getting carried away emotionally. In fact, managing your emotions will not only stand you in good stead while debating. It is no easy skill to manage, but will gain you respect in every walk of life.

8. Construct meaning out of complex situations

Debating will also help you learn how to construct meaning out of, what are usually, rather complex topics. From world peace to banning nuclear energy, taking the time to research the subject and carefully construct the points you want to make will help you construct a better argument.

Finding solutions to a previous problem and compiling creative solutions and ideas are also key skills for any good debater. Thinking outside of the box and making the best of a bad situation are excellent traits to have, meaning you are prepared and ready to take on any challenge, no matter what the size.

9. Presentation skills

Presentation plays a crucial part in how others perceive you as an individual, and more importantly, as competition.

Consider what you are going to say, speak slowly and with clear enunciation. It will make for better reasoning and a clearer understanding of what you say. Good presentation skills will earn you instant respect both while debating and in future situations.

10. Confidence boost

Good presentation skills will also help boost confidence – helping you to shine at interviews or work related events. If you are confident you feel more able to take on increased responsibility and even take some risks – helping you to stand out as an individual. A polished overall presentation and confident speaking manner will make you a memorable individual.

11. Be more socially conscious

Debating is a skill which requires any individual to be much more politically and socially aware of current affairs. In fact, debating also requires you to address a whole range of diverse social issues and viewpoints. Being more socially and politically aware is not only important while debating but it will also ensure that you connect and relate better to others, both socially and in the workplace.


12. An expanded worldview

Debating not only touches on political and social topics, it can also help individuals acquire a totally different worldview too. Debating means students study topics that they wouldn’t normally consider, meaning they have a deeper understanding of the society and the world which we live in. An expanded worldview also encourages students to be proud of their talents and achievements, in addition to being more appreciative of the opportunities that await them.

Being more conscious of the world we live in will stand you in good stead for the future – even if you don’t win the debate this time.


This article was sponsored by St John’s-Ravenscourt School. Over the last 28 years, students at the Canadian school have been named World Debating Champion on 14 occasions. Students of all ages and skill levels practice various forms of debate and travel across the country and the world competing.