[notification type=”alert-info” title=”Power of Debate Part 1″]Debate is My Life[/notification]

When I was “little Priten,” I was shy, introverted, and could barely look a stranger in the eyes, let alone carry out a conversation. I liked to keep to my books, and hated the idea of having to speak in front of anyone.Four years later, I am a different person. I am confident in my self, my thoughts, my speech, and my ability to contribute to discussions.  Seeing other team members, and even opponents, grow similarly, I can confidently state that debate was the factor that caused this change.

Debate forced me to face my fear of people. I couldn’t shy away from a round because the competitors had years more experience than me. I had to stand up in the cross-examination period and answer questions that I may or not have been prepared for. This required a great deal of confidence, feigned at first, but real as I pulled it off more often.

It forced me to learn how people think. I had to predict opponent’s arguments both before and during the round, and to read the judge’s body language to shape our final speeches. The more I learned about how people thought, the more confident I was in my ability to persuade the judge, or trick my opponent.  This confidence translates easily into daily persuasion, as it gives me the power to know what arguments my “opponent” will make, and how best I can craft my own arguments to account for it. When you go into a conversation thinking like that, it’s hard not to trust yourself.

And, it forced me to trust my instincts and focus on work, no matter what the stakes. Debate rewards hard work, and as long as I was committed, nothing was impossible. This life lesson translated well into other areas. Hard work leads to success; this means no matter what challenge I am facing, I can overcome it. Approaching ever problem with that confidence, makes a world of a difference, both in how you approach the problem and in how many times you approach it.

Losing may have hurt my confidence in the short-term, but over the course of four years it greatly boosted it. This seems counterintuitive to many who view debate solely as a competitive activity. But in reality, debate is much more an experience than a competition. Every debate that I remember from the four years of high school is one that I lost and gained something from. Yes, winning debate trophies and awards is also confidence boosting, but what really boosted my confidence was when I lost to an argument, and then won against it. What continues to support my confidence today, are the skills that I took away from the activity.

In the next post, I will discuss a more tangible benefit of debate.