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Types of Debaters and How to Engage with Them

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| January 6, 2022

Discover what type of debater you are to help improve your conflict-resolution skills.

Conflict resolution isn’t easy, but understanding your argumentation style, as well as your counterpart’s, can help bring clarity to your most difficult conversations by providing you with a sense of understanding and a new strategy for effective discourse.

Conflict is difficult. Having the same conflict repeatedly, without any lasting resolution? Absolutely exasperating.

Human beings aren’t born masters of argumentation. Conflict-resolution skills are developed over time based on your upbringing and experiences, and they vary widely from person to person. So it should come as no surprise that some of your arguments may need a little more TLC to come to a successful conclusion.

Most of these hiccups in an argument are caused by reactions. Reactions are the metaphorical crossroads in an argument. How we respond in conflict can be the determining factor for which way the argument will go.

This blog will help you communicate more effectively in arguments by exploring the different types of debaters, determining your style (as well as your counterpart’s) and providing helpful tips for improving discourse.


Types of Debaters

Although there are a multitude of reactions and debate styles in conflict, below are some of the most common ones that can trip up any argument and make it increasingly difficult to have successful dialogue.

  • The Paralyzer. When someone shuts down during an argument, the conflict can be emotionally paralyzing for them. This is a basic human function as they go into flight mode.
  • The Absolutist. Absolutes are terms like “always,” “never,” “everyone,” “no one,” etc. This all-or-nothing feeling can be detrimental to a conversation because it leaves no room for nuance.
  • The Attacker. Pointing fingers, assigning blame and throwing accusations are forms of attack on the person you’re arguing with and are some of the fastest ways to prevent the conversation from closing successfully.
  • The Defender. If the reaction to every point the other person is making sounds like an excuse, then you might be over-defending. Being on the defense can happen from feeling attacked, but a consistent defense avoids accountability.
  • The Resentful. When you’re mad about a particular incident but bring up other situations that have occurred outside of the argument, then you’re losing sight of the subject. This is confusing and unhelpful in finding common ground.
  • The Talker. While this can happen naturally and without realizing it, interrupting doesn’t allow the other person to voice their feelings and opinions, leaving them feeling defensive and worn out.


Understanding Your Type and Theirs

The key to determining which debater you are, as well as your companion, is to understand the types. In other words, you have to know what to look for before you find it.

Below are three tips you can use to decide what kind of debater you are.

  • Take note of your initial reaction. Do you want to flee, yell, point your finger, have an all-or-nothing attitude or defend yourself? Where you jump first is likely the place you go when you are most emotional and reactive.
  • Ask yourself the deep question: Why do I go there? There might be some old wounds keeping you from having safe conversations.
  • Analyze your last few arguments to determine whether or not you came to a successful conclusion with the other person. If you did, what helped? And if you didn’t, what seemed to get in the way?

You can also use this set of tips to help you identify the style of the person you are communicating with.

  • Listen for key phrases in your conversation. It’s easy to overlook absolutes or silence, but these are indicators as to what’s happening on the other end.
  • Pay attention to repetitive behavior in these conflicts. If the conversations seem to consistently become about something else or sound like the defense in a courtroom, then your counterpart might be stuck in their style.

Understanding your type and theirs is the first step in having discourse that ends with a solution rather than more frustration.


Communicating Across the Types

Understanding the types may be where to start, but putting communication into action is the key. These tactics can help you turn some of the most intense arguments into conflict-resolution dreams.

  • Create a game plan for yourself. When you know what reactions you reach for when you are in conflict, one of the best ways to keep yourself on track is to make a plan for when those reactions go awry. For example, if you know that you are prone to losing sight of the argument at hand, practice writing down what it is you are fighting about versus what you may actually be upset about. Those two things aren’t always the same, but interchanging them mid-argument is confusing and frustrating for the other person.
  • Navigate their style through stating your intention. If the person you are arguing with has a tendency to go on the defense, then it could be helpful to remind them from the start that the conversation is safe for the both of you to communicate and no one is on trial. 
  • Follow up with action. Simply saying the space is safe isn’t enough on its own. When you verbally state your intention to help them, remember to follow up with your language for the rest of the conversation. In the example of your partner being on the defense, remember to use language that leans away from accusations.
  • Know when to take a step back. If the argument doesn’t seem to be moving toward a resolution, then it might be time to give the conversation space. Rather than throwing in the towel, ask your counterpart how they feel about taking a break to recuperate. Your friend who usually shuts down may have expended all of their energy, and asking them if they need a break demonstrates that you respect their needs.

Using these four tips can be the game changer in your arguments, allowing you to have more effective conflict resolution with your friends, family and colleagues.


A Final Note on Types of Debaters

As everyone communicates in their own style, having a solid understanding of these types can ease some of those conversation pain points, making your everyday discourse more effective.

If you’re looking for more articles about life and discourse, then you might want to subscribe to our newsletter, where you can receive articles just like this one straight to your inbox.


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