The difference between winning or losing an argument comes down to how well you can debate. Being able to share a political opinion and engage with others, while having a chance to change their position and mind is a critical aspect of political literacy and awareness. Political debate and debate as a whole should follow certain etiquette. Here are six tips to keep in mind to improve your political debate.

1. Preparation is the only way to stay on topic

Ensure that you have prepared and have your cue cards memorized so that you stay on topic and don’t get waylaid by any of your opponent’s tactics. If you haven’t prepared and read sufficiently it will be easy to be drawn into unrelated arguments, as well as then be unable to concisely get your point across.

2. Be prepared to accept a compromise position

Winning a debate is great and being able to convince the audience and the other side is the overall aim. However, the ability to be able to accept a compromise position along the way is a skill in itself. For example, the argument may be whether to feed or not to feed wild animals and along the way, you may agree to only feed British garden birds as the answer.  Good debating is about reaching a compromise that may be acceptable to both sides.

3. Always keep calm

Oftentimes, political debate and debate on subjects and topics that are important to us can cause participants to become passionate about them. This is fine, but the key to a great debate is to keep as calm as possible. As soon as you lose your cool, you are more likely to lose focus and your train of thought.

4. Know your facts

Regardless of the subject of the content of the debate, there is nothing as effective as some genuine facts. Ensure that your sources are genuine and then study these to be able to use them as weapons in the debate. Numbers and dates are always impactful but use them to amplify a point — not randomly.

5. Respect the other side

There must be a level of respect and professionalism in all debates. It doesn’t matter how right you are or believe your side to be, maintaining a level of respect is at the heart of a good debate. Getting your argument across in a way that decimates your opponent’s argument, while staying respectful, is the aim of any good debate.

6. You don’t always need to disagree with your opponent

It may sound strange, but it will give you the upper hand if you simply agree with a point or two of your opponent’s. It’s related to the idea of compromise along the way. It obviously can’t be a material issue that would affect your overall argument or political position, but agreeing with the opposition for a point of shared principle will unseat them and provide you with the prime position.

The basis of political literacy and understanding is debate, and the best way to debate is to follow the tips mentioned here.