Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

4.5. Participate in discussions, debates and negotiations

ryanrori January 23, 2021

[responsivevoice_button rate=”0.9″ voice=”UK English Female” buttontext=”Listen to Post”]

A formal debate on a particular topic can appear on the agenda of a formal meeting or it can be a separate meeting where one topic is discussed. Debates can also be informal, as issues where there is discussion and disagreement can arise at any time during your day at work or at home.

If you wish to communicate effectively in a formal debate, then you need to know how to participate. 

Debating Format

  • Affirmative: The affirmative team presents their proposition (resolution). The group defines the situation, presents proposed alternatives, explains the plan for change and provides a brief summary.
  • Negative: Then the negative team presents their position. The group may be directly arguing that there is no need for change as is being proposed by the affirmative team. The negative team states their reasoning for the status quo. They may, only if necessary, argue the definition of the situation as defined by the affirmative team. The team raises questions about the affirmative position.
  • Affirmative: The second affirmative speaker will summarise the arguments on both sides noting where the positions conflict. The speaker will try to demonstrate the superiority of their reasoning. The speaker also has the task of answering any questions raised by the first negative speaker. It’s important to address any particularly difficult questions. The answers should leave the audience satisfied. Present a plan.
  • Negative: The second negative speaker restates the position of the team. He or she will address important questions raised. The main task however is to attack the plan as proposed by the affirmative team. The speaker may show that the plan is unworkable or expose unconsidered negative implications. The goal of this speaker is to demonstrate that the proposed resolution is uncalled for and/or unneeded and/or unworkable.
  • Rebuttal speeches are shorter (3-5 minutes or as dictated) and may not present new evidence. Their sole purpose is to defend your case and defeat the case of the opposition.
  • 1st Rebuttal – Negative
  • 1st Rebuttal – Affirmative
  • 2nd Rebuttal – Negative
  • 2nd Rebuttal – Affirmative

Example Debate:

In a formal debate there are two groups who hold differing opinions of the topic under discussion. Let’s take this example. A company has proposed transferring the Pension Fund into a Provident Fund. 

One group, Group A, might be against this and want to remain with the Pension Fund; the other, Group B, might support the change to a Provident Fund. 

  • Step 1: Group B, the group that supports the proposal, takes the floor first. A proposer introduces the argument and might say, “We support the proposal to move from a Pension Fund to a Provident Fund.”

Reasons to support the proposal are then put forward by the proposer and/or other members of the group. 

Points to remember:

You are trying to persuade people to support your point of view, so:

  • Emphasise the points that support the move to the Provident Fund;
  • Make use of persuasive language;
  • Use your voice and non-verbal communication to emphasise that the move to a Provident Fund is a good idea.
  • Step 2: Group A, the group that opposes the argument, is then allowed to express its opinions. Following the same procedure, the opposer states, “We believe that moving to a Provident Fund is not in the interests of the employees of this company.” 

Reasons for opposing the proposal are then put forward by the opposer and/or other members of the group. 

Points to remember:

The opposer is also trying to persuade people to support his/her point of view, so:

  • Emphasise why the move to the Provident Fund is not a good idea and why the company should remain with the Pension Fund;
  • Make use of persuasive language;
  • Use your voice and non-verbal communication to emphasise that the move to a Provident Fund is not a good idea.
  • Step 3: A general discussion, led by the chairperson, then follows. The chairperson has to assume the roles and responsibilities of the group leader and it is important for the chairperson to remain impartial. That is, he/she must not take sides.

For example, if the chairperson asked for comments from a particular department, he would not say, “What does management think of the ill-advised move?” If he did, this would show that he was against the move to a Provident Fund.

Instead, he would ask, “What does management think of the proposed move?”

  • Step 4: After the discussion has ended, the chairperson allows the opposer and the proposer an opportunity to summarise their arguments. 

When you summarise your argument, take note of the following:

  • The summary should be brief, but powerful;
  • Ensure that you emphasise the most important points to support your point of view;
  • Make use of persuasive language;
  • Use your voice and non-verbal communication to emphasise your proposal;
  • End your summary in a strong, effective manner. For example, you would not end by saying, “And so you must vote to stay with the Pension Fund.”
    Instead, you might say, “In order to ensure we receive the pensions we deserve and have worked hard for, I urge you to reject the ill-advised move to the Provident Fund and vote for the sensible option – remaining with the Pension Fund!”
  • Step 5: The members of the audience vote on the issue. The chairperson asks the members to vote on the issue. After a debate, this is usually done by a show of hands or by orally answering “yes” or “no.” The chairperson will state, “Those in favour of transferring from a Pension Fund to a Provident Fund, please raise your hand.”

After those votes have been counted, the chairperson then states, “Those who are against the proposal to move from a Pension Fund to a Provident Fund, please raise your hand.”

  • Step 6: The chairperson concludes the debate by announcing the result and stating whether the proposal is approved or denied. 

For example, “The proposal to transfer the money from a Pension Fund to a Provident Fund has been approved by 367 votes to 220.”