Creativity comes from Debate

Instead of trying to prevent arguments, we should be modeling courteous conflict and teaching kids how to have healthy disagreements. We can start with four rules:

• Frame it as a debate , rather than a conflict. Full text pdf

• Argue as if you’re right but listen as if you’re wrong.

• Make the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s perspective.

• Acknowledge where you agree with your critics and what you’ve learned from them.

What is best for harmony may clash with the factors of creativity.


I’m not a native English speaker so somehow the word ‘debate’ has negative connotations (for me). Just to throw some light on it- does the opposite of debate mean forced conformity of some such thing?

with metta

I think the opposite of debate would be apathy. Which can imply a certain degree of conformity.

That’s if we frame “debate” as “righteous, courteous, and passionate” arguing. But when is it ever those 3 things? Not often.

Here’s some good tips from the article above:

• Frame it as a debate, rather than a conflict.
• Argue as if you’re right but listen as if you’re wrong.
• Make the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s perspective.
• Acknowledge where you agree with your critics and what you’ve learned from them.

I think passionate debate must be tempered with metta. There’s a chance it dissolves into conflict, otherwise.

The word debate seems to address a continuum from consideration (even meditation on!) to argument according to a Thesaurus, but for Right speech, the skilful end of the stick needs to be identified, from the unskilful one, IMO.

with metta

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That is my opinion as well.

The elaboration of the 1st rule with “rather than” is somewhat reminiscent in my ears of some EBT. Frame it as a debate , rather than a conflict.

I’ve revised the OP to include a link to research in the original article.

The pursuit of information sharing: expressing task conflicts as debates vs. disagreements increases perceived receptivity to dissenting opinions in groups

The cited research does not offer a definition of ‘debate’ or the word in opposition.
In one study participants reacted to statements that either used the word “debate” or “disagree”.

Thus some read the the statement:

“ I debate that your first offer makes sense. My company has not offered any signing bonus previously. I think that we are debating about what an appropriate signing bonus is.”

While others read:

“ I disagree that your first offer makes sense. My company has not offered any signing bonus previously. I think that we are disagreeing about what an appropriate signing bonus is.”

Participants next answered questions that we developed regarding their perceptions of their counterpart’s [known as ‘RK’] receptivity to dissenting opinions . The items included :
“RK will enjoy doing the task with me even though I have different opinions,”
“RK will make an extra effort to listen to my different viewpoints,”
“RK will not consider my opinions that are inconsistent with his or hers,”
“RK will reject my opinions that are inconsistent with his or hers,”
“RK will be open to my comments and reactions,”
and “RK will consider my different points of view.”

The study authors theorize:

Importantly, we do not believe those differences arise because of the labels of “debate” and “disagreement,” but to the underlying mindset about task-focused conflicts that frames how the expression of dissenting opinions are perceived in a particular organizational or team context. We, therefore, predict that the effects
of task-focused conflict on receiver’s perceptions of sender’s receptivity to dissenting opinions will depend on the extent to which opinion differences are expressed directly as low-intensity debates rather than as disagreements.

I propose that a “underlying mindset” corresponds to a “view”.
There is indeed a need to be attend to the “the skilful end of the stick” to recall @mat’s phrasing.

When receivers perceive a sender to be more receptive to dissenting opinions, the receivers may feel less social threat from expressing their different opinions and more social trust and psychological safety (Alge et al. 2003, Edmondson 2004). Social trust and psychological safety are associated with information sharing and behaviors that overcome group conformity pressure (Homan et al. 2008). For instance, receivers may engage in an honest discussion of divergent viewpoints (Gelfand et al. 2012), generate and share their unique perspectives (Nemeth et al. 2004), and feel confident to voice dissenting opinions (Phillips and Loyd 2006). In conflicts and negotiations, receivers who perceive the sender as more receptive to dissenting opinions may be more willing to share their preferences, make concessions, and consider mutually beneficial outcomes (Beersma and De Dreu 1999, De Dreu et al. 1998).

True. The word brings up some unfortunate connotations. But English doesn’t have a single word for a wise method of gathering and considering different ideas and concerns with the goal of making much better, more skillful, wise, and compassionate decisions.

In the EBT I perceive the traces of a debate type thinking process.
NM96 / NM 96 / To the Brahmin Esukari appears to me as a refined or summarized report of what gives hints of coming from a more extended dialog with considerations of various differing views.

Esukari lays out a viewpoint and asks

Good Gotama, the Brahmins appoint these four kinds of services. What has good Gotama to say about that?’

The first response is a clarifying question - a recommended tool of constructive debate.

“Brahmin, does all the world acknowledge, this appointment of services by the Brahmins?’

The next response “I do not say … should be done … [or] should not be done” anticipates the thoughts / objections of an listener / interlocutor (one who takes part in dialogue or conversation). The form of expression in NM96 implies that the speaker perhaps has listened to previous debate or discussion on the topic or perhaps possesses the skills of a accomplished debater.

Brahmin, I do not say all services should be done. I do not say, all services should not be done. When doing those services if there is evil, that service is not good. I say it should not be done. When doing those services, if there is no evil, that service is good. I say it should be done. Brahmin, the warriors, should be questioned.

Or again when I read the monastic rules there is a subtly, completeness and consideration of various contexts and responses that rarely emerge all at once, fully formed formed from the mind of a single person.

Thus it seems to me very plausible and probable, that the dialogs recorded in the EBTs represent summaries or refinements of longer dialogs. It’s easy for me to imagine (based on historical accounts of capable leaders) that the Buddha listened to the discussions of others for some time before before speaking himself. In either case it seems to me that a natural reading of the EBT’s can assume that some ‘debate style’ dialog preceded the statements recorded in the EBTs.

Examples of Constructive Debate type Decision Making Processes

This one from

  • Present Proposal — proposer describes the problem that she saw and the solution she proposes
  • Clarifying Questions — anyone can ask clarifying questions. Proposer can answer. No reactions or dialog allowed.
  • Reaction Round — each person can react to the proposal as they see fit. No discussion or responses.
  • Amend & Clarify — proposer can optionally clarify the intent or amend the proposal based on reactions. No discussion allowed.
    Objection Round — The Facilitator asks each person in turn: ”Do you see any reasons why adopting this proposal would cause harm or move us backwards?” (an “Objection”). Objections are stated, tested, and captured without discussion; the proposal is adopted if none surface.
  • Integration — The goal is to craft an amended proposal that would not cause the Objection, but that would still address the proposer’s problem. Focus on each Objection, one at a time. Once all are integrated, go through another Objection Round.

Examples of Constructive Debate Formats

It should be stressed that these are skills that improve with practice.

As skill improves persons often become a) more aware of how poisons, taints, and tendencies to become attached arise and b) more detached from these tendencies, aware of the false sense of separate self, and of interconnections with others.
Applying the Cooperative Argument Model with a Traditional Debate Format

  • It is also helpful to introduce ethical advocacy in deliberative communities …
  • … the class works together to identify commonplaces (points of agreement), issues (points of disagreement), and strong arguments for and against adoption of the resolution.
  • In preparation … students should be reminded that the aim of debates is to contribute to the group’s consideration of the relevant issues (rather than at winning, losing, or other strategic action).
    Although students will serve as advocates for positions, their presentational goal is not to win assent or to persuade, but rather to help the audience make an informed decision.
  • Assessments of performances should correspond to this goal.

Karl Popper Debate
The Karl-Popper format focuses on relevant and often deeply divisive propositions, emphasizing the development of critical thinking skills and tolerance for differing viewpoints.

  • Debaters work together in teams of three and must research both sides of each issue.
  • Each team is given the opportunity to offer arguments and direct questions to the opposing team.
  • Judges then offer constructive feedback, commenting on logical flaws, insufficient evidence or arguments that debaters may have overlooked.

As someone who professionally trained in creativity, I’d like to debate this suggestion. :stuck_out_tongue:

I suggest creativity comes from play, open-investigation and happy-accidents. Debate puts limitations on thinking. This can be useful when developing ideas in later stages. In my experience removing boundaries and allowing for there to be no ‘wrong’ answers is where great ideas come from.

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