By “don’t be a weasel”, I mean don’t be one of those debaters who is constantly looking for a way out of things.
I also mean: don’t seem like one of those debaters, because it reduces the judge’s trust in you.
- Avoid using the word “well” too much. Examples below.
- When someone asks an obvious question, answer it. Don’t stall and waste time. The majority of the time, you can just say yes or no.
- If you need to explain/avoid a question, follow example 2 below for what to say.
- Respond to arguments confidently and clearly, instead of dancing around the issue.
- If the other team requests something (such as evidence), address it upfront. Even/especially if you can’t provide it.
Example 1 — Using “well” too much
Opponent: “Did you read this evidence in your speech?”
You: “Wellll, I didn’t, but–”
Opponent: “Was your point that [summary of point]?”
You: “Well not exactly, our point was that… [etc]”
Overuse of the word well makes you sound like you’re hiding something, or that your opponent is slightly correct.
The dictionary tells us that well can be used to express a range of emotions including surprise, anger, resignation, or relief.
You don’t want to express those emotions.
Unless maybe you’re saying “Well, I’m glad to hear you decided to drop that argument!”
Example 2 — How to answer questions longform
If you have a legitimate reason to take longer and explain your answer, then make it clear upfront.
Opponent: “So what exactly is your position, that war will break out or that it won’t?”
You: “Well we think war might break out, but it’s not guaranteed.”
You: “I can’t give a yes or no, because you’re misunderstanding our point. We believe whether war breaks out or not, we will have a problem on our hands.”
See the difference between these two? One looks like you’re avoiding the question, the other one sounds reasonable and makes the other team look bad for misunderstanding your point.
So what if your opponent cuts you off and doesn’t allow you to answer as you want? Use the first example from another post I wrote about Cross-Examination.
Example 3 — Responding to arguments clearly
Let’s take an instance where the negative team brings up an irrelevant point against your case. The first example is what not to do, the second is what to do. (I’m going to make up a US foreign aid agency called JAWALT).
“The negative team also said that we are going to give our foreign aid to a bad agency. But their evidence didn’t specifically talk about JAWALT, I believe it mentioned USAID. They need to bring up evidence that specifically talks about JAWALT.”
It seems to me their evidence is completely irrelevant, but you’re making it seem like it’s a decent point! You look like you’re weaseling around it, even though it’s actually a bad point.
“The negative team claimed the foreign aid will be wasted with our plan. This point is actually completely irrelevant because they read evidence about an agency called USAID, which is completely, 100% different from JAWALT, the agency we’re working with. This was simply a misunderstanding by the negative team.”
This time, the judge knows exactly what’s up. There’s no credibility to the negative argument anymore.
Saying “well their evidence doesn’t specifically say…” vs. “this is completely irrelevant evidence”? There’s a huge difference.
Example 4 — Responding to a request
What if the other team asks for evidence that you don’t have?
Here’s an example of how you could address it.
“The negative team asked for evidence under our second advantage. We’re not going to be providing evidence under this point because it is superfluous. The advantage is simply that we will be fixing problem 2, and we already read evidence that problem 2 will be fixed. They’re asking for evidence we already practically provided.
I’d like to also remind you that we’ve read 12 quotes so far, the negative team has read 2. They keep asking for evidence we don’t need to provide in order to draw attention away from their own lack of it.”
You turned what could have been a bad situation into an argument that makes the judge suspicious of the negative team. Suddenly, they realize the negative team’s strategy.
For more tips like this, subscribe to my email list below and get exclusive content!