I just witnessed a ‘rebuttal’ of someone’s argument on you tube. I use quotes because he was not successful at all. In fact he came across as an angry person who hadn’t really listened to the other person’s argument. I am not going to include the actual argument or the person’s attempts to rebut the argument because it would just inflame people’s passions about the topic, because my problem is with the person’s form, not his content.
Much of my problem with this person’s criticism is that he didn’t stick to topic, and resorted to name calling and derogatory comments.
Politicians change the subject a lot during a debate. You ask them about where the funds for the new school went and they start ranting about how important education is. This may be a good tactic for derailing the conversation but it doesn’t do much for your credibility and makes it impossible for people to take you seriously. This is why its a good idea to listen to your opponent or read what they write, carefully. If you don’t know what your opponent is talking about, how can you stay on topic?
Name calling and derogatory comments mean you are not using your brain and have resorted to the wordy equivalent of poop throwing. Essentially when you throw poop you’ve already lost, if not the argument at least the high ground. For example say someone says that it is a beautiful day and you wish to point out their mistake, calling him an ass#@$* is not going to make your point. You are only going to make him think you are an ass%^*@.
In order to rebut someones argument you really need to consider what he is saying and come up with a cogent and reasoned argument against what hes said. Using the example above you could reason that beauty means that things are pleasant and comfortable. You could point out to him that the sky was overcast and the humidity made the air very uncomfortable. If he still thought the day was beautiful he could tell you why now. Perhaps stating that the color of the light made the green of the trees that much brighter and the air, although humid, was quiet. My example is silly for a reason. It removes the topic from the form.
The reason that generally people wish to argue with others is because they feel strongly about the topic. When people feel strongly about a topic they tend to turn their brains off, just when they need them most. Its hard to reason when you are angry. Its hard to comprehend what another person is saying when what they are saying really ratchets your blood pressure. But if you wish to sound cogent, rational and make a good point you need to to react to the situation in the exact opposite direction of how you feel. You need to calm your blood pressure and your breathing, turn on your brain and look at the other persons argument with a cool and detail oriented eye because if you make a mistake in putting together your rebuttal they will use it against you, and your audience will too.