I'm a terrible debater. Not because I'm stupid or get things wrong a lot. Forgive me for my egotism, but I'm pretty smart and in areas where I've done my homework, I'm right more often than not (though I could be wrong....). Over on freethought blogs The Atheist Experience has a post that hit home to me this morning, because it's about the types of debate we have and why we should be having them. And, more often than not, I debate for the wrong reasons. I debate not to find the truth for myself, but to convince other people, and I get so very emotionally invested in what they believe that I tend to get irrational and flame wars ensue.
I've known that there was something I've been missing for a while, and especially over the last few months because of two or three very heated discussions with friends and family, I've seen that my "style of debate" does more to harm my relationships than it does to help understanding, and that's not a good thing.
I have a lot of the tools I'd need to be an excellent debater. I'm clever, I'm fast on my feet, I'm good with words (written, anyway). And I think that debates need to happen, that there is worth in convincing people towards a reality-based understanding of the world (even as I imperfectly work towards my own understanding), and that I shouldn't stop trying.
But what I do need to do is find a way not to be so invested in what other people think. If I can express my opinion, if I can back it up with facts and reason, if my logic and ideas are sound, that's all I should be concerned about. The best way for me to convince people is to work on improving myself. I think. This line of reasoning is a bit of a work in progress.