“You’re mixing up between fact and opinion,” is the most common statement heard among colleagues, editors-in-chief and those who are always in the newsroom. It’s naturally accompanied with a reprimanding tone that logical people cannot forget or ignore. You return home and your wife asks you – if you’re a media figure – about your opinion on a news piece that she saw an hour earlier on television. She asks you something after being influenced by a friend’s phone call or a comment she read here or there, you brace your strength to repeat the same answer you said twice today and three times yesterday and which will you try to say in a new way tomorrow.
I always go back to learn from my children – they will always be children in their parents’ eyes even if they are over 20 years old. I do so especially when I sit alone to contemplate about an idea that’s difficult to solve. I go back to an old conversation or a question I heard once or an old story they narrated to me in their own way, which I am never bored of.
“You’re mixing up between fact and opinion,” is the most common statement heard among colleagues, editors-in-chief and those who are always in the newsroom. It’s naturally accompanied with a reprimanding tone that logical people cannot forget or ignoreTurki Aldakhil
Rules of debate
My daughter was in the school’s debate team. The teacher was smart enough to ask the two teams to clearly discuss a legislating crisis in the city where they study. The topic was that the city that has been stricken with economic recession and has not yet legislated granting permits to open gambling shops. The teacher was intelligent and she was aware that the little princess is Muslim and is not interested in such topics. However, it was a nice exercise to silence the rivals with facts and arguments before moving to the personal touch, which we will later call the opinion.
I interestingly approached the little one and asked her: My child, what’s the distance between facts and opinions? Does the teacher expect numbers and facts from you or does she really want to test the capabilities of your team against those of the other team? Back then, she said: The teacher expects an answer that is supported by evidence and among the folds of the evidence, I can justify my point of view.
I smiled and told her she was on the right path. Facts are something that can be proven as valid or not valid to any rational man and we need evidence and sometimes we even need axioms to clarify the picture, which we assume the other has missed seeing.
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Before counting the points of your debate, put yourself in your opponent’s place and expect the five points he will use against you. Write each one down and use your little hand to count them. On your other hand, select points to address the former five opposing points. In the art of debate, you must be ready to refute the argument of the other even if your little heart and mind are inclined to it.
Avoid the personal opinion in dialogues even if it’s a heated debate. The viewer and the recipient can directly know your inclination to a point over another when you use similar vocabulary in all languages. Let me narrow them so you write them and forget them. The first one is the best and the second one is the worst. It’s always possible to soften this by voicing your preference in the end and preceding it by high discipline towards the opposing team like saying: “In my personal opinion,” or “based on our experience in the Arab Gulf,” or you can even provide an example that happened with you or with a friend of yours.
In the final part when you appeal to others’ sentiment, you’d be following the method of the French Pascal who said: “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of... We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.”
Perceptions and opinions
Do not forget that the population of the city where the debate will be held do not belong to the same religion and do not come from the same background. The common ground between the world’s population is facts and nothing else. People are surprised by numbers and love statistics because the new world is trying to escape from the feelings of someone who may be influenced by a religious idea or a political reference.
They tend to be distrustful so they dislike those who talk for long and those who manipulate their tone to affect the viewer’s mind without amazing him or touching his heart. A debater, no matter how good he is, cannot touch one’s feelings without making the heart laugh and the heart cannot laugh before the truth is attained. What is the truth? It’s what you are looking for and what I am still running after in my mid-forties. It is what people wake up for and why debates go on in faraway cafes.
I am not alone, and you are not alone either. Plato (427 B.C. – 347 B.C.) has doubted the world of sense and intuition since before Christ and called on everyone to search for the truth via a new way. He said we cannot trust what we see and what we think as searching for the truth requires a radical revolution against habits and traditions and one must break free from the illusion and falsehood of the world of senses and head towards the fixed rational truth.
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Science frequently contradicts the mind so scientists go to laboratories on a daily basis and millions of dollars are spent on research. They start with a hypothesis and test its failure so the suspicion is complete. The journey then begins – the journey of proof, which will teach me and teach you that narrowing the strength points and the weakness and defect points of any idea before attacking someone is the right way to exit any dialogue with your head high.
Descartes had the organized thinking methodology that is based on four rules: doubt, analysis, synthesis and finally review. You can apply this on a daily basis in any dialogue. The teacher did not come up with the problem except after she doubted the intentions of the legislators in the city. When you went ahead to discuss pros and cons and began to search, you walked through the second and third steps. When your heart is comfortable with what it reached, synthesis begins.
Avoid your previous perceptions and opinions. Put yourself in the place of your classmate who does not resemble you in anything and whom you have nothing in common with except the competition. Extend your right hand with the arguments he will present. Watch your language well. When you refute his facts, provide alternatives via rationality but with your eyes on the heart of the recipient who knows well the distance between the truth that’s carried via logical evidence and the opinion that begins with the best and the worst and I saw my grandmother and my father taught me.
In the journey for the truth to defeat the opinion, you will be alone and you will only have your intellectual tools and the method of doubt, which gifts us all these daily inventions in all fields.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.
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