Voicing Opinions on Controversial Topics


Photo Courtesy of TED Talk

It can be difficult to keep one’s cool when debating. How do we approach discussions respectfully?

Mia Siddons Mata, The Scroll, Staff Writer

In the wake of recent events such as the 2020 election, new topics have been brought to student’s attention bringing about various disputes. More often than not, these disagreements progress into aggressive and gratuitous arguments. 

Under these circumstances, it is crucial for students to be cautious with their words and behavior towards those with opposing views. People may be easily offended or provoked by the other and keeping calm is key. 

Learning to keep your cool can be an extremely useful tool for future conversations. The first step to success is to change your perspective going into the conversation. An article written by Matthew Buckley mentions, “Most people seek to ‘win’ an argument when they encounter someone who has an opinion that differs from theirs. You don’t need to be aggressive and hostile when you can decide to engage in dialogue instead.” 

Samantha Veres, a member of the Saugus debate team also explains that “Going into an argument with this mindset will not only increase the chances of the conversation devolving into something more heated, but it destroys the chance for either side to learn.” Viewing the conversation as an opportunity to learn rather than a waste of time and breath makes any encounter worthwhile. 

Once good intentions and an open mind are gained, the following step is to ensure that one does not dominate the conversation by bombarding the other person with their own opinion.  Buckley also mentions “You don’t grow and evolve by arguing with others, you grow and evolve by gaining new insights, opinions and perspectives.” 

Remember, this should be a learning experience not a hostile argument. Give the other person an opportunity to contribute to the conversation by sharing their opinion and follow up by asking questions to enhance your understanding. Veres gives her insight by stating, “When debating, it is crucial to listen to the other side and make an effort to understand where they are coming from.”A productive approach is to deliver your thoughts in the form of a question. This provokes thought rather than a defensive response. 

Once fully understanding the other person’s views, an informed decision on whether or not you should respect their opinion can be made. While it is sometimes important to respect others opinions, there may be situations in which it can be very difficult to do so and that’s okay. If one has an opinion that is disrespectful towards you or those close to you, there is no need to respect it. 

Veres explains this simply, “While everyone should be respected as human beings, opinions that are destructive or oppressive should not be respected, nor validated through argument.” Although there is no need to respect their opinion, it isn’t worth your time to continuously argue back and forth with one another, don’t allow yourself to sink to their level. 

Even if one is educated and prepared for a productive conversation, keep in mind that some may not be able to reciprocate the same maturity. If this person is not willing to hear the other side of the argument or maybe even getting aggressive, calmly walking away from the conversation may be the best option. Perhaps coming back to the topic after giving them space to process the new information will help both people have a more civilized conversation.  

Being cautious with your words is also a crucial part in being respectful to the person in front of you. While they may have different beliefs, keeping those beliefs in mind before speaking on them is paramount. Being insensitive and disregarding the other person’s feelings may lead to an aggressive argument which should be avoided at all costs. 

While these words may not affect one personally, they may have a great impact on someone else. Being respectful of one’s sexuality, religion etc., is truly the key to earning their time and respect. There are countless religions and no one religion is superior to the other. Treating the other person as an equal is a must, try not to brush aside their beliefs to state how yours are more true or correct. Ask questions and listen to their side of the story, doing this may make them more willing to listen to opposing views. 

The goal of the conversation is to learn, not always to prove the other wrong. Veres puts this idea into perspective, “Even if neither side changes their position, both can gain a new perspective on an issue or topic that they may not have considered before.” No matter the outcome, gaining new knowledge is the true victory.




The opinions in The Scroll’s editorials are strictly the views of the writers of the staff or outside submissions. The views do not represent or reflect the opinions or policies of Saugus High School or the William S. Hart School District. The Scroll welcomes all reactions and outside submissions to share alternative views.