What makes you decide whether you will listen to another person's point of view or close your mind to it? It may depend on how strongly you feel about the issue, the way it is presented, or even the person presenting it.

Most of us would like to think of ourselves as being open-minded. But, depending on the circumstances, that may not always be how we respond. If that is true of us, it is true of the other person too. How can we present our point of view in a way that will contribute toward an open-minded discussion?

You've come to the right place for the answer. Libraries are bastions for intellectual freedom. They exist to provide open access to information and ideas for everyone. So, I guess what I'm saying is that you should look to your local library to learn how to argue effectively.

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We all have topics that we feel strongly about: politics, religion, whether or not pineapple should go on pizza. When we need to make a defense for our opinions about such things, we want to 1) present our case rationally, 2) get our facts straight, and 3) understand the opposing viewpoint. Why? We make it easier for others to listen to our point of view, and we usually learn some stuff in the process. It's a win-win for everyone. Here are some simple tips on how to do it:

  1. Present our case rationally. Think back to the study of logical fallacies in your college English 104 class. If our viewpoint is to hold water, we will avoid taking shots at the other person, making sweeping generalizations, or claiming our point is valid just because others say so. In fact, there are 12 common fallacies to beware of. You can learn to identify them by searching "fallacies of logic" in the EBSCOhost research database in The Digital Library. It is a worthwhile refresher on the subject, since debating opinions is the pastime of choice among many in 2020.
  2. Get our facts straight. This is a tricky one. How can we decipher true information from biased and outright fake news? Getting our data from social media and Google searches may not yield the most accurate results.
    Instead, make sure to seek out information from objective, reputable sources. Librarians are expert researchers who can help you navigate your way through misinformation. Even when the buildings are closed, a librarian is just an email or instant message away. EBSCOhost, mentioned above, is a vast resource of published research works on hundreds of topics (maybe not pineapple on pizza, but just about everything else).
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  3. Understand the opposing viewpoint. If we want people to listen to our side, we have to be willing to listen to theirs. This is hard. It is easier if we have already explored the other side(s) of an issue. 

When the other person senses that we understand their point of view, there is a better chance of a productive exchange of ideas. The library makes this simple; not easy, but simple.

In the Digital Library, you will find the most amazing resource. It's called Issues and Controversies. It features a huge selection of hot topics with articles representing the opposing sides of an issue. It is designed for academic debates and research papers. You may not be in a high school debate class, but if you were, you would use this database. It is perfect for casual debates as well. Popular topics are featured at the top of the page or you can type in a search for one. When you do, you won't get an overwhelming amount of results to wade through (Google, you could learn from this). You'll get a shortlist of highly relevant content, each featuring two articles with the research and perspectives from each side.

As we strive to have open-minded discussions with those who have conflicting viewpoints from our own, we should take advantage of the resources at the library for our intellectual freedom. Check out EBSCOhost and Issues and Controversies today to master your skills for effective arguing.

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Marcy Timblin, Marketing & Public Relations

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