My Background, the Art of Debate and Discussion and the Wise Advice Jane Fonda Gave Me

the art of debate and discussion
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The Art of Debate and Discussion

Check out the many examples of the art of debate and discussion on the Old Simo YoutTube library here 

Hope you are all doing great! Thought I would touch base with you all and let you know that our official discussions on the Old Simo website will commence on the 16th August. I’m very excited! I look forward to discussing and debating many interesting and juicy topics with you all. We will start off by doing a few topics a week.  If you have any topics that you would like me to cover, please contact me on oldsimo@oldsimo.com with your suggestions. I also want to describe the elements that you need to possess in order to master the art of debate and discussion.

I have been receiving many emails and messages with the same question. What is your ethnic background? The emails and messages have been full of guesses which include: Spanish (I always love being called Spanish), Italian, Lebanese, Armenian, Greek, Turkish, South American/Latino, Arabic, Israeli, and one person asked if I was Jamaican(WTF?). However the ethnicity mentioned the least is the ethnicity that I am: Greek!

I was born in Melbourne, Australia (in the early 80s) to Greek parents. Greek was my first language. I could not speak English till I was five years old, and my training material for English included Sesame Street, Play School, Young and the Restless and Days of Our Lives. Days introduced me to my first fictional non cartoon idol: staunch villain Victor Kiriakis.

I was always a curious inquisitive kid. “Why”? and “how” were always two of my biggest questions.  I was thirsty for all kinds of knowledge and I took great interest in travel, film, music and the arts. Playboy magazine was also a child hood favourite. I can clearly remember being caught with a Playboy at primary school. Kids are very honest little people, and I candidly told my principal that I often pretend that my pillow is Kathleen Turner and I would often “sex” the pillow, simply because it felt good. He was rather disturbed and told my parents that I was quite a unwholesome child and that I would benefit from therapy. Of course, they just thought it was a normal childhood sexual curiosity. I never attended therapy.

I have digressed, so back to the concepts of inquisitiveness and curiosity.  These qualities grew and intensified as a teenager and reached high levels in the midst of my university days. I became very interested in the political, social, technological and economic contexts of national and international issues that concern us all, or rather should concern us all. I completed a Monash University degree in business marketing and communications which helped to formalise and further articulate my points of view.

Free time at university was filled with great times at the local cafe, The Den, where we would discuss and debate anything and everything from the latest in worldwide politics and social issues to preferred sexual positions to the latest Meryl Streep film (at that time it was The Hours). Through these sessions, which also included plenty of cigarettes (I was a smoker back then) and many cups of coffee (coffee disagrees with my system, so I always had tea), I learnt the importance of certain qualities that one should have if they are to be skilled in the art of debate and discussion. Do your best to incorporate these elements into your process. They are a must for refining your skills in the art of debate and discussion.

  • Have a point of view, but have the ability to back it up with reasons and evidence (if possible).
  • Passion and conviction injected into your argument aids in giving you a strong stance. Whether people will agree with your or not is irrelevant, they will respect for your passion and  conviction. Though for some reason, many Australians find this rather threatening and mistake passion and conviction for aggression.
  • Don’t get personal with others and try not to take opposition to your point of view personally. It is not a personal attack, and personally attacking others for their opinion is a sign of weakness, not a sign of strength.
  • Accept opposition and challenge. Don’t block it out. Don’t scream it out and don’t attempt to silence it. You want all the liberties of free expression, so make sure that you grantit to others.
  • LISTEN!!!!! This is so unbelievably important and a skill that seems to be sorely lacking these days.  We all want to be heard but we should also all want to listen. Don’t be so concerned with what you want to say that you end up not listening when someone else is speaking . You learn a great deal from listening to others, and when you listen well you are able to respond accurately to other people’s statements and questions.
  • Avoid over emotionalism and over sentimentality. Emotions and sentiments have their place but filling your point of view with one dimensional emotionalism and sentimentality doesn’t contribute anything interesting or valuable. It’s fine to mention that you are happy/sad/angry/ etc and that your heart breaks for a certain situation but don’t leave it at that! It’s neither interesting nor palatable. Go beyond your immediate emotive reactions and explore the material as objectively as you can. That’s where the good stuff is.

I will leave you with some wise advice that the incomparable, beautiful and talented Jane Fonda once gave me. I met Jane Fonda at a luncheon in 2005. She said to me “don’t try to be an interesting person. Stay curious forever and you will be an interesting person”. This was a great piece of advice and one that I forever plan on incorporating into my life. Never lose your taste for curiosity. It’s true, the most interesting people that I know are consistently curious of the world around them.

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