Monday, November 22, 2010

More Opinions on Debate Competition

Well... I spent twelve hours Saturday judging teenage debate competitions. Mind blowing. In so many ways.

1. Novice (usually the younger teenagers) debaters tend to think aggressive speech and body language will help them win the debate.
2. Novice debaters try to trick each other via rule violations.
3. Novice debaters tend to apologize a lot.
4. Varsity debaters (usually the older teenagers) have amazing self-confidence.
5. Varsity debaters tend to be very respectful toward one another.
6. Varsity debaters argue the issues, not the rules.
7. Both novice and varsity debaters doubt the intelligence and attention span of their judges.

I learned a few other things as well while participating in and eavesdropping on conversations in the judges lounge:

1. Adults can misinterpret teenagers' body language and attitude.
2. Adults tend to judge a loud girl differently than a loud boy.
3. Adults want to help teenagers succeed.
4. Apparently, I don't feed my dog enough food. Several judges thought I was starving him. So, I doubled his food today...

Actually, this picture is a few years old now... but I like it!!

Anyhow... I feel the need to write after this weekend's competition. I observed interesting behavior amongst the debaters: flirting, ignoring, rushing, worrying, smiling, doubting, insulting, respecting, and spewing.

Yes... SPEWING is a debate term for the policy category. OH. MY. GOSH. They speak so fast, they gasp for air. The words run together, and it felt like they were speaking a foreign language. Once I got the hang of it, I understood them better. But the "spewing" was crazy. Just crazy.

Oh... and I eavesdropped on a judge in the judge's lounge. She talked about how rude this novice girl was in a Lincoln-Douglas round. I listened to everything she said, and thought, "Oh, no." When I saw my daughter at the next break, I asked her if she said anything like what I had just heard. She asked what the judge looked like. Same judge. Thing is... my daughter's intent did not match the judge's interpretation. My daughter was pretty disappointed, because until our conversation, she thought she had won that round.

I find it interesting how this can happen not only in debate competitions but also in everyday life. We mean one thing in our head, but another person misinterprets us.  Communication is more about tone of voice and body language than it is about the words we use.

Have you ever been misunderstood in a conversation?


  1. Great post, Margo! Isn't this similar to when adults try to write teen voice. You gave me some aha's with this one!

  2. I've certainly gotten misunderstood in a conversation, but definitely more so in a letter or other written communication. For one thing, the tone of voice and body language is missing. Good point to consider when we're writing novels! Things may sound different than we think. A good beta reader or 2 is crucial there!

  3. Thanks for the comments ladies! I agree. :)