Jan 4, 2023

How Chris Do debate?

How to win people to your way of thinking

One of the things I find fascinating about Chris Do is how he debates. While most people make their arguments by answering the questions, Chris simplifies his answers and then formulates the questions instead.

TL;DR: How Chris Do make his argument:

  1. Start with something we all can agree with
  2. Use metaphors
  3. Paint pictures in people’s minds
  4. Explore options
  5. Find a sweet spot

In this podcast, Chris debates how to know if you’re making the right decision, whether it should be based on gut feeling or data.

Here are the 5 steps Chris uses to make his argument:

1. Start with something we all can agree with

Let’s check how Chris began his argument.

Chris’s transcript:
I want to say a couple things. One is when you’re making a decision, you’re making a guess. Really that’s what you’re doing. We all would like a guarantee, but we don’t have guarantees in life. So we’re making a guess. What you’re trying to do with every guess is you’re trying to use as much of your intellect and your intelligence mixed in with your gut instinct, your intuition, your feelings I suppose, and you’re trying to make the best decision that has the highest possible outcome for you while minimising the risk. I think we can generally agree to that.

Chris began his argument by emphasising that making decisions is a guess, and we all want our guesses to yield the highest possible outcome while reducing the risk—a point that is easy to agree with.

Chris made the first argument easy to follow, increasing the audience’s likelihood of accepting the subsequent contentious statements.

2. Use metaphors

A metaphor is a comparison of one thing to another to explain an idea, such as “Love is oxygen.” Comparing love to oxygen helps us imagine how vital love is in our lives.

Chris is very good at using metaphors to unpack the unclear. First, after the audience agrees with his initial argument, he leisurely shift the conversations into the more ambiguous realm. Then uses metaphors to clarify his concept. Let’s see how he explained what intelligence is.

Chris’s transcript:
So when we say, “Look, we’re trying to use our intellect and our intelligence,” what does that even mean? What is intelligence? Well, here’s one way to look at intelligence. Intelligence is pattern recognition. An IQ test is showing you things and you’re trying to figure out which one belongs and which one doesn’t belong. The quicker you can spot those patterns and the more accurately you can see those things, the higher the IQ that you have. That seems to make a lot of sense. In order for us to recognise patterns, we have to have repeated exposure to the same problem over and over and over again. This is why a mechanic in his or her 50s and 60s can have you just describe to them the problem with a car over the phone and they’ll kind of have an idea and they’re usually right about what the problem might be. As opposed to someone who is fixing their first car when they’re 15 or 16 years old, they have no idea how the car even works.

Chris introduced the concept of intelligence as pattern recognition. He compared intelligence to pattern recognition and then explained why repeated exposure to the same problem can lead to intelligence, using the IQ test and the example of an experienced mechanic who can diagnose a car problem over the phone. Through these metaphors, Chris helped the audience to gain clarity and create credibility for himself.

3. Paint pictures in people’s minds

Credibility leads to acceptance, and acceptance from the audience enables Chris to paint vivid pictures in people’s minds to persuade them to accept ideas they would never have considered before. Let’s see how he does it in action.

Chris’s transcript:
Now, I want you also to imagine a spectrum
. The spectrum, draw line in your mind from left to right. On the far left, but a dot there. Let’s just call that pure instinct, pure intuition where you have no data and you have to act quickly. Where is this beneficial? Because there is a benefit to each and every one of these moments or this kind of thinking. Well, when your life’s in danger and when the reward for acting quickly and being decisive is actually critical to your survival and the survival of your loved ones. Imagine that there’s a creek and there’s a fallen tree and there’s a kind of pretty strong current and you and your young children are crossing it and one of them is going to fall in the water. As that child slips into the water who might not be able to swim in these kind of currents, you have to make a decision.

Chris drew a simple straight line and plotted a dot on the far left, which he labelled “pure intuition”. He then explained the benefit of this concept.

Interestingly, Chris asked, “where” is the benefit of pure intuition, not “what” is the benefit of this option.

4. Explore options

Exploring the options gives Chris authority, implying he has considered both sides and understands the consequences. It also gives the audience a sense of control, as they have a choice and feel like they arrive at (your) conclusions on their own.

Chris’s transcript:
Now let’s take ourselves all the way to the far right of the spectrum
. At the very end put another dot there. Let’s try to visualise this one. In this one we have absolute confidence because 99% of the data seems to indicate this must be the way to go. Even a child could look at the data set and say that’s the way to go. Some of us are in this space too and in some things like should we operate on a person where the probability of surviving the operation is very low? We want to be sure. This is why you get a second, third, fourth opinion when there’s a critical operation to your body.

In this transcript, Chris took us to the far right of his spectrum and used metaphor to push us into a situation where data is needed to support decisions.

I sensed a conviction in this option from Chris. He used languages such as “must be the way to go”, “that’s the way to go”—while in the other one he asked “Where is this beneficial?”

5. Find a sweet spot

However, Chris doesn’t debate on the far left or right but somewhere sweet in the middle with a slight inclination toward his direction. This gives him an advantage to pivot or reframes the conversation if necessary.

Chris’s transcripts:
Now, I’m not telling you to live on one end of the spectrum or the other, but to find a sweet spot that works for you. What works for me is somewhere towards the right where I have enough data, but there’s still a lot of fuzziness as to what that data’s saying.
When do you have enough data where you can make an educated guess as what to do next?
But when should you make decisions and trust this gut feeling? Well, when you have enough data.

For the record, Chris is on the data side in this gut feeling versus data debate. Chris concludes that we should trust our gut feeling when we have enough data. He reframes the discussion, suggesting that it’s not a matter of gut feeling OR data, but rather gut feeling AND data.

Let’s recap how Chris formed his argument in the debate between Gut Feeling versus Data for making the right decision:

  1. He emphasised that making decisions is a guess.
  2. He introduced the concept of intelligence as pattern recognition.
  3. He took the audience on a journey to explore the Gut Feeling camp and posed questions about it.
  4. Then, he took the audience to the Data camp, where repeated exposure to the same problem could help them form a better decision.
  5. Finally, he put everything together and reframed the debate to make people think educated guess when we have enough data.

I think one of the Adam Grant tweets can perfectly describe how Chris debated.

“The highest compliment from someone who disagrees with you is not “You were right.” It’s “You made me think.””—Adam Grant