YSABEL MULLARKY, a senior on the Ingraham High School debate team, argued in nine competitions this year (four of which were national tournaments), and came in second at Whitman College’s high school debate tourney, leading to her team’s first ever bid for the national Tournament of Champions in Kentucky, held at the end of April. She has a few tips on how to verbally spar with the best.

1. Know that you’re going to win the argument.

Just know it, and internalize it. The best way to shoot yourself in the foot is to have the other person think you don’t believe you can win.

2. Attack only the main point of your opponent’s argument.

In a dispute, you might say a lot of extraneous things, but maybe you are only really arguing about something like, “I don’t want you to take the car.” Debating that one point will make your case stronger—and throw your opponent off guard.

3. Be nice.

No one wants the bully to win. Keeping your calm and being pleasant during a debate can make you the victor—even if you don’t have the best argument.

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