Sometimes when I’m moderating a debate on a controversial cultural issue, things can almost go off the rails. The debate becomes a nasty put-down exchange. In one extreme moment, two debaters with opposing views on Israel and Palestine got furious and started screaming incomprehensibly at each other. Nobody could hear anything. In that case, I left my podium, went over to them, and raised my hands like Moses parting the Red Sea, as if to say, “Stop.” It was a little bit of a shaming moment, honestly. You can use it with people you know well, to get them to cut it out, calm down, and take turns listening to each other. Make it clear that nobody’s getting anywhere, and call upon them to be their better selves.
—John Donvan, host and moderator of the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates, a live series of four-person debates on political and cultural issues. He lives in Washington, D.C.