There are three ways to respond to the experience of being stumped in a personal conversation, professional discussion, or philosophical debate.
The first approach is to assume your ideas are just fine and that your experience of being stumped is merely the product of the other person being a better talker than you.
“I know that I’m right, but he’s just a fast-talker with too many tricky questions and debating tactics up his sleeve.”
The second approach is to assume your ideas are wrong and that your experience of being stumped is evidence that you need to change what you believe.
“I don’t have a good answer. Therefore a good answer must not exist. I’m such a fool for having ever believed this.”
The third approach is to accept the experience of being stumped as a challenge to 1) improve your ability to articulate your views in a way that is capable of standing up to scrutiny and 2) treat critical feedback as an invitation to upgrade the quality of your ideas.
“My ideas are possibly flawed, but maybe I’ve reached an impasse because of some overlooked weaknesses in my presentation. Let’s see if I can reformulate my position and resolve these questions and objections.”
If you take the first approach, you may be right but you also might miss out on an opportunity to refine your communication skills and deepen your own understanding of why you think the way you think. Moreover, if you’re wrong, you’ll have no way of finding out.
If you take the second approach, you may be right but you also might sacrifice the depth of understanding that results from struggling with a new idea before adopting it. Moreover, if you’re wrong, you’ll be guilty of selling yourself short.
If you take the third approach, it wont matter as much if you’re right or wrong because you will have chosen to stay involved in the process of thinking critically about the things you say and believe.
The ideas that win are the ones that stay involved.