Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever had to mediate a debate between friends in English?

This can be so  awkward, and it may leave you feeling really uncomfortable and unsure.

We are going to look at this type of situation and how you can best handle it.

We have a listener question about this situation. 

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Hi Lindsay,

I am from Pakistan and it’s my first year in America. Before I listened to your show, it was nearly impossible for me to write or speak in English to anybody. After listening to your show,I have confidence in my English. I listened to almost 100 episodes in my car while driving!

I have so many questions but today I have a special one for you. If two of your friends are from different countries, and both of them defend their countries on issues, how do you handle this? Who is right and who is wrong? More importantly, how do you deal with this situation? How do you convince somebody if they are truly wrong?

Any help you could provide in this tough situation would be great!

Thank you in advance,

Imran Saeed

Working Through A Difficult Situation

This is a tough situation for sure, no matter who you are.

First, you want to try to understand what the argument was about because that may factor in.

These days it seems like a lot of debates are political in nature.

We’re going to try to answer your question fully, but we are just going to talk about taking sides in general.

That way it really doesn’t matter the level of friendship, it’s just more of a general overall approach.

Here are some previous episodes that can help as a point of reference.

Working Through This One Step At A Time

Let’s start this by imagining that your friend asks you something like “Okay which one of us is right?”

What do you say in this situation?

There are three steps which can help you to work through this in the most diplomatic way possible.

The three easy steps to follow include the following:

  1. Soften your introduction and explain that both people have good points
  2. Say what you think and why you think that
  3. Explain that you still think the other person has a valid opinion

These three steps can help you to stay calm and remain in the middle.

We’re going to dive into each of these steps, but suffice it to say that they can be quite helpful when you feel uncomfortable in such a situation.

Looking At Each Step Closely

You want to be sure that you understand what each step means and how to carry it off.

The more that you think this through, the easier it will make it for you in such an awkward situation.

Step 1: Soften your introduction and explain that both people have good points

  • You both have really good points.
  • I can see both sides
  • I hate to take sides on this because I can see where you both are coming from
  • What each of you is saying makes perfect sense
  • Each of you have different points of view that are both valid

Step 2: Start with a transition and give a concrete reason to follow

  • However, I do think _______ has a point here.
  • But I guess I personally identify with what ______ is saying.
  • Ultimately, I have to go with _____ on this one.
  • I can relate to _______________________a bit more, and here’s why

Step 3: End it by validating both points again

  • But again, I do get your point of view. MAYBE ADD REASON to end it
  • You still have really good ideas on this.
  • i think you are right in the sense that,  ____.

Convincing The Other Party

If you follow these steps then you will have a great way to handle a potential confrontation.

Then comes the part where you want to keep the peace with the other party–the person that you just told nicely that they might be wrong.

So how do you convince the other person?

There are a couple of things that you can say which will help to keep the peace and put you in a good position.

Here are a couple of examples.

“Don’t you think that ______? That should convince you that __________” 

Example: Don’t you think that college is important? That should convince you that there should be free tuition.

“I would think you would agree with him/her on this because______”

Example: I would think you would agree with her on this because you always talk about how important it is to save more money for retirement.

Looking At A Roleplay

As always, it can help to look at a roleplay to really understand how this works.

This is particularly important here because you are trying to keep everyone’s feelings in mind.

Here are some good examples of how this works.

Lindsay and our friend are having a debate on whether or not it’s best to learn English through a textbook or through real experiences.

L: Well Michelle what do you think?

M: Well, you guys. I hate to take sides on this because I can see where you both are coming from, but I guess I personally identify with what Lindsay is saying. Real life experiences and practicing your English how you really need to use it is so much better because you get natural practice. Textbooks don’t always give you all the natural English you need. 

FRIEND 3: Yeah but your grammar may not be right.

M: I would think you would agree with Lindsay on this because you got to practice your Spanish in Spain for three years and learned so much more than when we took it in high school together.

FRIEND 3: That’s true

M: But again, I do get your point of view. Grammar and accuracy is important.

In this example we added in convincing, but that may or may not happen in the situation you are in.


It’s hard to choose sides, but if you use our process, you can avoid offending your friends.

You may find yourself in this uncomfortable situation sometimes, but it’s all in how you handle it.

Stay calm, stay positive, be sure to take both sides into consideration, and see how this can become a positive if you approach it the right way.

You want to show that each person has a good point, and leave everyone feeling good.

If you do this, it will help you a lot and keep the peace in an otherwise challenging conversation.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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