So I haven’t been shy about sharing my opinions about the current political situation we find ourselves in here in the good old USA. I’m not going to talk about any of that today. But I am going to talk about arguing/debating/discussing. I was raised in a family with a father seemed to consider arguing as some sort of art form/hobby. So I grew up around arguments and I can be sucked into one far to easily. Add to that I’m pretty cynical. Well, lets just say these days I am living in a target rich environment!
Lately though I find myself frustrated, annoyed and disappointed. I don’t claim to know everything about everything. I also don’t claim to be the best debater. I’ve never studied debate or really thought about it but people, please raise your bar. For every person that seems to have “come for an argument” with some preparation and a thought process I encounter a dozen of people that confuse an intelligent discourse with all cap shouting matches.
A funny sketch that actually points out to what really isn’t an argument. Just contradiction does not an argument make. I actually know some folks that know how to craft a well reasoned and compelling response or critique. I enjoy those exchanges and almost always come away a little better from them. I might not agree or I might evolve my position. But a good responses makes me rethink how I came to the initial position in the first place.
So to benefit everyone I’d like to ask folks refrain from the following behaviors.
Contradiction – Just saying “it is” or “it isn’t” didn’t work on the schoolyard when you were a kid. It won’t work today. Please don’t waste people’s time with any of that.
The emotional label response – These are almost always short and totally based on some conclusion about something with no supporting facts. Just gut based emotional responses. They are always subjective and never objective. These are usually strong opinions offered as fact. If you are going to just parrot back your opinion at least label it for what is and add why you came to it. Any less than that I’ll ignore you and I hope everyone else does as well. Please remember just Googling for a bunch of stuff that agrees with you isn’t researching anything. What you are doing is just re-enforcing your already existing bias. Eighty five google links aren’t going to change my mind unless I see evidence you researched it from all sides. No vaccinations do not appear to cause autism and even if they did we are healthier because of them. You probably are not affected adversary by gluten. Giving sugar to kids dies not make them hyperactive. There aren’t more suicides on a full moon. Please do your homework. There is a quote from the Movie “John Wick” I like. “Have you thought this through? I mean, chewed down to the bone?”. Try to show you have “chewed down to the bone” instead of just spewed whatever your gut felt have hearing some talking head on the “news”.
Assuming shared beliefs or values – I may not have your value system or beliefs. If your argument is based on some set of belief or values that you believe should just make me agree with you isn’t going to work for me or anyone else. For example if you are trying to convince me we need more gun laws because you think guns are too dangerous to own then you aren’t going to win me over or most of the people I know. I grew up with guns and believe otherwise. Don’t assume everyone agrees with something you believe to be a fact that is really an opinion. Fore example if you want to make a case about some position about gun safety have some facts, statistics, legal analysis of the relevant laws, examples in other places or context to support your position. The same can be said about other things. Clean energy is a good one, your idea of “clean energy” may or may not be mine. I like nuclear. This is often the frustrating “just because it is” argument. Even kids see through that one.
Your smarter/better/more moral/prettier/whatever than me – Chances you don’t know enough about me to know. I’m also smart enough to know I don’t always know no matter how much I study something and that sometimes the smartest things come from unexpected places. You aren’t going to win any argument because of your degrees or past expertise. You need to bring more to the argument than just who you are in almost every case. Your background can help but shouldn’t be expected to be all you need to convince anyone you are right. Chances are if you have what ever it is you claim would make you the authority you can then explain your position convincingly even without me knowing anything about you. Another variation of that is taking the position that because you may belong to some “class” of people I have to accept whatever you say if its about “your class”. I will never claim to know what its like to be in Inuit but just because you are you need to make more of a case if we are talking about something having to do with Alaska than just what group of people you belong to. Explain how that experience shaped your view so I might come to understand your position.
Personal attacks – Simple. If you’ve lowered yourself to that you’ve lost. Telling me I dress funny or insulting my personal habits only makes it clear you have no valid argument and you’ve given up. You are demonstrating a total lack of relevant intellect.
Making stuff up – I still run into this once in a while but it almost always fails quickly. It is just too easy to check things out. I used to encounter a person who wouldn’t hesitate to flat out invent things to try and win an argument. Back in the college days for me it wasn’t easy to quickly fact check. Today with smart phones a the google you will be busted. Just don’t!
Faith – This is probably a subset of assuming shared beliefs. I your position is based on faith then just make it part of your point. I know enough to know in those matters there is no “right answer”. It is totally subjective. There is no winning an argument that has an element of faith. Discussions for sure but no one will walk away the “winner”. Faith is by definition “to know the unknowable”. If you believe something you think makes your life better, great, but don’t expect me to just accept something just because your copy of some book of questionable origin has a passage that threatens me with an eternity in an imagined unpleasant place.
Group think – Don’t claim you are right because more people think like you than think like me. History is full of things the majority thought that were proved flat out wrong. At one time what passed for doctors would drill holes in people’s heads to let out the evil spirits. Leeches anyone? 54 percent of Icelanders believe in elves. Numbers of like minded people do not a case make.
Giant leaps – If you are making a case that is based on some string of things make sure you’ve identified the steps.
may need a little more explanation! I may come to see your argument if I know how you got there but please provide the path, not just the destination!
So these are just some of the things I see in the average argument/debate/discourse. I have promised myself to try not to do them. Don’t be surprised if I don’t take the bait if you try any of these with me.
So be prepared if you’ve come for an argument, I know I’ll try to be Spacegrrrl