Admit it: You've had an argument in your head with someone in the last week or so.
It's okay. We're living in chaotic times, and while it would be nice if everyone could use those fancy, high-tech computers in their pockets for more than just looking at pretty, filtered pictures to do some actual research on a topic, we know that's never going to happen. So, how do you compose yourself when a hot-button issue arises and you know, deep down, the person you're going to argue with is...an idiot?
Reddit user, u/incognitospy3, wanted to know:
Sources. Sources. SOURCES.
Expect to constantly have to steer them back to the crux of the argument, be prepared to refute any spurious sources and to back up your own facts with genuine sources.
Pick your battles because there will be many occasions where you will be told "we will just have to agree to differ" and "that's just your opinion".
Don't always expect that the idiot will understand your logic.
It's Hard, But Do Your Best
It's kinda unpopular, but be as polite and as calm as you can, intelligent people can sometimes act like idiots when arguing with idiots. This applies to the internet as well
I find a lot of "intelligent" people are only perceived as being intelligent in their own field of expertise; the "smart" ones stick to what they know while the "dumb" ones are arrogant enough to argue outside their field.
"Overall, idiots gonna idiot."
Presumably the only reason you're arguing with an idiot is because you love them. Instead of arguing, try to find common ground on something and agree not to discuss the subject further. No reason to disturb the relationship about something like an argument.
If the person you're arguing with is in a position of power over you and the argument concerns things like punishment, try to carefully lay out why you believe the punishment does not align with the action performed. Tread very lightly here, because a slip up could very well result in more punishment.
Furthermore, ensure that the subject you're discussing is something that is in fact open or logical to discuss. Try to see it from the other person's point of view, because they obviously believe that what they're doing is right for a reason. Complex imagination is a gift. Use it to your advantage in this case.
Overall, idiots gonna idiot. There's nothing you can do to solve that. But make sure that you're not an idiot back. That's something you can control.
Try To Keep Emotions Out Of It
Humor them, know the subject very very very well, and ask genuine questions. Take an interest in them. Let go of your grandiose 'right and wrong' bullsh-t for just a single moment and see the human life in front of you, with all its failings, successes, and potential.
The mind can only be changed one specific point at a time, and that point can only be successfully prevailed upon when the receiver is receiving instead of defending, the giver is giving instead of attacking.
In other words, don't argue with an idiot, because arguing is for f-cking idiots.
Also, you'll change a million more hearts and minds by example than you will by any other tack.
Source: I am an idiot, I get argued with a lot, you smart people really have no idea what you're dealing with. If you get emotionally invested, you're going to look and feel like every bit the idiot that I am.
Listen. Ask Them To Clarify What They Said.
You don't argue with them.
I had a coworker that I liked very much, but he was constantly listening to talk radio and spouting Fox News bullsh-t.
The thing was, he was smart and had a good amount of integrity. He genuinely cared about people.
So, I didn't argue with him, and I didn't contradict him, but the truth is, what he was hearing and repeating didnt bare scrutiny. If you analyze what Limbaugh or Hannity say, it simply doesn't make sense.
So I would listen. Then I I would clarify what he'd said, so he knew I wasn't dismissing him at all. Then I would be quiet and take the time to think through what he said and nail down all the fallacies. I'd find one falacy that I knew he'd probably see, or recognize, and ask him one or two questions about it. Usually, he'd start to answer and just stop as it became clear that it really didn't make sense.
Rough example: illegal immigrants just come here for welfare. They're lazy.
Are they? It seems like an enormously risky thing to undertake. People in the US won't move to a different state because of the risks. This guy had tried to get his wife's family too move to our state where the jobs were more plentiful and support would be closer, but they always balked at moving. Too hard. Too risky. Easier to just stay and complain. So, an hour later or so I'd bring up that subject. He'd finally accuse them of just being lazy for staying put. Then I'd say something like, "but, like, illegal immigrants are moving to America, and that's a lot riskier than your wife's family moving here. Why would they do that if they're lazy?" Not in a challenging way, but just posing the question.
It took a year or more of this sort of stuff, driving the wedge of his own life experience between him and talk radio. Letting him start to see how stupid he was sounding, without pointing it out.
He wasn't stupid. He wasn't an idiot. He just wanted to belong to a team. He wanted to demonstrate loyalty to that team. I just did what I could to help him see what that team was actually all about. At some point, he realized that all his "team" was doing was enslaving him with his own anger. He'd already had a heart attack in his life, why was he letting these people blow up his blood pressure with lies? BTW, the tactic of enslaving people through outrage is not just a right-wing tactic. All sorts of groups use this formula for power.
Sometimes it works, but only if you care about them, and only if you stop seeing them as an idiot.
You can't change idiots. Mainly because you think they're idiots.
Be Prepared To Play A Different Game
Think of it like playing chess with a pigeon.
Chances are, the pigeon will knock over all the pieces, sh-t on the board and then fly back to it's flock to claim victory.
Ask Questions Leading To Answers
I was going to say "Don't", but clearly that's been covered. Then I read the last guy say "Just say ok to everything and watch them self-destruct." You might actually get a little further along with this method if you implement Socratic Method and just ask them questions.
The point is not to get to a "gotcha" moment from you, but come from a place of genuine curiosity otherwise they may get defensive if they feel they're being manipulated.
Either they will wind themselves up until they figure out they really don't know what they're talking about, or you will have a better understanding of where their coming from.
Put In That Extra Work To Double, Triple, And Quadruple Check
Take time to make sure you are not the idiot.
Ahh nothing is worse than the mid argument realization that you're the one that is wrong
Give It Up For The Best...
I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and presume that you genuinely want to engage the other person, rather than just "win" the argument or feel superior.
First, and most important thing: don't call them an idiot. No one has ever changed their mind because someone called them stupid. Quite the opposite, calling someone stupid will make them become defensive, react emotionally rather than intellectually, and reject everything you are saying as a self-defense mechanism. Calling your opponent an idiot is great for making yourself feel better, but it's terrible for getting anyone else to listen to you. No one changes their mind because someone said they were stupid; they just convince themself that that person is an a--hole.
Along those lines: attack the idea, not the person. You disagree; you're aren't enemies. Discuss your problems with their belief, but try to separate it from the person themself as much as possible. This allows the other person to distance themselves from their belief and think about what you are saying without feeling defensive. Anytime you discuss "your belief" or "you think that..." or say anything that links your argument with them personally (or attack the person directly), you're reinforcing the idea that their belief is part of their personal identity, which (for them) means that they need to defend the belief in order to defend themself. Allow your opponent to separate the belief from themself, as this gives them room to consider whether the belief is wrong without feeling like to do so would mean to admit that they are personally flawed.
And third: listen to the other person. Don't just wait to talk; actually listen. Respond to what they are saying to show that you are listening, and ask questions without getting angry or combative. Debates turn into arguments as soon as one person starts to become heated, because that just makes the other person become heated, and it snowballs until you're both yelling at each other. Once that happens, you're both going to react emotionally rather than intellectually, and neither one of you will be receptive to the other.
Overall: stay level-headed, de-escalate emotions, be respectful, and let the ideas do the work.
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