Free Advice Friday: Polite discussion

*Note:  I’m just some girl.  Take any and all advice at your own risk.

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who like to argue just to get their blood up.  People who don’t really even care about absolute right and wrong but just proving that they are right- even if they don’t truly believe in what they are saying.  There is a fine art to disagreeing and an even finer art to winning people over.  If what matters most to you is making people concede, you’re a jerk.  So, if what matters most to you is people respecting your beliefs, you have to learn to tame your tongue.

  1. You don’t have to win to be right.  You can still be right, even if other people don’t say you are.  If you feel the need to always have other people agree with you, perhaps your convictions aren’t as strong as you think they are.  So, before getting into a discussion, ask yourself a few simple questions:  “Am I doing this to express myself?” “Do I feel like I need this person’s approval?”  “Will conceding if there is no hope of convincing them harm me in some way?”
  2. Be okay with saying, “we will never come to an agreement.”   Sometimes you have to shake your head and walk away before things get ugly.  Learn to say, “we will never agree”, and leave it at that.  If the person you are talking to says that you are stupid or being unreasonable, walk away quickly.
  3. If what you are discussing is strongly tied in with your beliefs beware of emotion.  It’s easy to lose track of yourself when you are defending something close to your heart.  So remember to separate the belief from the person- just because someone disagrees with your point of view does not mean they think that you are stupid.  (Or… at least…  it shouldn’t.)
  4. If someone tells you that you are just stupid, stop talking.  That person is too belligerent and cannot argue their point of view, so they attack.  Explaining yourself will likely do no good.  The person with whom you’re conversing can simply continue to retort, “you are stupid.”
  5. Be respectful of others, as well.  If you have the right to believe A, B and C even though others think they are wrong, that also means others have the right to believe X, Y and Z even though you think they are wrong.
  6. Everything eventually comes down to personal opinion.  Even when the vast majority of facts support a single argument, people may choose to side with the minority of opinion.  Just look at elections:  there are plenty of facts to defend either candidate- yet those facts will not necessarily garner support.  Why?  Because eventually it boils down to a matter of personal preference.
  7. Use good language.  Be well spoken.  There is language which is contrary and rude, and that kind of language while it may cause people to cede the point, won’t necessarily win them over.  Use gentle language, and always phrase things in a way that shows that you are aware there is a difference of opinion and that is okay.

A simple guide:

Good:  “Personally, I support Senator Obama because I like his Health care plan.”

Bad:  “You support Clinton?  Moron.”

Good:  “There are plenty of good reasons to become a vegetarian, it’s cheaper, it takes less manufacturing and thus conserves energy, etc…”

Bad:  “Barbarian.  Eating meat is murder.”

Good:  “My religious beliefs inform every aspect of my life and make it richer. I don’t care if you believe in God, but you should respect my lifestyle.”

Bad:  “You are a heathen and will burn in Hell.”

Good:  “A liberal philosophy embraces the most sacred tenets of our Constitution, like autonomy of persons and states.”

Bad:  “Conservatives are bigots and selfish fat cats.”

Perfect:  “Are you trying to engage in a discussion about my opinion or only voicing your personal beliefs?”

Atrocious:  “You’ve got to be the most ignorant person I’ve ever seen.  No, don’t open your mouth.  I can tell just from looking at you.”

6 thoughts on “Free Advice Friday: Polite discussion

  1. lol Shush… another beauty! You’d think these things would be common sense. Alas common sense simply isnt.. common. Neither is common courtesy and respect. Strange.

    Can we add to the list: Road Rage? Treat the people on the road the same way you do when on foot. If someone cuts infront of you in line, you say a simple excuse me. You don’t start cussing them out, screaming and yelling like a complete lunatic. What on earth does that accomplish other than nearly giving you a heart attack/stroke? You do yourself a disservice and anyone who happens to be driving with you too. Its stressful. And if you are a vindictive driver to boot… grow up! Safety is way more important than being a child.

    How about instead saying to the driver who probably didnt see you when they made the driving error (we all do it) a simple “Have a Nice Day!” And be done.

  2. Sometimes I practice systematically tearing apart a troll’s post in the most eloquent and informed way possible. I do like a challenge after all. One think I’ve learned about the art of debate is that you really shouldn’t be apologetic in your arguments. Compromising is fine but if you’re going to argue a point have the confidence to look them in the eye. On the internet language betrays this, if you write like you expect your words to be rebuked then the rebukes will come. If you write with the conviction you truly believe then those would would rebuke you show their own faults and failings much more easily. Remember, on public forum it’s not the loser who has to acknowledge that you made your point, the audience can decide and if you decide to walk away after your counter-pointer has made a complete and utter fool of himself you’re still the clear winner and you may have swayed opinions that you’ll never know.

  3. Some great thoughts Shush. But it’s not really about being right, or winning is it? At least it shouldn’t be when it comes to religion. The first will be last, and the last will be first.

  4. This is very good advice. I’m not a very good ‘debater’ and I generally do not like disagreements with people, because many times they end up going sour. I do like to say in those situations though: “Let’s just agree to disagree!” And then I hope that we can be grown up enough and mature enough to leave it at that. Thanks for the insightful post 🙂

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