I Beg to Differ…in the Proper Way
Professional writer, Ty Unglebower, shares his thoughts and feelings on relationships, interactions and the internet; I am personally a huge fan of Ty’s blog and his writing; he is one of the FEW people who KEEP IT REAL! Thanks for the Guest Post, Ty!
Some people love to have arguments. They get some sort of satisfaction out of knowing that by expressing a deeply held (or not so deeply held) opinion of theirs, they illicit protest, challenge, or even anger and disgust in other people. Whether online or in person, such people thrive on the conflict. Or perhaps more accurately, they thrive on the drama it produces.
They always try to change everybody elses mind. Because they are right. They conclude that the group is so far beneath them that it can never be enlightened, and so they scorn the group for being stupid enough to believe what they believe.
People of this ilk are not in a discussion it for exploration. They are in it to browbeat their worldview onto others. Or if it is not their world view, they are in it just to watch people get pissed or offended.
You can call it passion, or having faith in one’s view point, or “taking the lead” in a conversation, if you like. I, however, call it shit.
Then there are those who enjoy conversation, or perhaps the occasional “debate”. These people also like to express their opinions in the face of opposition. But their impetus, rather then contention, is exploration. They want to delve into as many possible interpretations of an issue or dilemma as possible. They feel perhaps their own opposing viewpoint is enhanced through exposure to other opinions. They may even alter their own view at some point. Unlike the first group, their goal is not to change minds up front, but to understand minds.
It is the passionate exchange of opposing or complimentary ideas that excites such people. Not the ability to make others look stupid.
Needless to say, I prefer the latter group, but find myself constantly surrounded by the former group.
But perhaps you fall into the first group on the surface, but that is not your intention. It is possible that merely in the course of what you would like to think is an “animated discussion” you come off as a pompous, dismissive ass. How can you feed your enjoyment of open discussion of a topic, but hold on to your point of view, and do so with passion, without pissing people off? In the end there are always X factors, but I think I have come to find a few ways.
I have tried to take note over the years of how I react to certain people with differing opinion on various subjects. I know many people with whom I disagree, even on some critical issues. Jamie herself and I disagree about some fundamental approaches to life and success. But that disagreement has never angered me, or made me want to disassociate myself from her. The same can be said for several of the bloggers and writers with whom I have come into contact over the last year or so.
But then there are others, on Twitter, or on Brazen, that do not agree with me, and very quickly just piss me off. But as Jamie proves, it is not the disagreement with my opinion that angers me. It is the presentation of that differing opinion.
Here are some key phrases likely to put me in attack mode when those with opposing opinions use them in a discussion. Avoid them.
“You are fooling yourself if…”
“You couldn’t possibly understand…”
“I’ve been there, you have not..”
“You are not thinking clearly…”
“That’s just insane…”
Do you see a pattern? All of these phrases are set up to condemn the actual person. Note how many of them have “YOU” in them to start the argument. But the mistake many make is to argue the person when they should be arguing the concept, opinion, or approach.
Instead of saying, “You coming at this from totally the wrong angle, because as most liberals you have deluded yourself into believing that Progressive politics have in any way shape or form improved the American lifestyle.”
“It has been my experience that progressive programs, while well intentioned and generally fairly popular among the population, often end up being run inefficiently, and eventually fail to serve the very constituency they are designed to assist. Let me give you an example of what I mean.”
Do you see how in the first expression of opinion, you are coming after the person. You are actually labeling them, and deligitimizing them as a person, because of the belief they hold. Plus you haven’t actyally expressed anything but contempt for a certain demographic. You have not presented a single cogent argument for your opinion if you use the first approach. That may be fun on TV, but if you want actual, real people to listen to what you are saying, the second approach is more effective.
Note how in that second approach it is the concept you are examining, not the person. You establish that your position is based on what you personally have seen, and you acknowledge some aspect of good within the other person’s position. And then you proceed to offer some example as to why you have concluded what you have concluded. If you do this, you greatly improve your chances bring about passionate discussion, and exploring what makes other types of people tick, instead of fighting, or in the end, just being ignored by everyone else. (Or blocked if the platform is online.)
In the end, ask yourself as you enter a “lively discussion”, what moves me about conversation? Am I moved by the importance of the ideas? Do I think that be shedding more light on my view someone else may come to understand me better as a person? Might I learn more about other people, or the issue at hand if I listen to what they say?
Or do you just like to yell and scream and listen to people hurl half-baked insults back and forth at one another? Because if you get off on that, don’t bother.
Some things are too important, deep, or volatile to be discussed. Fair enough. But if you do open your mouth, (or write your post) about a subject, and expect to engage in intelligent debate, you had better come prepared to defend the idea, as well as to understand the opposing idea. The person on the other end of the debate is not what you are there for. You are there for the ideas.
At least you should be.