Good article on how NOT to talk.

In his unending and tireless travels of the Net, ***Dave has come across yet another excellent resource in the form of Conversational Cheap Shots – How NOT to Talk! A sort of guide to techniques and methods we sometimes resort to when engaged in a heated discussion that should be avoided if your intent is to have an honest dialog. I’m guilty of a few of these myself, but long-time readers will probably recognize a lot of these tactics from the various lengthy threads that have occurred on SEB in the past. A particularly popular one with the True Believers™ who stop by here from time to time intent on showing me the error of my ways is the I KNOW BETTER ploy:

I KNOW BETTER:
A clever and socially acceptable way of denying what someone has said by claiming to know more about what the other person thinks or feels than they do. Believe it or not, this technique is quite commonplace and effective.

    “That’s a cruel thing to say, and I know you don’t mean it.”

      “You’ve made that point well, but … (1) I know where your heart is; (2) I sense that you’re not comfortable with what you’re saying; (3) I know what kind of person you are deep down … and that you cannot continue to hold this position and maintain your integrity.”

      “Johnny, the reason I can’t give you permission to go to the party is because I know that deep in your heart you’d rather spend the time here with me.”

Yeah, if I had a dime for every occurrence where someone tried to tell me what they know about how I feel “deep down in my heart” I’d be a rich man by now.

Anyway, it’s a good read and worth bookmarking so you can reference it from time to time and try to avoid using these tactics when you can. I know I’ll probably go back to it from time to time as a refresher.

10 thoughts on “Good article on how NOT to talk.

  1. The great (or maddening) thing about these is that they are exclusive of ideology.  Folks use them regardless of their (dis)beliefs, parties, or predilictions.  They’re a lot more indicative of the messenger than the message.

  2. Absolutely, and that’s because they tend to work pretty well on a lot of people. Many of them play on one’s insecurities about how others perceive them and of being labeled a “bad person.”

    Which also explains why they don’t work so well on me. grin

  3. Ack.  Ack.  Ack.  And one more Ack.

    Discussion “fallacies”, as they are sometimes called, remind me of some mao-era cultural campaign.

    I remember when i was a wee-bit and listening to my parents and grandparents talk.  My grandparents told long, sequential, detailed accounts of this or that event, and any surrounding events.  I’ve rarely had such a discussion with anyone below 60 in the past few years, if at all.

    Perhaps it’s the growing presence of massmedia Devices in our lives (from my office radio to our wirelessly connected PocketPC), or some Illuminati conspiracy to dumb-down our language skills forcing us to revert to icons alone.  Probably the former.

    But, with the web, blogs, forums, and to a lesser extent irc/chatrooms, our present generations suddenly find themselves forced to write, and at length.  And our skills of discourse are showing, embrassingly so.  What to do.

    Well, and pardon the harsh rhetoric, but simple people come up with simple rules.  Generally speaking, simple people do certainly seem to like rules.  A lot.

    If i had a dollar for how many times people have, with an almost shrill fascist tone, that this or that comment might be well reasoned, but the names!, the lables!, and the sarcasm! negated their position entirely.  They have some, bizarro, idea that the validity of one’s position is either destroyed or emboldned by the style of rhetoric one employs.

    As i paraphrasingly said in the Clinton Is Fantastic (just like Kerry!) thread:  Hitler was a great, unifying, generally likeable rhetorical speaker.  To think of others, Reverand Moon or the Bagwan Shree Rajneesh and his evil minion Sheela (http://www.religioustolerance.org/rajneesh.htm)—They all speak so politely, careful *never* to “alienate their audience”, but their positions were all crap.

    Rhetorical style and the reasoning behind a position can easily be unthreaded from each other, albeit usually by those over 60 in America (for reasons theorised above).  Such a level of discourse is alive and well outside the confines of America (or the fanatically polite City of Rajneesh).  People get heated and impolite all the time, but can (easily) see the two very different elements in the conversation:  the rhetoric and the position’s reasoning.

    In America we are not so skilled.

    .rob adams

  4. .rob – Now I know that deep down in your fascist little heart you don’t seriously believe that.  tongue laugh

    Great site to reference periodically.  It’s funny I find myself slipping into some of those traps mostly in personal arguments.  That seems to be when we want to inflict the most damage.

    captcha = ‘trouble’ That’s exactly what these traps get you into to.

  5. Rhetorical style and the reasoning behind a position can easily be unthreaded from each other, albeit usually by those over 60 in America

    There’s a brilliant scene in the Walter Matthau movie, “Kotch” where he is accused of improper interest in little girls.  He begins to explain himself in a perfectly reasonable, though long-winded way, and is cut off by his impatient juniors who want to hear a simple denial.

    This is the price we pay for political correctness and blipvert media: inability to separate message from form.  So the most reasonable-sounding, “polite” person wins even if they speak total bullcakes.

    It’s a dangerous situation because outrage isn’t allowed to be expressed except in soft, polite terms.  Soon we’ll have someone shouting “Fire!” and everyone will say; “Please, lower your voice!”

    Oh, wait, that happened in congress just recently when a black congresswoman’s comments were stricken from the record because they weren’t polite enough.

    Lesson of Reagan: charm is an asset, not a virtue.  It can be turned on and used when needed.  The older (and grouchier) I get the less likely I am to be impressed when someone is described as “a nice person.”

    BTW I disagreed with several of the categories in that piece.  It’s bad to cite studies at UCLA?  It’s bad to reflect what you think the other person is saying, so you can both get on the same page?  It’s bad to tell a long story in support of your point?

    Those categories are loaned legitimacy by association with obvious real fallacies such ad hominym, etc. in the same essay.

  6. Well, I was missing one more thing. I’ll call it: “Well, we ain’t experts on that, after all!”

    It was used (but not very well, because he only made me mad) by a former friend of mine. He has this way of bringing up a political subject (say, the budget), and arguing his opinion.

    Then, after letting you listen to him politely, he crashed right into your rebuttal/comment/own position with a comment like “Well, we are not really experts on this (budget, whatever). We can’t really discuss this.”. A real cheap trick after having expounded his won view first.

    Well, as I said, former friend.

  7. That your “friend” brushes aside any further discussion of an issue merely on the idea (read: reasoning) that you (and, i assume, he, too) are not certified experts is poor reasoning.

    I think it’s high time we start to take a few valiums/xanax/etc whenever we read posts by people we cannot or don’t want to read or comprehend, such as religious fanatics or Maoist revolutionaries.

    Just like in the old’n days:  change the channel (or, in a modern context, skip the comment).

    Trust me, in 10 years these commentors won’t be so fanatical about observing proper forms of discussion, beyond the most base of conduct, nor as obsessed with notions such as “stay on topic!”  They’ll see the value and beauty of discussing issues with such a wide, global, disparate variety of minds.  And that’s what shall matter.

    Not no silly rules.

    .rob adams

  8. I agreed with some of the items, but some seemed like legitimate techniques when used correctly, especially “We need to define just exactly what you mean by _________.” That’s not “nit-picking”—definitions are essential to good discussion, especially atheist/religious discussion.

  9. Deep down in my heart? My achy breaky heart?

    Of course definitions are important. The key to any argument/debate is who gets to set the definitions.

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