During disputes and discussions, you will definitely come across people whose opinions do not coincide with yours. In good faith, you will begin to defend your point of view, because you truly believe in it. You’ll start listing facts and evidence, but you’ll soon notice that the conversation turns in an unexpected direction, and emotions get heated. The interlocutor hurts your feelings, you do not remain in debt and soon forget where it all began.
So what happened? Most likely, you ran into a passive aggressor. Such people start a dispute with dishonest intentions. They stock up on tricky tricks in advance so as not to appear wrong in the conversation. Usually they have a touchy and vulnerable ego.
Their dignity is directly related to their opinions, so in a dispute it is more important for them to assert their rightness and superiority than to get to the truth.
Therefore, they masterfully distract attention from their unconvincing statements and confuse listeners. Learn to recognize their tactics. Robert Green listed five of the most common ones.
1.Appealing to feelings
For this purpose, emotionally colored words are used, which hint the audience in advance at the necessary conclusion of the sportsman. Or claim what he is trying to prove. For example, adjectives “vicious,” “reactionary,” “privileged,” “power-loving,” “unprincipled,” “immoral,” which automatically trigger an emotional reaction in listeners.
Let’s assume that the interlocutor calls the book or its author cynical without explaining the reasons. Using this word implies knowledge of the motives of the convicted writer, which in itself is quite difficult to prove. But one could look for information, give examples and already make a statement based on it. However, the passive aggressor knows that this word is negatively colored, and uses it to tune the audience against the person under discussion in advance without referring to any examples.
What to do: point out to your opponent the emotionally colored words in his speech and ask him to explain what exactly he understands by them. If he retaliates by throwing you other such adjectives or avoids answering at all, do not give up. Don’t let him get away with empty, vocal phrases. Keep asking until it is clear to everyone that the person is simply appealing to “cheap” emotions.
2. Bringing to the point of absurdity
Skilful passive-aggressive sportsmen strive to bring your argument to the extreme to devalue it. For example: “If you allow same-sex marriages, then why not allow the union of man and animal? They like constructions like “If you believe in X, then you should believe in Y”. Or they list the worst possible consequences of your claim, making them inevitable.
And if you refer to someone, the aggressor will definitely mention the worst effects of that name, as if it were part of your argument. For example, if you quote Nietzsche, he will say that he was loved by the Nazis.
This way you can twist any of your arguments, and the passive aggressor will do it quickly, so that others do not have time to think about his words.
What to do: do not let your interlocutor proceed to the next argument. Go back to his statement and show that it is irrational. For example, Nietzsche spoke out against dictators and anti-Semites, and more than thirty years before the Nazis appeared, so there is no point in associating him with them.
Try to bring to the absurdity of the interlocutor’s argument to show how he manipulated your own statement.
3. Translation of the conversation into another subject
If the passive aggressor feels that you are winning, he will try to discreetly translate the conversation on another topic. This allows you to use a strong (but inappropriate) argument. Let’s say there is a discussion about immigration to the USA. You say that America is generally a country of immigrants, and you provide statistics that show that they actually contribute to its economy. In response, your conversation partner talks about high unemployment among American natives in some regions, suggesting that you do not care about their fate. And that puts you in an unfavorable light.
If you discuss sexual violence against women, the person you talk to asks: “What about violence against men?” If you advocate for tax increases, you will hear the question if you are willing to pay more in person.
If you scold one evil, you will be pointed out for even worse and asked why you are not trying to fight it.
The person may also ask a very vague or abstract question, so that you are confused and confused in your answers. For example, in a conversation about global warming, you might be asked, “If you’re so sure, what percentage of climate change is caused by human activity? And since in this case it is impossible to answer accurately, you will have to separate yourself with common phrases or say something that is not confirmed by facts.
What to do: keep calm and return the conversation to its original course. Do not let the interlocutor duck. Show the audience that he is trying to confuse everyone.
4. Attempts to piss off the opponent
The purpose of this maneuver is to make you angry so that you can say something thoughtlessly. And the passive aggressor at this time will be calm to make you seem overly emotional. In response to your reasonable statement, he may look at you sarcastically and say something sharp, which does not prove his point, but irritates you. Or even switch to insults and slander. If you sink to his level, you will not win anyway: the interlocutor is much better trained than you are in dirty watering.
What to do: in this situation, the best protection is calm. Only in this way you can think rationally and find a decent answer. If you show that the words of the interlocutor do not hurt you, he will stop inciting you not to look stupid.
5. References to influencers
Passive-aggressive disputants refer to statistics and studies that cannot be verified, or to generally accepted opinions. Thus, their statements seem more reliable, and their opponent – arrogant, going against all known truths. They use divergent slogans to show that they are on the side of the truth. And they mention respected personalities like Gandhi, as if association with this person is enough to prove the speaker is right.
What to do: ask for the source of the statistics or studies that your opponent is referring to. Ask to list more details, explain the specific meaning of the slogans. Most likely, he or she will not. Do not ignore the mention of an authoritative figure. Ask exactly how it relates to the statement. And always be ready to specify the sources of your own data.
In any case, your goal is to return the conversation to the original topic and show that the interlocutor is trying to confuse you and distract attention from the insolvency of his arguments.