Monday, December 06, 2010

Arguing Is Not Fun

This post and ensuing comment thread is an object lesson. If you notice the pattern here, someone comes along and insists that certain words and phrases mean something other than that intended by the person who actually used them. Then, based upon the novel idea that an individual is too dumb to understand the point of his or her own words, all sorts of topics are introduced as the "real" meaning. Any attempt to drag the discussion back to the topic at hand becomes a struggle precisely because the individual who insists on being argumentative (as opposed to discursive) makes a claim to priority. No matter how often this person is told, in plain language, that he or she is wrong, the claim of correctness is repeated.

The resulting exasperation is enough to make one abandon any and all discussion whatsoever. When facts become irrelevant, it is time to go.

I've experienced this same phenomenon at work. I was once informed that "everyone" at work believed that, when I first started working there, I thought I was "better" than anyone else. To which I responded, rather succinctly, that I not only believed no such thing, but exactly the opposite. I was informed that I was lying not because of any reference to anything I had ever said, or any act I had done that would have left the impression that I felt that way. Instead, the original claim - "everyone" seemed to believe that (who "everyone" may have been was never given any specifics) - was reiterated, thus making me out a liar.

Faced with the insistence, whether on-line or face-to-face that one is incapable of understanding one's own words or state of mind, the sane response is walking away. It certainly doesn't help when evidence is offered that is factually inaccurate, and no matter how easily that is shown to be the case, simple reiteration becomes the fallback position, as if it is repeated often enough it becomes factual.

So, I don't enjoy arguments. I don't enjoy being told that I don't understand my own words, that I don't understand my own mind, that I don't understand a subject and way of life in which I have been immersed for the better part of my whole adult life. I do not feel it necessary to belabor a point at issue that is clear enough to me, even if it seems obtuse to others. Someone "arguing" in this way already has all the answers anyway, so it is far better to just shrug, smile, and walk away.

Virtual Tin Cup

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