The 5 actions that got you enemies in a discussion

“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy”

                  –     Isaac Newton

I love intellectually challenging discussions on any subject (although I have some favourites). On occasions, for example during quiet times at work or at some house parties I meet people that look educated enough to challenge my paradigms. Great! I may have been waiting for this opportunity the whole month, but I never know when is going to happened. Why I get excited? because through all my life I have developed an understanding of reality and the individual in front of me has developed a different one, and theirs is just like mine: the product of their whole life. If during the discussion my paradigm (regardless of the subject) is shown wrong I’ll love it, because I will then be a step closer to the truth. If I am shown right they will be then a step closer to the truth. [The outcome is not always as B/W as I portray it here but you get the idea.]

However, there are some occasions when there is not a happy ending ‘ oh, oh, oh ‘ 😦

At some point through the discussion my fellow thinker starts to lose interest in my arguments (the most diplomatic reaction), or rejects my arguments without reasoning, therefore without attempting to show me where did I make the mistake in my reasoning. For example, they may say I don’t think so, without further explanation and after about seven seconds of silence I reply why?, and from then on they will not expand in their answer. On the least of cases they may also get angry but that on my experience is quite unlikely (you learn to see that coming and how to avoid it). Why did this discussion full of potential ended like this? this is a horrible lose-lose situation, nobody learn anything productive, apart from creating prejudice in the other individual for future people that talk or think the way I do. Oh My God! That was totally the opposite of what I intended. I wanted to share thoughts for the benefit of both and I ended up creating distrust to a group of society. I might be a bit paranoid but that is potentially what is at stake.

Thus, if this situation has happened before, then there is a pattern, and if I am able to see a pattern I am able to see the way out of it.  So far I have come across 5 actions that made me enemies during discussions. There are two actions of form or how the information is expressed, two actions of content or the quality and quantity of the information, and one non-action.

These 5 Actions only apply if  both individuals are capable of analytical thinking. If our fellow thinker is unwilling to accept or discuss scientific facts and/or pure reasoning,  then there is not much point on carrying on talking to them, unless you wish to challenge yourself with the task of educating them at the speed of light.

Actions of Form:

  • Feeling of being listened– we all like to talk about things we feel passionate about. Why? because they are an intrinsic part of ourselves, because somebody is interested in who you really are and they want to give their attention (or it seems) to you. If after asking somebody to open themselves we decide to not let them express themselves fully they may feel that their inner world might be misinterpreted. This commonly takes place in the form of interrupting the other individual before they have finished their reasoning, showing lack of interest by lack of eye contact, or both.
  • Tone of conversation– the tone tends to be a mix of volume (audio tone) and gestures (visual tone). Talking too loud may make feel some people uneasy or even threatened. Hands and facial gestures tend to be the most commonly used to create different visual tones. Moving the hands very fast and/or very close to the other individual may make feel them uneasy or even threatened. If the facial gestures shows that we belittle their thoughts or in some way lack being open minded, that may destroy the will of our fellow thinker to continue talking to us.

Actions of Content:

  • Repetition– When our fellow thinker does not get our point don’t try to repeat it again and again word by word, if they didn’t get the second time they won’t get it a third time. Try through examples, or explain it differently, but don’t become annoying like and old jumping vinyl.
  • Too much challenge– There are some topics that might be well off the radar for our fellow. The easy way is to avoid the topic altogether, but if you still want to try I will recommend you not to mention the actual subject but instead the underlying pattern that caused it. It is as if our fellow has been programmed to react like a mad dog to certain words, just don’t use these words, go around it.

The non-Action:

  • Prejudice– in this situation our fellow is already thinking you are a tosser even before you had the chance to prove them if you really are a tosser. This is a very difficult case, I really hope you have a very good quote under your sleeve to start the conversation (to put our fellow prejudice off guard). After that the best is to let them talk first, I promised they will take their chance if you make them doubt their prejudice for a second.

I have been thinking on why these actions make our fellow thinker hate us. Neuroscience has shown us so far that the frontal lobe is the main actor during acts of cognition, memory, learning, etc. All of these functions play a vital role in reasoning, and, as in this case, the act demanded from our fellow is to follow us in our trend of thought; to reason. If during such exposure of our inner-selves our fellow feels threatened the flight-or-fight response will appear and the frontal lobe will stop (and no more reasoning). Their answers will lack reasoning, they may loose interest in reasoning, or they may get angered (by words or by action, ay, ay, ay). The more anger the less reasoning. Thus, this is exactly what we don’t want from our fellow, we want them to keep reasoning. We have just hacked their frontal lobe. Who’s fault it is? I think it’s nobody’s fault. I didn’t do it on purpose since everybody has a different level of tolerance for these Actions. Whereas they did not consciously chose to go into fight-or-fight response, this is just a body reflex, an automatic defense mechanism, it just takes over their brain and there is nothing they can do about it.

Once we’ve noticed we have hacked them there is not much hope, apart from try to remember what Action have you got into, cool it down, and hope not to have gone far enough as to have caused prejudice against yourself or others like you. I have hacked people plenty of times until I reflected on this blog post.

Good luck 🙂


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