Human beings continue to be fascinating subjects. For example, have you ever noticed that when we get defensive we often immediately jump to extremes? It’s almost as if we’re so afraid of losing ground in an argument that whatever it takes to win becomes acceptable.
Someone might be discussing the benefit of national healthcare, for example, and an opponent leaps to “Look how well Communism worked out for Russia!” Or if the topic is pro-life, responses can quickly fall to levels of “Stop trying to tell other people how to live!”
We are very good at finding small, reasonable holes in another person’s point of view and then ripping those holes as wide-open as we possibly can, even when it makes no sense.
When I was younger, in the earlier days of The Internet, I spent day and night doing similar things. I found arguments where there were none to be initially seen, and I wouldn’t rest until the other person had given up because I had twisted their words and the argument so far it didn’t even make sense anymore. But to me, that was still a win. Somehow it gave me some perverted pleasure to achieve even such an empty, hollow “victory.”
Most people aren’t like I once was, thankfully. Most truly just want to defend their perspective and naturally slip, by accident, into some extremist argument that is far from where the conversation started.
There’s not a lot we can do about that when we come up against it, but we CAN eliminate it from our own bag of tricks.
The biggest key is to remain calm, though sometimes in the heat of discussion that can be difficult in and of itself. Remember the person with the different point of view is not attacking you, and they probably aren’t an extremist fighting for the total opposite of what you believe. They might be misinformed, or just have a different opinion. And that’s okay. We can share our side in a kind way and see if that changes their mind. If it does, great. If not, that’s alright too. Our job is ourselves, not tackling other people as projects of some kind. One thing that has helped me greatly to remain calm in such situations is to delay my answer. I walk away for a few hours and then come back with a better mindset, ready to reply with a better attitude. Or I may write my response immediately in a Word document, then start a new page to write a better, less emotional reply.
It pays to be confident enough in your own opinions and beliefs that you have no need to get defensive if someone says something challenging. When you are, you can present your case and then continue living your life in the way you feel is right, regardless of someone else’s opinion. At the end of the day, we may ourselves be as wrong as we perceive the other people to be, who knows? We’re only human.