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Why do ignorant people argue with me so much? Tips for arguing with idiots...

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Works in theory! Practice? That's something else
Sep 20, 2019
Key Largo
Hi all!

It's not too uncommon to see people get into "arguments" on the forums, occasionally it makes great discussion, clears the air, and I absolutely love those threads. Sometimes a moderator has to step in.

That's what this post is about. As you probably guessed from the click-baity thread title it's not about "ignorant" people, it's about you. I'm by no means a conversational scientist or expert in the field (book link for more). But I do see a set of frequent patterns that if you avoided might help keep the conversation about the science rather than about the people.

In the above paragraph, I used the YOU word twice. Did your hackles rise at all? After all, isn't this post supposed to be about dealing with others?
Did I just subtly call you ignorant? If you felt/thought anything like that it means you're human. When humans hear something, they invariable spin a miny-story about why someone said what they did; often this is based on their own biases (e.g., if I question climate science it's because I'm denier). It's a caveman thing about whether we run or fight and we do it in an instant often without realizing it

First, realize there's nothing anyone can do about the other person. There is no proof or elegant argument that will convince a die-hard flat-earther that the earth is round. In fact, it's been proven that arguing with people just reinforces their beliefs. That is, every argument you make reinforces your beliefs too.

Real change comes from within. So, sorry to say the only tangible thing for you to work with is you.

What? Still reading this? Guess you are looking for intellectual thought-provoking discussions that achieve clarity and a true meeting of the minds? Or, just bored and want to see how this train-wreck of a post ends? Me too, so I better get crackin.

The rest of this post is a series of what I think are examples of conversational pitfalls. Hope it helps!

Thread exchanges don't typically switch into the fast lane to moderator hell immediately. Usually, it takes a few back-and-forth exchanges and typically the only ones that don't see it are those arguing. Here's an email I recently got on one that shows what your fellow members are thinking about your hard-typed thought-provoking points of view:

I read that train wreck thread when it was first posted. I considered posting with just
, but decided to lurk and just laugh. That thread was a detriment to keyboard life cycles.

Now here's a secret everyone knows about others, but rarely themselves. Not always, but many times it's the word "you" in a post that triggers the nuclear chain reaction leading to ArmaModeratorgeddon. The word "you" should almost never appear in any post. It's always worthwhile to scan your post for that word and get rid of it.

The reason for this is because using that word alters the context from the issue to the person.
...if you look...
That's pretty innocent right? Nope. First off, you're telling them what to do, it has nothing to do with the issue. Changing it to "...from the diagram I see..." changes the context back to the issue and that you're stating your viewpoint. It only takes that one starting offense to give rise to the escalation.

Quoting Whole Posts
To frequently people quote whole posts rather than the one objectional thing when they respond. The problem with this is it's not always clear what that one thing is and is interpreted to invalidate the whole post rather than the little bit you meant. That means they must defend the entire position, and again there can be escalation.

Asking the other person to do something
The first type of this is obvious as makes work for the other person, they'll just resent it and say so, which can start an escalation.

The other type is often meant as gentle instructions such as "please don't say such things" either because it's dangerous or wrong. But that's akin to someone telling you what to say or's never going to go over well. If it really is dangerous, just hit the report button.

As an expert in the field with over 40 years experience…

That's like the government saying we're here to help you. It's a red cape to a bull. They're already arguing because they know they're's just icing on the cake prove you wrong.

This total disdain isn't new as some think, this quote from Asimov shown to the right is from the late '70s I think. It's also not strictly American, I've seen similar disdain from other countries.

Of course, hard to tell if it's just the individuals or culture of the country. For example, if we all judged a country by kindness of the poster alone there are several I find myself wanting to visit.

Arguing on the forums can be a form of conceit.

Everyone feels entitled to their opinion and too often it gets stated regardless
of believability or authenticity. This in an age with rampant fake news. Even
things we believe to be universal truths aren't always what we think they are.

So what should you do when the other person is stating something patently

I think the best we can do is cite the reference we believe to be true. We
already know there's little chance to convince them.

As a learning site, the purpose of your dialog should be to instill clarity for
the readers of the thread that come afterward. You can warn them about the
consequences, but you can't keep them from burning their place down.


As this is meant as FAQ thread it is closed for reply, but it you have an example of how things can go wrong and ways to avoid it email me and I'll add it in.
As I see things sending threads off the deep end I'll try to do likewise.
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Video Review for the book Crucial Conversations

Why do some people argue on the forums? Are they attracted to drama, desperate for attention, or just trying to stir stuff up?

The video above (and many studies) say at the root it's fear. If they feel criticized they need to show their power and reply to that criticism because they seek respect. The brain is hardwired for this, in our tribal ancestry upbringing the level of respect was directly proportional to the position in the tribe and your survivability.

Fortunately, respect is a mandatory requirement on the forums, if you can't be respectful your posts will be edited or more likely just deleted. Repeated occurrences will get you banned. Any form of bullying just isn't allowed, neither is any sort of response to attacks.

Why aren't you entitled to defend yourself? Because your tit-for-tat argument isn't what the thread is about and if you reply to the attack, regardless of what you say, you are probably escalating the situation and taking the thread farther off track.

Truth & Ignorance
If someone has said something wrong, it is good to correct it. Ultimately we're a teaching site trying to help people.

How do you show members respect when you disagree with something they said?
  • First off, if it's not a technical issue (e.g., they've replied with a religious quote, sexual innuendo, are propagating a political untruth) - don't reply, just report it - the catch-all is off-topic. Eventually, someone will report it and you're likely to get warning points for replying.
  • Stick to the facts, use reference links that prove the point, be specific.
  • Assuming motives, cracking jokes at their expense, using the "You" word, or being unclear are all detrimental and likely to cause problems.

Did that, They're still spouting Crap
You can lead a horse to water, you can't make it drink. It's not your job to set that one individual right and you can't stop them from winning a Darwin award if they really really want one. But, if you've marshaled all of your facts with solid reference links then other readers will flip the bozo bit on the idiot even if they had the last word. You'll be shocked to learn that some people just like to argue, worse some are specifically trying to troll you. Don't play their games.

People that constantly cause problems will eventually get banned, but we try to err on the side of caution. The bad part is if you're constantly arguing back, you start to look like one of those disruptive people. Don't let that be you.
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