March 12, 2015

How To Properly Argue by Barry Eisler

Barry Eisler is one of my favorite authors and overall somebody that is educated, articulate, and down to earth.  He runs a blog called Heart of the Matter which is primarily political based but he has laid out a very simple format, a guideline if you will, to help folks argue better in the world of keyboard experts/quarterbacks/trolls (pick your term). 

I put this up in an effort to help some of my internet "friends" on how to properly handle themselves in an argument as the age of Facefuck has given many folks an unspoken 'rite' to spew their opinions and stances often out of context, and usually without logic. 

I hope these guidelines help in your overall internet / day to day experience when sharing your opinions on diet, guns, education, global climate change etc.  In the end I would suggest the majority who troll around the interweb arguing for arguments sake should go buy the John Rain series by Eisler and read them.  Some of the most entertaining books on the market. 

From Barry Eisler:
Judoka and author Barry Eisler
There are a lot of terrific blogs out there on the world of writing, but Heart of the Matter isn't one of them. HOTM primarily covers politics, language as it influences politics, and politics as an exercise in branding and marketing, with the occasional post on some miscellaneous subject that catches my attention. 

HOTM has a comments section. Sounds simple enough, but as even a cursory glance at the comments of most political blogs will show, many people would benefit from some guidelines. Here are a few I hope will help.  

 1. The most important guideline when it comes to argument is the golden rule. If someone were addressing your point, what tone, what overall approach would you find persuasive and want her to use? Whatever that is, do it yourself. If you find this simple guideline difficult, I'll explain it slightly differently in #2. 

2. Argue for persuasion, not masturbation. If you follow the golden rule above, it's because you're trying to  persuade someone. If you instead choose sarcasm and other insults, you can't be trying to persuade (have you ever seen someone's opinion changed by an insult?). If you're not trying to persuade, what you're doing instead is stroking yourself. Now, stroking yourself is fine in private, but I think we can all agree it's a pretty pathetic to do so in public. So unless you like to come across as pathetic, argue to persuade. 

3. Compared to the two above, this is just commentary, but: no one cares about your opinion (or mine, for that matter). It would be awesome to be so impressive that we could sway people to our way of thinking just by declaiming our thoughts, but probably most of us lack such gravitas. Luckily, there's something even better: evidence, logic, and argument. Think about it: when was the last time someone persuaded you of the rightness of his opinion just by declaring what it was? Probably it was the same time someone changed your mind with an insult, right? And like insults, naked declarations of opinion, because they can't persuade, are fundamentally masturbatory. And masturbation, again, is not a very polite thing to do on a blog. 
Argue with others the way you'd like them to argue with you. Argue with intent to persuade. Argue with evidence and logic. That shouldn't be so hard, should it? Let's give it a try.

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