It’s Debatable. Or Not.

canstockphoto6397204I spent the good portion yesterday arguing with myself. A few of my posts lately have brought out some strong feelings in not only myself, but readers and commenters as well. Everyone has their opinion and while most people are respectful, I hesitate before responding to some of them.

The argument in my head is about the nature of debate and what to do when we disagree. When political debate happens, it is less about, as the media and pundits would have us believe, a winner or a loser. It’s about showing both sides of an argument to the public for decision making purposes. I think blogging is like that. If someone respectfully disagrees with my point of view, I don’t necessarily need to respond in defense, but I do need to approve the comment, so that people can see other sides to an issue.

I’m not fond of debate for the sake of debate. If my intent is to win people over or convince someone that I am right, then I should be willing to go the full nine yards and engage in a volley of discussion. It makes me question the virtue of posting an opinion for public viewing. Am I inviting debate? In which case, is it passive aggressive to post an opinion and then not willingly engage in a discussion?

My husband has, on occasion, found this infuriating, as I will simply announce “I’m done” in the middle of an argument and get on with whatever I was doing. Let’s not beat the proverbial dead horse.  It’s exhausting and we will still end up with exactly the same result. You’re wrong. I mean, we disagree. Give me an hour to process the argument and I might return with a more reasonable approach. Push me to continue arguing and I am done.

I’m not fond of argument or extensive discussion about anything on which there is patent disagreement. I will read up ad nauseam on a subject so that I can look at something from different perspectives. Sure, I’ll trust what you say, but let me verify it from five alternative sources. I don’t see the point of two humans going back and forth about something on which there will never be conciliation, because at some point, no new information is being introduced into the debate, so you’re just battering each other.

The amygdala of the human brain is on alert when someone disagrees with you. It’s an emotional reaction of the fight/flight/freeze ilk. On occasion, I can feel the heat in my body rise and part of me wants to punch somebody in the face. There are other times when a sickening feeling makes my stomach churn and my heart begins to pound rapidly. Running away seems like a really good idea. Most of the time, though, I’ve learned that I will not be a reasonable person if I’m worn down by continual argument.

Some people can go innumerable rounds on a subject. They enjoy engaging and parrying. It’s a game and they’re the kind of people who say things like “that’s not logical” or “that’s a fallacy”. They’re engaged in deductive and inductive reasoning and think, because they use those inferential skills, that winning is assured. Especially if they keep at it long enough.

Wearing someone down is not quite the same as winning. At some point, you’ve lost my attention and I’m just looking for a way out. If I throw up my hands in mock surrender and say “Alright already, you win!” Rest assured, you haven’t won and I am actually thinking about whether or not I should just fall down and play dead – anything that will stop you from talking to me.

Reacting to prolonged debate like it’s a bear attack is not the only approach. You can cover your ears and say “Lalalalala – I’m not listening”. You can silently stare at someone until they stop talking, prompting them to say “What?!” Then just smile knowingly, like they’re out of their minds with paranoia. Rank immaturity is not only successful, but it’s fun.

I haven’t reached any universal conclusions on how to handle disagreement. I am not fond of the phrase “Let’s agree to disagree”. First of all, it sounds like a cop out and secondly, that’s not actually what I’m agreeing to – I am agreeing that you are wrong and that I want you to go away. Other people rarely make me change my mind on the spot. I need time to process different perspectives so that I can change my own mind, organically and at my own pace. I could be wrong, but I’m not going to argue with you about it.

How do you handle disagreements on your blog or in life generally?