Passive-Aggressive Arguers (And The Best Forms of Defense)

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Notes on 5 Tactics Used By Passive-Aggressive Arguers (And The Best Forms of Defense) by Robert Greene

Passive aggressive arguers are often playing to the audience or making themselves feel good, more than they’re trying to convince you.

Begging the Question 🔗

This uses loaded words that subtly hint at the conclusion. It often involves using negative adjectives to describe something without saying anything about why that description applies. Calling an author cynical, for example, implies knowledge of his intentions and uses that to tilt the audience’s thinking in the same direction.

When responding to this, point out the use of these words and ask the questioner to justify their use. Keep at it until it’s clear that they simply were trying to achieve an emotional response.

Extending to Extremes 🔗

This takes a statement that you made and creates extreme conclusions from it. “If you believe X, you must also believe Y.” Another variation often seen today is that if you cite a person, they will bring up the worst person or group to have been associated with that person.

Responses include pointing out logical fallacies that would result from such an extension or extending their argument once again to reveal the manipulation. The more absurd this makes their extension, the better.

Diverting the Subject 🔗

This often happens when you are starting to win an argument, and it involves changing the subject slightly and making a strong point, but one that is irrelevant to the actual topic. This especially happens when you add an offhand comment into an otherwise strong argument, and they seize on that instead of addressing the bulk of what you said.

As before the correct response is to expose the tactic as a diversion, and walk the debate back to the actual subject.

Pushing Buttons 🔗

This tries to make you angry so that you will lash out and look like the irrational one. The only solution to this is to stay calm and measured in your demeanor.

Invoking Authority 🔗

This involves citing unverifiable statistics or slogans from some revered third party.

The best response is to ask them more details about the statistics, which they probably don’t have. Dive into the actual meaning of the slogans. This generally will show that they haven’t really thought out the argument they’re making.


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