It’s a beautiful, late-summer day. The sun is shining outside. Your favorite song is playing on the radio. You woke up on the right-side-of-the-bed this morning, you’re feeling great, your hair is on-point and your skin is clear. The universe appears to be conspiring in your favor.
And then, in an instant. The blink-of-an-eye. Someone – be it friend or foe or complete stranger – comes along and ruins it. It might be the person who cut you off on the highway, giving you the finger as they speed away. Or the coworker who doesn’t know when to stop talking about last night’s episode of your least-favorite show. Or especially that @sshole on the internet who knows just how to push your buttons and get a rise.
You shouldn’t have to stay away from the world in order to maintain your mood. You’re feeling great, after all. And you know why you support the things you do, why you love what you love, and how you can make a difference. You’re confident that no matter what someone throws at you, they won’t be able to shake your conviction.
But then there’s that annoying quip, that backwards belief, that mind-bogglingly asinine quote, that gets you right in the gut.
Staying in a good mood tends to be easier if you avoid the internet – or, at least, the comments section of just-about-any article you read, the increasingly-common forums and discussion boards, or political conversations on social media in-general; if you avoid the keyboard warriors looking to hit you with their “knowledge,” and the people who get paid to start fights online.
And, of course, the trolls who do it just for kicks.
And it can be hard to feel great
Even when you know that you’re right. You can’t get into the minds of others (the best X-Men power). And, again, it doesn’t even have to be a stranger; it could be someone you know, an old friend or lover, that blindsides you with one of those backwards beliefs we were talking about.
“We made fun of the Democrats together! How are you switching sides?”
“We’ve been hunting together for years! How can you be in favor of gun control?”
Or whatever view that seems so utterly normal to you, yet isn’t held by someone else. You’re suddenly in a full-blown argument, pulling out all the stops, hurling insults with rapid speed (the worst X-Men power) in a desperate attempt to prove you were right all along.
Those 19 GIFs for winning any political argument on Facebook will only get you so far.
Especially when it comes to politics. It often seems easier just to give up. Just say to yourself, “Everyone sucks anyway” and check out You can even buy merchandise to support your cause of not-having-a-cause: Everybody Sucks.
Why do people argue so much?
There’s the obvious, simple answer to that question: Because people like to be right. No matter what the topic or issue is. People argue because they like to argue, and they like to (need to) win.
And, along the way, forget entirely that arguments can’t be won or lost – they can be either valid, or invalid, and are quickly invalidated by engaging in logical fallacies, personal attacks and insults, and anything else imagine-able to feel at least as though they’ve come out ahead.
Though, on some level, it’s might not even be conscious: As published in PsychCentral: “These responses are not rationally chosen… they are triggered by external stimuli which cause your brain to fire almost instantly.”
People who argue aren’t always (or even often) looking for truth; it’s just a knee-jerk reaction.
Plus, we’re all insecure creatures. When we feel threatened, we immediately go on the defense. Our intrinsic fight-or-flight mentalities kick in when we’re faced with an idea or argument that challenges what we believe (we know) to be true.
So don’t be so hard on yourself: Humans generally have trouble differentiating between emotional responses and logical ones.
But how, in the Age of Information, can people remain so close-minded?
The problem is arguably getting worse: the way we now consume information can be called “narrowcasting,” i.e. we’re looking at the social media posts that often lack context, and finding only the things that support our beliefs, relying on information that caters to a small, like-minded audience. Our instincts, fight or flight, when faced with an opposing POV are not tailored to the Information Age, as it’s much easier to find things we agree with and ignore the rest. Even though we have greater potential to expand our worldview than ever before, we are actually becoming more entrenched in our own opinions.
Does this make it easier to stomach?
But you can be the answer
Identify, and avoid engaging in, these logical fallacies that will invalidate your argument – and identify them when being used against you:
- Appeal to ignorance: Something must be false, simply because it can’t be proven to be true, e.g. aliens must exist, because we can’t prove that they don’t.
- Tautology: You state the same thing twice, but in different ways. Similar to a circular argument: “You’re stupid, and if you disagree with these facts it just proves how stupid you are,” or, “The Bible is the word of God, the Bible says so, and the Bible is infallible, so the Bible is the word of God.”
- Appeal to authority: You make your argument using only the words or views of an influential/famous person, e.g. “President Obama supports ________, so that means they will make a great president.”
- Sweeping generalization: You assume that because something is true in certain cases, it must be true in every case, e.g. “This person is educated, so they must be voting Democrat,” or “This person is Mexican-born, they can’t be a Trump supporter.”
- Red herring: You distract from the real issue, e.g. someone says, “Trump is a misogynist,” and the response is, “Well, Hillary mishandled emails!” – also can be used as tu quoque fallacy in which a hypocrisy is used as an argumentation tactic, e.g. “You’re eating a cheeseburger, or using a plastic fork, or driving a car, etc. therefore you don’t truly support climate change action.” One thing does not cancel out the other; make the other less-true.
- Faulty analogy: You assume that because two things are alike, they’re alike in every way, e.g. “Someone is voting the same way as me (or different) so that means they agree (or disagree) with me on every issue.”
- Slippery slope: If something happens a certain way, it will surely start a chain of events leading to a negative outcome, e.g. If your child doesn’t study every night of the week, they’ll never get good grades, they’ll never get into a good college, they’ll end up working a low-income job they hate, etc.
Doing research, listening, keeping an open mind – listening before responding. And not engaging in an argument based on fallacy – again, it is not about winning or losing, it is not even about being right. If actually change is to occur, wasting time on those who would rather “destroy” someone in a conversation, who would rather “win” something that can’t be won, means everyone loses.
And, simply walking away from an argument is more effective that punching your opponent in the nose, even (or especially) if they deserve it.
You won’t get credit for taking the high road. But, to put it simply, it’s always better in the long run if you aren’t the asshole. As long as you’re not dragging yourself through the mud, you won’t have to spend time with people who are.
Some days, everyone sucks. That doesn’t have to include you.