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Thursday, October 2

How to argue effectively

I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me.

You too can win arguments. Simply follow these simple rules.

1. Make things up. Suppose, in an argument about the Peruvian economy, you are trying to prove that Peruvians are underpaid: a position you base solely on the fact that YOU are underpaid, and you are not going to let a bunch of Peruvians be better off. DON'T say: "I think Peruvians are underpaid." Say instead: "The average Peruvian's salary in 2001 dollars adjusted for the revised tax base is $1,452.81 per annum, which is $836.07 less than the mean gross poverty level." NOTE: Always make up exact figures. If an opponent asks you where you got your information, make THAT up too. Say: "This information comes from Dr. Hovel T. Moon's study for the Buford Commission, published on May 9, 2002. Haven't you read it?" Say this in the same tone of voice you would use to say, "You left your soiled underwear in my bathroom."

2. Use meaningless but weighty-sounding words and phrases. Memorise this list:
  • Let me put it this way
  • In terms of
  • Vis-a-vis
  • Per se
  • As it were
  • Qua
  • So to speak
You should also memorise some Latin abbreviations such as QED, e.g., and i.e.. These are all short for "I speak Latin, and you don't." Here is how to use these words and phrases. Suppose you want to say, "Peruvians would like to order appetisers more often, but they don't have enough money." You never win arguments talking like that ... but you WILL win if you say, "Let me put it this way. In terms of appetisers vis-a-vis Peruvians qua Peruvians, they would like to order them more often, so to speak, but they do not have enough money per se, as it were. QED." Only a fool would challenge that statement.

3. Use snappy and irrelevant comebacks. You need an arsenal of all-purpose irrelevant phrases to fire back at your opponents should they happen to make valid points. The best are:
  • You are begging the question.
  • You are being defensive.
  • Don't compare apples to oranges.
  • What are your parameters?
This last one is especially valuable. Nobody (other than engineers and policy wonks [and the very occasional blogger -T]) has the vaguest idea what "parameters" means. Don't forget the classic:
  • YOU ARE SO LINEAR.
Here is how to use your comebacks.

You say: As Abraham Lincoln said in 1873 ...
Your opponent says: Lincoln died in 1865.
You say: You are begging the question.

You say: Liberians, like most Asians ...
Your opponent says: Liberia is in Africa.
You say: You are being defensive.

4. Compare your opponent to Adolf Hitler. This is your heavy artillery, for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say, "That sounds suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler might say," or "You certainly do remind me of Adolf Hitler."

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