In the founding days of this country using a threat to win an argument might’ve ended in a duel. “I’m going to kill you,” wasn’t a flippant way of saying, “I’m really mad and I vehemently disagree with your point of view.” It was a statement of actual intent.
“Sword or pistol?”
If this were the case today, a third of the people in comment sections would be counting off paces. Because of the ease of anonymity in the age of social media, discussions devolve quickly into petty digital duels, each participant looking to come up with the final, most damaging, insult.
A sound argument is based on facts and logic, not fear. A person with a strong argument has no need to insult the other person, because they have plenty of ammunition to attack the argument itself.
So how to combat this culture of irrational behavior?
You can’t argue, productively, with a person who is irrational. You can only fight with them, and there’s no joy in that. If the person isn’t receptive to things like facts and reason, leave it alone. The person might be going through a difficult time and is just too emotional at the moment to have a rational discussion.
If you find yourself tempted to attack your opponent in the heat of an argument, resist. Turn your thoughts back to your argument. If the person is nor aware of important facts, don’t insult their intelligence–explain the facts to them without being condescending. Focus on the point you want to make, and the reasons or facts that support your point.
Keep your cool, know when to walk away, and when to refocus your argument to avoid emotional pitfalls.
Interested in more argument tips like this one? Check out The Joy of Argument here. It’s chock full of information you’ll need before and after every discussion.