Skip to main content

Why you can't win an argument with a bully

Bullies appear to be single minded in their determination to win. Their intimidation tactics make it difficult to believe they are concerned about facts other than how to make them serve their own interests. Bullies appear to operate as though they are the centre of the universe who can't be touched or challenged by marginal forces.

Arguments are conversations directed towards an outcome: persuasion, defending a point of view, making a case.  A good argument is one that contains two sides where  willing listeners and intellectually present minds engage in the topic. An argument is not what you see on Coronation Street or reality shows.  It's not a p!$$ing contest of verbal abuse. An argument is not a diatribe or a rant where only one voice is present.

An argument requires honesty and sincerity among equals. Proving the point requires logic, insight, enlightenment, and some humility. However this is not easy as we have been raised in societies where 'right' and 'wrong' have been co-opted by self interest, and the ego feels a need to believe it is inherently right.  It takes strength of character to understand we are not always right and that our interests are not always the best interests for all.

Bullies establish their place early in life.  Perhaps in the crib when their demands were never negotiated, or in the school playground first victimized by bullies, or the narrative played out in television and movie plots where the winner takes all.  Mostly the bully's personality has been arrested by simplistic constructs of relationship where there is only one winner.

The values of a civil society, such as justice, fairness, empathy, nurture, stewardship, love and reason are beyond the bully's comprehension.  So the bully will interrupt, shout louder, use put downs, shore up racist, sexist prejudices, make false claims, use devices to confuse, use foul language and even weapons in order to win.  This is because all things are a threat to the bully.

The point then is not to win an argument with the bully but to state your truth, to bring to the arena the option of a reality that is different from the bully's world view which serves no-one but the bully. Whatever the bully says he/she has already lost credibility in civil society, dismissed or tolerated by intelligent, questioning souls. Raising the point reaches those who are hungry for justice and beauty, for a better example of human nature.

Issues of justice puts everyone in an uncomfortable pew, not because you brought it up, but because they are about to witness the very thing that caused them to acquiesce to the status quo. The thundering denial of diverse views.

Let the example stand and let the witnesses choose for themselves, in the private place of their conscience, what is right. Striving to get the last word removes the focus from the issue onto the egos.  Better to let the truth echo.

We are all capable of being bullies and most of us have at some point been victims of bullying.  What has been lost to our current society is the representation of civil discourse in government institutions and corporations. A reverence for life has been sacrificed when we allow bullies to silence the future of the human imagination.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

About Humanity

"A chosen people is the opposite of a master race, first, because it is not a race but a covenant; second because it exists to serve God, not to master others. A master race worships itself, a chosen people worships something beyond itself. A master race believes it has rights; a chosen people knows only that it has responsibilities." Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name, Schocken, New York. 2015.

As someone who does not identify as a chosen people or part of a master race, I ruminate about how to respond to the world, particularly that part of the world I cannot endorse. So I am comforted by the people who have taken on ministry and who feel responsible enough to care for community.

How do I act on a feeling of responsibility without assuming that I know what other people should do, or what we should do? It's very easy to slip into a political preaching that suggests I know, or that my being a good example means that others should follow it. Or worse yet, create…

Creating Chaos

A very important article in The Guardian analyses the rise of hyper-masculinity and the phenomenon of Angry White Men.  "Sociologist Michael Kimmel is one of the world’s foremost experts on the phenomenon. - His recent research has looked at topics including spree killers (who are overwhelmingly male and white), as well as the relationship between masculinity and political extremism."

In the article there is a report on a study on testosterone where 5 monkeys are observed. The one who rises to the top beats up number 2 and number 2 beats up number 3 - and so it goes down to number 5. 

"So the experiment is: he takes monkey three out of the cage and he shoots him up with testosterone, off the scale, and puts him back in. What do you think happens? When I tell this story my students always guess that he immediately becomes number-one monkey. But that’s not true. What happens is that when he goes back in the cage he still avoids monkeys number one and two – but he beats the …

Albert Camus: Our task