Logical Gal – When someone changes the subject

24 Mar

Change subject - Jedi Mind Trick

Many people you talk with do not employ Jedi finesse.  They abruptly change the subject from the issue at hand, often to an ad hominem attack.

Let’s imagine a conversation about how best to address recent changes in global temperatures. The discussion débuts well, terms are clarified. When positions begin to be articulated, the going gets clouded by a sudden attack on a different issue, to wit:

Global Warming ‘Fear-Monger’: You only advocate a ‘wait-and-see’ approach because you’re one of those Christian fundamentalist, head-in-the-sand deniers!

Global Warming ‘Denier’: Whoa…wait a second!  You just changed the subject from what to do about elevated temperatures to WHY I might advocate a position.  Can we go back to the original argument? I’d like to present my reasons for my position.  And I would like to hear yours! How does that sound?

It is EASY to get drawn down a different path.  With such an insult to one’s character, I have often succumbed to the temptation to defend WHY I believe something.  However, the BEST move is to shift the conversation back to where it was.  There was a single issue and either you or he were attempting to defend a course of action with REASONS.

Changing the subject

Why might someone want to play ‘switch-a-roo’ with you?  It could be that they have NOT thought about their position and have no reasons to back up their assertion.  It takes time to study issues.  We live in a culture enamored with and satisfied by shallow 140-character sound bytes.  That allows NO time for developing a case.  But quick pointed jabs might be enough to send one’s opponents packing.

Quid faciam?  What to do?

Be kind but direct.  Try at least twice to move the conversation back on track, to the topic at hand.  If after the second time, your interlocutor purposefully shifts again, then gently terminate the discussion.  It’s a waste of your time and his.

You might not gain ground with this person, but your refusal to take the bait will make an impression on him.  It might actually get him to study the facts for himself!

Back on Track

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