rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
I have been reminded, by a bad-tempered comment I made on the Liberator blog, just how much I dislike the "playing devil's advocate" game. 

Both my father and father-in-law have a bad habit (which I think Tony & I have managed to break) of getting me into a heartfelt discussion about something I felt strongly about (e.g. smoking around small children, ID cards, sexist clothes for children) and then when I reach the point of being visibly upset, saying "oh of course I agree with you, I just wanted to see how good your argument was".

If I'm providing entertainment, I'd rather tell some good stories than get into an argument.  Especially a fake argument because the other person already agrees but is pretending not to.   Especially with people I respect and am disappointed to find seem to hold unpleasant views.   Especially when I didn't know it was a game and they did.

I have enough too many real disagreements and arguments with the world to need to make up fake ones or argue with people who basically agree with me just to "hone my argument".  There are plenty of real people that I'd like to convince to think differently and the internet makes it really easy for us to find each other.  Having arguments to mark them out of ten rather than to actually try to convince people is something I just don't understand.

I run into things every day where my disagreement is not a game, and not a performance I'm carrying out to be awarded marks for style. Maybe when we achieve the world where none are enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity, I'll learn to enjoy argument-as-performance-art.  But not now.



(Edited 10 Oct 2014 to correct meaning of first sentence of fourth paragraph)

Date: 2012-12-06 11:13 (UTC)
miss_s_b: (Love: Listy and rimsy))
From: [personal profile] miss_s_b
I love you

* hug *

Date: 2012-12-06 11:42 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Absolutely this, forever and for all time.

It's playing games and it's crap and I consider it to be cruel.

Date: 2012-12-06 11:43 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Sorry - previous comment was Ingi.

Date: 2012-12-06 12:35 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lnr
*nods* I think it's *only* OK to play devil's advocate in a conversation if you're up front that you're doing so before you even start, and the other party in the conversation is happy to have the intellectual argument on that basis. I can sometimes enjoy that sort of conversation myself, but rarely when it's something I do feel strongly about.

Date: 2012-12-06 19:26 (UTC)
hilarita: trefoil carving (Default)
From: [personal profile] hilarita
Yes. There are also formal venues for argument-as-art, such as the Oxford and Cambridge Unions.

Date: 2012-12-06 12:40 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] techiebabe
Ugh, that would drive me mad. How horrid for you.

One thing that might help, whether it's a 'real' argument or not, is realising you are about to get upset (or angry in my case) and learning to say 'ok then, we disagree!' And then change subject / go and do something else, etc. It has stopped me from getting upset a good few times and is useful if you're unable to walk away (eg. On a car journey). Stick to repeating it, don't get dragged back into the discussion. It feels a little like a cop out but it's worth it, for not being upset or angry for the rest of the day.

Particularly with someone who starts 'false' arguments, don't let them push you too far.

I really sympathise, I hate being pushed to the point of upset and if anyone did it just to see my argument I'd be furious. I hope they stop this frustrating behaviour.

Date: 2012-12-06 13:54 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ai731.wordpress.com
This is an honest question: do you have any pointers on learning how to do the "realising you are about to get upset" part?

Date: 2012-12-06 16:53 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] techiebabe
That's the point where I wouldn't give them the choice; if I know I'm about to be upset it is time to change the topic, or at least take a rest and come back to it later if you want to.

Date: 2012-12-06 16:45 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] techiebabe
Hard to define, but I'll try.

Just starting to get stressed, a sort of more pressing feeling of "argh, why don't you understand?", feeling myself getting tired of having to persist, and physical things like my voice might raise or start to crack, and my chest might tighten a bit... I feel on the edge of being cross or upset - that I can't carry this on much longer or I'll be crying. Whereas a few minutes ago I might have been enjoying exploring the topic.

Often at that point I start to feel that whatever I say they will disagree, and that there is no point in continuing. It suddenly feels like the other person is forcing the issue, rather than an equal discussion sharing our views.

It's hard to explain. Happened yesterday in the car with Mike about something and I just started feeling frustrated rather than engaged in the discussion. Initially I'd felt interested in the topic, but I started to feel slightly got-at by being disagreed with (even if that wasn't the case, that was how it *felt*).

It is probably annoying for the other person to suddenly be met with "Ok then, we disagree. I wonder what's on the radio?" and an abrupt end to the topic, but it is worth it for me rather than getting upset, particularly as I know I would then stay upset for a few hours. Yesterday I felt frustrated but it was bearable, and I'd moved on (emotionally) half an hour or so later. Whereas I think if we'd carried on for another 5 minutes I'd have started crying.

Also, by saying "ok then, we disagree" then and if the other party tries to bring it up again, it makes me feel I am in control within the situation, rather than being got-at / pushed.

I should add, yesterday it was a topic that I'd actually started, and I doubt Mike realised that I was starting to get frustrated and on the edge of upset, by continuing. Not blaming him at all, it was just one of those things; probably I was too tired. But I was glad to have a tactic to extract myself from the topic / kill it.

Date: 2012-12-06 16:51 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] techiebabe
I really hate showing that I'm upset, too. If it happens I try to walk away and find somewhere to be upset in private, and I'm also cross with myself for getting upset in front of someone. It's horrible if I'm trapped (e.g. on a car journey). So I sympathise.

And pushing someone to the point of being upset is horrid. I hope the dads have got the message.

If I ever play devil's advocate I will say something like "this isn't what I think, but playing devil's advocate because I'm trying to understand, what about if..." etc. But playing it for "fun" rather than just one question that might not be something you believe but would help you to understand a concept, that just sounds mean to me!

Date: 2012-12-06 14:17 (UTC)
kalypso: (Jarriere)
From: [personal profile] kalypso
I tend to get into a situation that is almost but not quite the opposite. A friend who has very strong opinions suddenly starts attacking a position. There's something about the way she does it that makes it seem as if she's expecting a reply, so I start making a rather feeble defence of whatever it is, which she keeps knocking down, and at some point I wonder why on earth I'm trying to defend something I'm not all that bothered about. Because I don't enjoy arguing even when I do feel strongly - but as I say, there's something about her manner that seems to expect an answer. So maybe she is actually trying to hone her argument - I don't think it's performance art in her case, as she clearly holds her views very passionately.

But the whole thing seems an awful waste of mental energy.

Date: 2012-12-06 16:13 (UTC)
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
From: [personal profile] liv
I generally do enjoy playing devil's advocate ie arguing for the opposite of what I believe just to see if I can. But it's a game, and like any game it's only fun everybody wants to play!

And having followed your link, that particular flavour of devil's advocating is just really, really tiring. It's totally unoriginal and uninteresting to say, but what if women choose to be subordinate and we conveniently don't have to care about sexism any more? People keep on repeating this same tired old thought experiment over and over again, even when there's loads of evidence that it doesn't in fact represent the real world. (The article is American, and you really really don't want to read the comments, but it's the most recent high-profile iteration of empirical evidence against this bullshit hypothetical.)

Date: 2012-12-06 16:43 (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
I wonder if you have read The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck--it sounds very similar.

On so many points, now, I've grown so tired of devil's advocate I just say cheerfully, "Of course I disagree with you--I'm a socialist feminist. But I'm not interested in defending that position right now."

Date: 2012-12-07 07:44 (UTC)
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
From: [personal profile] lavendersparkle
I think 'playing Devil's advocate' and not telling the other participants in the discussion that they are doing it is silly ploy boys use when they don't have the balls to face losing an argument and lack the intellectual acumen for that not to be a possibility. If they're playing Devil's advocate they can't lose because when their argument gets ripped to shreds they can just turn around and say "Ha ha, I was just playing Devil's advocate and I fooled you. I win!"

Based on this hypothesis the best approach to people playing Devil's advocate would be to say: "I take your decision to play Devil's advocate as an admission that you are my intellectual inferior and cowardly to boot."

Date: 2012-12-07 15:48 (UTC)
bens_dad: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bens_dad
No one has ever done that to me. With a relative I can see it would be difficult, but I think it would be a relationship breaker for me - I expect I'd want never to talk to that person again.

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