Before engaging in any discussion with a human ask yourself these questions
I bet that, just like me, you have spent time in pointless discussions that seem to go nowhere. No matter what the subject is — employee rights, climate change, politics, etc., — humans often seem to be immune to reason and facts.
Yes, all humans have opinions. And, that’s fine. The problem, though, is that most of their opinions are skewed even before they are formed. In other words, humans often don’t know what they are talking about. As soon as you realise this fact, your conversations with them can become much more effective. Let me explain.
So, before getting into any in-depth discussion with a human and challenging his opinion, ask yourself whether he:
1. has bad intentions
2. lacks a basic understanding of the subject, its costs and IMPLICATIONS
3. has any blockers.
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you have a problem. So, before engaging in a discussion, you have two choices:
1. try to fix the problem, or
2. walk away.
Assuming the human has no bad intentions (after all, there is no point in talking to one who does), let’s start with question #2.
2) Understanding the subject, its costs and implications
Imagine discussing with a human a soon-to-be-created law that would make it almost impossible for companies to lay off workers. The human is in favour of this new rule, and you are against it. At this point, before going deeper into the discussion (and risking looking like a ruthless capitalist), you should check whether the human fully understands what the new law will mean (including all the implications in the long term).
Humans, you see, often don’t understand that if a government creates laws that, for example, prevent companies from laying off their employees, things will most likely be good for just a short time (no one gets fired!). In the long term, however, what seemed like a good action for a government to take could, in fact, (again, most likely) harm those it was supposed to help because there will be fewer jobs and wage rises. The same applies to sharp increases in the minimum wage, etc.
It’s kind of funny: If those champions of the downtrodden got their way, they would likely make things worse.
Asking question #2 is especially useful when engaging in complex discussions about topics such as climate change, internet privacy and race and gender equality. It’s also helpful for less serious issues, like whether every kid should get a medal when competing in sports, regardless of whether they win or lose.
Again, all humans can, and should, have opinions. However, looking at the issue of climate change, you could say, “Yes, I agree that we must reduce pollution. But, before we take action, are you aware that doing so will considerably increase the cost of products we buy? Are you willing to pay more, or, if not, who should? Also, you could say, “So, you think imposing more regulations is the answer? Do you know that regulation alone has almost never worked out well and that the solution probably lies in humans earning more income and becoming better educated, so they can buy eco-friendly products?
Always determine whether a human is fully aware of the costs and implications. Because often they only understand the benefits and, in many cases, someone else will pay the price.
Question #2 is extremely important; if you ignore it and continue a discussion without making sure that all involved understands the basics of the subject, including the implications, you can easily look like the bad person who is against humanity when, in fact, you all want the same thing. The problem is that ignorance, not opinion, gets in the way.
So, before forming an opinion, humans often don’t know what they are talking about. They’re like food critics who judge dishes that they haven’t tasted. Taste the food before you judge! If a human doesn’t understand the subject, either walk away or provide him the necessary background.
Bad intentions, ignorance and short-sightedness are not the only things to watch out for when talking to humans about their opinions. Also, ask yourself whether a human has blockers preventing him from reflecting on a topic.
Here are some of the most common blockers:
3.1) Meaning: What does having a discussion (or changing his mind) mean to this human? In other words, is he wired to see a discussion as a battle to win at all costs, rather than an exchange of ideas?
3.2) Extreme ideologies and religious beliefs: Does the human hold extreme beliefs that prevent him from considering alternative points of view?
3.3) Black or white world view? Does the human’s mind sort information into but a few categories so that he interprets everything as right or wrong, black or white or us or them? Common cases include the following: Either you are 100% right wing or 100% left wing in politics, or you are 100% pro ALL guns no matter what, or 100% against them all. That sort of thing. If the human has a black or white world view, it will be difficult to change his mind; the ‘jump’ he would have to make would be too big.
If a human has blockers, a real discussion about a subject is almost impossible. So, if you identify a blocker, you should probably just walk away. Period.
However, if you don’t want to give up so easily, you still have a chance of engaging in a meaningful discussion. But, before focusing on the topic, you must first break/overcome the blocker, which isn’t easy.
Taking #3.3 as an example, in this case, first you must break the human’s simplistic, ‘us or them’ world view into one that is more realistic. So, the focus of questions you ask, should reveal the complexity of an issue in order to break down the black-or-white mindset
But again, this is easier said than done. So, usually it is better to walk away when you see a blocker.
So, before getting into a deep discussion with another human, ask yourself the three questions first. Doing so will save you a lot of time and frustration.
I hope this article helps you to better deal with humans. For an in-depth look at the subject of human behaviour, check out my controversial book called The Art of Hunting Humans: A radical and confronting explanation of the human mind. No, it contains zero violence. It’s a fun read about human behaviour written from an outsider’s perspective.