Becoming Quite or Speaking Louder

It’s interesting to watch and observe different reactions of individuals when their views, ideas, or opinions are not validated, agreed with, challenged, or attacked.

It’s hard to hold onto your view when someone else doesn’t agree with it. That challenge increases when your view is challenged or attacked. Those who revert to going quite or seemingly give up their opinion easily under this pressure are easy to see as incapable of self validating their own views. But this is not the only reaction that exposes a struggle to self validate.

Watching those who are able to debate and stand up for their views, we are quick to suggest that they are stronger and than those who go quite when their views are attacked. But that’s not necessarily true. It might look that way since they aren’t backing down from their view, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are acting out of strength. Those who defend their views can be just as weak as those who go quite when their views are challenged. Standing up for your view and debating it is not necessarily a sign of emotional strength, confidence, and maturity.

Yesterday I watched and listened to two individuals who were discussing government actions and recent procedures that had been implemented. These two individuals’ views were extreme opposites and it didn’t take long for the conversation to get heated. But it wasn’t a respectable debate.

Julia Dhar, who has won the World Schools Debate Championships three times and has coached the New Zealand Schools’ debating team and Harvard School debating teams, said this about her first debating experience.

My first debate in the cavernous auditorium of Canberra Girls Grammar School was kind of a bundle of all of the worst mistakes that you see on cable news. It felt easier to me to attack the person making the argument rather than the substance of the ideas themselves. When that same person challenged my ideas, it felt terrible, I felt humiliated and ashamed. And it felt to me like the sophisticated response to that was to be as extreme as possible.

Julia Dhar: How to disagree productively and find common ground. TED Talk

That was preciously what I was witnessing happening with this conversation between these two individuals. This local debate I was more about, “I’m going to convince you that I’m better than you and expose all the reason why you’re an idiot for believing what you believe” than it was a debate.

Just because someone is a skilled persuader doesn’t mean that they are emotionally strong, but also the presences of rebuttal and disagreement is not a sign of a hot-headed person whose emotions are out of control.

The foundation of debate is rebuttal. The idea that you make a claim and I provide a response, and you respond to my response. Without rebuttal, it’s not debate, it’s just pontificating. And I had originally imagined that the most successful debaters, really excellent persuaders, must be great at going to extremes. They must have some magical ability to make the polarizing palatable. 

Julia Dhar: How to disagree productively and find common ground. TED Talk

When individuals are compensating for their underdeveloped emotional muscles, some people go quite when their views are challenged and some people get louder. Someone who is able to avoid conflict and arguments isn’t necessarily an honorable peacemaker who has developed the art of self-restraint. And someone who is able to hold to their view tenaciously and expose the flaws in others’ views isn’t necessarily an confident individual who is able to withstand the pressures of differing views.

April 2, 2020

Time writing: 1 hour

Total time writing on this blog: 202 hours and 30 minutes