Turning Over a Less Argumentative Leaf

I am changing a perspective in my life. It is something I am consciously working on instead of having just woken up this morning with a brand new brain. With that in mind, its timing makes it look like a New Year’s resolution, but it’s not. I have a terrible habit of arguing with people, almost compulsively. And I want to stop. I’ve tried to get to the bottom of how I’ve ended up in this situation, and I think it’s because I have an antisocial habit of tell other people why they’re wrong, but not necessarily accounting for a substitute.

Anyone who has engaged me in a religious discussion may have noticed this. It’s instrumental to atheism, because an atheist is a person that doesn’t believe a certain claim. I can explain why an idea is faulty, but not have to substitute anything else in*. It’s one of the things theists attack about atheists; that they turn an idea down without having a substitute. Unfortunately for theists that do this, “I don’t know” is often the honest and rational substitute.

*but once you move outside of atheism and into secular philosophy and science there are far fewer “I don’t knows”.

The change I want to make now, not just in blogging, is that I want to stand up and account for myself. I don’t want to obsess about other people’s ideas and get to the bottom of how they might be wrong. I simply want to share my own ideas. Most of the arguments in my life have been born from the fact that I obsess, as if I have been personally offended, about people who are wrong or seem to be wrong.

That’s because I do feel personally offended when someone preaches blatantly wrong things to me. I feel they are trying to deceive me, lie to me or that they think I’m stupid. I know that’s not the case, I know they believe what they are saying, but I can’t shake that offence and I have let myself fall into the habit of responding. Now I’m working on not feeling that way.

When friends give me inconsistent stories, I am working on letting that go when it doesn’t matter. It normally doesn’t matter. I don’t have to argue that. I am not a detective, and I don’t need to probe and investigate everything. As long as I can account for what I do think and what I do believe, what should other people’s quirks or mistakes matter?

9 thoughts on “Turning Over a Less Argumentative Leaf”

  1. You and I share the same dysfunction; needing to argue for arguments sake. I’m also trying to change that. Seems to be somewhat working. Bloody hard though, isn’t it?

    1. It is so hard, I will hear something a voice in my head will scream “BUT YOU’RE WRONG! AND I NEED TO DETAIL EVERY REASON YOU ARE WRONG! YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW WRONG YOU ARE”.
      So I’m training myself to say “it doesn’t matter”, or completely reframe an issue so that I can say ‘this is why I think what I think”.
      But that knee-jerk voice in my head is very very loud.

  2. Hi,
    I liked this post. I read several blogs from the atheist community and they seem to be, as a general rule, “feisty” against god-believers. The negativity is almost over-whelming. I would love to read blogs from this community that were more from the heart vulnerable, and not so much anger.

    1. I like to think that my posts were not “angry”, as such; I’ve tried to be as accommodating as I can and still say what I mean.
      But before a lot of my posts were deleted I had a series about morality and in that series I pointed out the flaws and the loopholes in religious morality (as I saw it, a lot of religious people obviously disagreed).
      I now feel that posts, like “Evidence for Objective (secular) Morality”, are closer to what I want to write; not attacking one idea, but merely presenting my own.

  3. Sounds like a good not-new-year-resolution. I’ve had to do a similar thing myself – learn to be able to choose what I respond to and what I don’t, and not feel so compelled. I do think this passion for truth though, itself, is a good thing in you. 🙂

      1. It’s going pretty good. You know, times I can do it fine – leave others to think what they like, even if I think they’re wrong, or missing the point. Other times I feel more impulsive or argumentative, but that’s not often and I can usually catch that feeling and sit with it.

        I’m still finding the balance of just the right amount of outspokenness and reservedness. Most people don’t want their opinion changed all that much, so I got frustrated with the wasted brilliance of my insight or advice 😉 And I thought, if only everyone would listen to me and agree and obey and then I realised that I wasn’t even all that good at following my own great ideas and advice to myself, so I figured I’d better go easy on other humans, since I’m much the same as them. You know what I mean?

      2. I know exactly what you mean. I wish everyone could think like me, including me!
        I find that if you disagree and that’s important to the conversation then the easiest thing is to frame your response as “I think A, because X, Y, Z”, instead of “Because of X, Y, Z, you’re wrong”. Still working on it though.

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