[Short] Why arguing with irrational people is a mistake

An old influencer friend of mine used to spend a lot of his time getting into online arguments with radical feminists. He’d spend hours every week trying to get even one of them to change their mind, and he never once made a difference. It was like everything he said only hardened their position, no matter how rational or supported by evidence it was.

When he asked for my advice, my response was simple: “You can’t argue rationally with lunatics.”

The biggest mistake you’ll make in having a confrontation with an irrational person is trying to argue the point; trying to stick with the content of the argument.

If someone blows up at you, most of you will either try to pick apart what they’ve said and convince them otherwise, or even worse you’ll try to make them feel better so that they won’t be mean to you.

When dealing with irrational people, you have to let go of the content and the point you’re making, and just give them feedback on how they’re coming at you.

If someone’s coming at you really aggressively, rather than trying to defend yourself or your points, you just say, “Wow! I can’t believe how aggressive you’re being, it’s so unpleasant to be around you right now.” You just address how it feels to be around them rather than talking about the point.

Your response must be some version of, “I can’t talk to you when you’re like this – we’ll get back to the discussion when you’re more respectful and rational.”

Never go to the point when someone’s being irrational, and never let them drag you there. Just keep talking about how uncomfortable it is to be around them, and that’s more likely to get through to them than any kind of rational point you might make.

One Response

  1. One of my favourites is to say something like, “Before we go further, I want to confirm something: is it possible to change your mind on this?” If they say No, then you know they’re not rational

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