5 Argument Tactics Used by Passive Aggressors

Bestselling author of psychology and power, Robert Greene, shared what makes these people different and how to confront them in any conversation.

During disputes and discussions, you will certainly come across people whose opinion does not coincide with yours. With the best of intentions, you will begin to defend your perspective because you truly believe in it. You will start listing facts and evidence, but soon you will notice that the conversation turns in an unexpected direction, and emotions are heating up. The interlocutor hurts your feelings, you do not remain in debt and soon forget how it all started.

What happened? Most likely, you are faced with a passive aggressor. Such people start an argument with dishonest intentions. They stock up on tricky tricks in advance so as not to seem wrong in a conversation. Usually, they have a resentful and vulnerable ego.

Their dignity is directly related to their opinions, therefore, in a dispute, it is more important for them to assert their innocence and superiority than to get to the bottom of the truth.

Therefore, they masterfully distract attention from their unconvincing statements and confuse the listener. Learn to recognize their tactics. Robert Greene listed five of the most common.

1. Appeal to the senses

For this, emotionally colored words are used, which in advance hint to the listeners at the conclusion the debater needs. Or they claim what he is trying to prove. For example, the adjectives “vicious”, “reactionary”, “privileged”, “power-hungry”, “unprincipled”, “immoral”, which automatically evoke an emotional reaction from the audience.

Let’s say the interlocutor calls the book or its author cynical, without explaining the reasons. The use of this word presupposes knowledge of the motives of the condemned writer, which in itself is quite difficult to prove. But one could look for information, give examples, and make a statement based on this. However, the passive aggressor knows that such a word is negatively colored and uses it to pre-set the audience against the person in question, without referring to any examples.

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What to do: point your opponent to emotionally charged words in his speech and ask him to explain what exactly he understands by them. If, in response, he throws you other similar adjectives or avoids answering altogether, don’t give up. Don’t let him get away with empty sonorous phrases. Keep asking until it is clear to everyone that they are simply appealing to “cheap” emotions.

2. Driving to the point of absurdity

Skillful passive-aggressive debaters tend to take your argument to the extreme to invalidate it. For example: “If same-sex marriage is allowed, then why not allow a man-animal union?” They love constructs like “If you believe in X, then you must believe in Y.” Or list the worst possible consequences of your statement, making them inevitable.

And if you’re referring to someone, the aggressor will definitely mention the worst thing about that name, as if it’s part of your argument. 

So you can turn out any of your arguments, and the passive aggressor will do it quickly so that others do not have time to ponder his words.

What to do: Don’t let the other person move on to the next argument. Go back to his statement and show that it is irrational. Try to make the other person’s argument absurd to show how they manipulated your own statement.

3. Translation of the conversation to another topic

If the passive aggressor feels that you are gaining the upper hand, he will quietly turn the conversation to another topic. This allows a compelling (but inappropriate) argument to be used. Let’s say immigration to the United States is being discussed. You say that America is generally a country of immigrants, and you cite statistics that show that they actually contribute to its economy. And your interlocutor, in response, starts a conversation about the high level of unemployment among native Americans in some regions, hinting that you are indifferent to their fate. And that makes you look unfavorable.

If you discuss sexual violence against women, the interviewee will ask, “What about violence against men?” If you favor raising taxes, you will hear the question, are you willing to pay more personally.

If you scold one evil, they will point you to an even worse one and ask why you are not trying to fight it.

Also, the interlocutor may ask a very vague or abstract question so that you get confused about the answers. For example, in a conversation about global warming, you may be asked: “Since you are so sure of this, tell me what percentage of climate change is caused by human activities?” In this case, it is impossible to answer accurately. You will have to get off with general phrases or say something that is not supported by facts.

What to do: Stay calm and get the conversation back on track. Don’t let the other person dodge. Show the audience that he is trying to confuse everyone.

5 Argument Tactics Used by Passive Aggressors
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4. Attempts to piss off an opponent

The purpose of this maneuver is to anger you into saying something rash. Moreover, the passive aggressor at this time will be calm to make you look overly emotional. In response to your reasonable statement, he may look at you sarcastically and say something harsh, which does not prove his point but annoys you. Or even go for insults and slander. If you go down to his level, you still will not win: the interlocutor is better trained than you in throwing mud.

What to do: In such a situation, the best protection is calmness. This is the only way you can think rationally and find a decent answer. If you show that the other person’s words do not hurt you, he will stop inciting you not to look stupid.

5. References to authorities

Passive-aggressive debaters refer to unverifiable statistics and research or conventional wisdom. So their statements seem more reliable, and the opponent – arrogant, going against all known truths. They use common slogans to show that they are on the side of the truth. 

Also read: 5 Signs That You Don’t Love Yourself.

What to do: Ask for the source of the statistics or research that your opponent is referring to. Ask for more details, explain the specific meaning of the slogans. Most likely, he won’t. Don’t ignore the mention of an authority figure. Ask exactly how it relates to the statement. And always be prepared to provide your own data sources.

In any case, your goal is to bring the conversation back to the original topic and show that the interlocutor is trying to confuse you and distract attention from the failure of their arguments.

Adapted and translated by Wiki Avenue Staff

Sources: Life hacker