At the request of reader Bonar, Unspun starts today a series elaborating the dishonest tricks used in argument, as outlined by R.H. Thouless in his book Straight and Crooked Thinking.
The first trick Thouless talks about is:
#1 The use of emotionally toned words
This is a trick that is very common indeed, especially in hot topics where strong views are involved. We saw it early in the Rasa Not So Sayang, for instance. It consists of using words aimed to disparage or put the other person in a bad light, usually by imputing a negative quality or intention on th e other person.
So in Rasa not so Sayang we had these emotional words being bandied about:
Indonesians toward Malaysians: trouble maker, maling,
Malaysians toward Indonesians: bodoh punya bangsa Indon, indon goblok gonjol
Such words, when used intentionally or not, cause the other person to feel hurt and retaliate. The problem is that if you feel hurt and angry and retaliate, you begin to lose the argument because if you are angry the tendency is to also use emotional words back at the person. When these happens the argument starts to become a verbal brawl where both sides aren’t interested in getting any truth or understanding out of the exchange but to defend their psyches, often by hurthing the other person with similar emotional words.
The solution, says, Thouless, is to translate the statement into emotionally neutral words.
So the defense for maling might be “…without proper permission“, trouble maker could be substituted with provocative or unwittingly causing grief, bodoh and goblok could be substituted with words such as uninformed or misguided actions.
This way emotions are not inflamed and everyone has enough goodwill to find a common understanding or solution to the issue at hand. That, surely should be the purpose of argument, to discover common ground or new understanding. Unless of course you’re iseng…