Dishonest argument #1: Use of emotionally toned words

At the request of reader BonarUnspun 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…

16 thoughts on “Dishonest argument #1: Use of emotionally toned words

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  1. Auch…. it didnt cross my mind that you will discuss each point at this level of detail.
    dont let my stupidity becomes your burden, mr. unspun.

    nevertheless, thank you very much mr unspun.


    it’s different to eric dezenhall’s method, i suppose?
    thouless suggested that the better person to just swallow emotionally toned words, while dezenhall prefer to face dishonest tricks emotionally, am i correct here?

    from your PR experiences, which one is better?


  2. Jennie Bev posted a similar thing too in November 8. I think it’s time for us Indonesian to grow up and start discuss, and argue, if necessary, in a more appropriate manner. Noone would appreciate or respect us if we use such words like maling and bodoh.

    Unpsun, permission to link your site to my blog. Cheers.


  3. @ Anita, your blog is being blocked by my company … *sigh* hm, do you publish unrated film there ? hehe just kidding 🙂 its just, our IT block everything that put webhosting.


  4. I think the choice of words has a strong influence on how we are going to be perceived by our audiences. This also includes when we’re writing on our personal blogs.

    Perhaps you can provide a lecture Ong, about PR writing and personal branding that focuses on blogs? 😉


  5. @Anita, when I try to open your blog ( I love blogwalking :)) this is the response I got from our ‘beloved’ IT system…**sigh**

    Your organization’s Internet use policy restricts access to this web page at this time.
    The Websense category “Web Hosting” is filtered.


  6. Ya I agree we can use those rude words if we are “iseng”, or in an entertainment show like “Tukul’s Empat Mata.”

    Btw Pak, how come Reog ponorogo dance from East Java is claimed to be Malaysia’s Barongan dance. I just watched the Barongan show last night in a TV station. The two dances looked the same, but the Barongan dance has no soul, perhaps it lacked political, and historical background. Any explanation?


  7. @Pretty: I don’t know, dear… maybe because I put several youtube videos there?

    @Kurniawan: probably because in Reog they have to be in state of trance first before performing?


  8. @Anita & Kurniawan

    True, Reog needs the dancer to be in a state of a trance. I guess when they copied the the dance, they think the trance part is kind of “berhala” thing. Thats why the story in barongan dance, it tells the story of Islamization period.


  9. I found a version at Bras Basah in Singapore for a mere S$3 !!! then after the 20% discount, it came to only S$2.40 !!! not in mint condition, but very readable. The 188page “antique” from 1966 was found just 6days ago. Just prior to spying on this thread. What a coincidence!!!!

    And I’m still waiting to spank unspun for NOT meeting up on that Friday 😛
    *spank spank spank*!!! My office is just 5 minutes from your place. Never mind, I’m sure I’ll get my chance when we go film in Jakarta.

    Yes, yes, must be your cologne 😛


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