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Recently, I have had what I initially thought was an intellectual argument with an acquaintance.  I presented a hypothetical scenario and waited to hear a response.  Once the response arrived, I thought, she did not properly address the argument, so I clarified my position.  The second answer was a nasty, emotionally loaded outburst from her that ended up in being defriended on Facebook.

The event made me think about with what type of people one should not be arguing.  I came up with a list.  I have to say that the list may not be exhaustive, but it offers a good start to think about when a person is better off not arguing.  One should never argue with the following types of people:

  1. The fanatic. The fanatic cannot be moved by any argument.  Anyone who argues with a fanatic is wrong or blind to facts.  There are no facts or reasons that the fanatic accepts as evidence from others.  One may try to ask a fanatic straightforward the facts or reasons that she would be willing to accept as evidence, but the fanatic usually does not respond.  It is not possible to argue with the fanatic because she is already convinced and is unwilling to be moved away from her original position.
  2. The extremely biased. The extremely biased person is usually found in the political arena holding onto a conservative, traditional position or in the religious arena holding onto a set, scriptural interpretation of religion.  Of course, not all politicians or religious people are biased.  However, the extremely biased person is often found amongst them.  The person swears on a long-held and tried tradition or scripture that represents the absolute truth.  He knows what is true and disagreeing with the person means disagreeing with something that is written in stone.  It is best to walk away from the person who is extremely biased toward a particular interpretation of the truth because it is a waste of time arguing with him.
  3. The-Know-It-All. This person knows everything about everything.  If someone is arguing with a know-it-all, the know-it-all is certain that the person is lacking knowledge; otherwise, the person would not be arguing with her.  The know-it-all has full confidence that the other person is missing the facts, the evidence or the logic.  Of course, she is ready to provide these missing elements to the ignorant soul.  It is better to just nod and walk away.
  4. The arrogant. The arrogant individual has an inflated sense of self-importance or sense of abilities.  The arrogant person can be found at any social level but more often than not he is an educated or wealthy member of society.  The arrogant person thinks that his opinion counts for more whether it is right or wrong.  In fact, in his mind, it can only be right because of his special standing in society.  For example, if he is a member of a third-world country, he may state that he is right when arguing with a woman because he is a man.  Since the arrogant individual has an inflated ego, it is better not to respond.  It is an unfair argumentation to begin with that can end up in emotional abuse.
  5. The perfectionist. A perfectionist is always looking for perfection, even in the middle of an argument.  There are two problems with the perfectionist.  First, she cannot lose an argument because it makes her imperfect.  This idea motivates her to win at any cost.  Second, she sees everything in black and white.  Something is either perfect or imperfect.  If it is not perfect, it is automatically unacceptable because it is imperfect.  Naturally, there are not perfect arguments.  So, the perfectionist is not happy with any argument.  In fact, the perfectionist that wants to win the argument is focusing on finding faults with the opponent’s points.  Once she finds one, she is pleased that the argument is imperfect, which means that she can completely dismiss it for its lack of perfection.  The perfectionist does not know any gray area.  She is unwilling to recognize the value behind the idea of better or worse arguments.  She understands perfection only.  Hence, the perfectionist can never be satisfied.
  6. The emotionalist. The emotionalist is a person who has a heavy emotional investment in his argument.  Naturally, all human beings are emotional and can get emotional in an argument.  However, the emotionalist has a deeply personal reason for defending the argument that can make him overly passionate.  He can get to a point where he takes it personally, if someone disagrees with him.  For example, a father who loses a child to violent crime might lobby for harsher sentence for criminals citing good reasons for it.  However, if someone challenges his argument, he can become upset, annoyed and very unpleasant with the person.  It is best to discontinue the argument with someone who argues from an overly emotionally invested viewpoint when he starts taking the opposing argument personally and displays hostility.

As I stated, this list does not exhaust the possibilities out there.  I hope it helps, though.  It is best to be aware of the person one is about to argue with.  It is better to proceed with caution because one may lose a sensitive acquaintance who is not ready to hear an argument from a different point of view.

M. J. Mandoki