Monthly Archives: November 2016

How to Argue Fairly and Without Rancor (Hello, Thanksgiving!)

If the 2016 presidential election has shown us anything, it’s that it sometimes seems as if opposing views can never be reconciled.

In the days since Donald J. Trump has been elected president, thousands of angry people have protested in at least 52 cities across the United States. At a Brooklyn restaurant, a male Trump supporter punched a female supporter of Hillary Clinton’s after they argued about politics, The Daily News reported.

And it’s clear that American Thanksgiving gatherings are sure to be interesting affairs this year, as families split between Trump and Clinton supporters try to sit down to dinner without maiming one another — if they show up at all.

So this may be a good time to explore what psychologists and philosophers say are the most effective ways to argue. And by “argue” they do not mean “quarrel,” but communicate without rancor or faulty reasoning with someone who has an opposing viewpoint, with the hope of broadening one’s understanding of people and ideas.

Here are a few suggestions:

Listen Carefully

The aim of an argument should not be proving who is right, but conveying that you care about the issues, said Amy J. C. Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard University.

Show the person with whom you are speaking that you care about what he or she says.

The goal should be to state your views and to hear theirs. It should not be: “I am not leaving until you admit that you are wrong, or here is what I believe, and I am not budging from this,” said Dr. Cuddy, who has explored the question in Business Insider columns.

And when you listen, go all in. “Don’t half-listen while figuring out what you’re going to say next,” said Gary Gutting, a philosopher at Notre Dame.

Don’t ‘Drop the Anchor’

Some people start an argument by staking their position and refusing to budge, an impulse that Dr. Cuddy called “dropping the anchor.”


Social psychologists and philosophers have tips on how to make emotionally charged discussions constructive.CreditMark Kauzlarich/Reuters

Instead, try to understand the other person’s point of view; it does not mean you have to agree with him or her, or that you are abandoning deeply felt objections to, for example, racism or sexism, she said.

“Think of it from a courage perspective: I can go in and I am going to ask questions that are truly, honestly aimed at increasing my understanding of where he or she is coming from,” Dr. Cuddy said. “How did they get there, and what is leading to that?”

Mind Your Body Language

Your body language can send messages that are more compelling than the words coming out of your mouth.

Try to avoid gestures that are patronizing or defensive, like crossing your arms or clenching your jaw.

Maintain eye contact in a way that is not a stare-down.

Lean forward slightly to show you are interested.

And no eye-rolling, Dr. Gutting said.

Don’t Argue to Win

Dr. Gutting says it helps to use neutral or charitable language when acknowledging opposing viewpoints, especially during arguments over politics. It lays the groundwork for a more effective argument on points of genuine weakness.

Don’t think of an argument as an opportunity to convince the other person of your view; think of it as a way totest and improve your opinions, and to gain a better understanding of the other side.

It is rarely productive to nitpick errors in your interlocutor’s remarks or to argue just to “win.”

“People do give up views because of rational arguments against them,” Dr. Gutting said in the interview. “But this is almost always a long process, not the outcome of a single decisive encounter.”

In his book “How to Argue About Politics,” Dr. Gutting writes that, in many political arguments, the people we think we “convince” almost always already agree with us.

Know the Facts

A good argument is supported by evidence, but that is just a starting point. Sometimes, especially with political back-and-forths, one side will look only at evidence supporting its own position, conveniently leaving out the full picture, Dr. Gutting noted.

(This is called the fallacy of incomplete evidence. Here is an extensive list of fallacies, or unsound reasoning.)

“An effective argument would have to take account of all the relevant evidence,” he said.

Speak and Listen Fearlessly

George Yancy, a philosophy professor at Emory University who has written extensively about race, was asked by a student this year why he even bothered to discuss race with white supremacists.

Dr. Yancy said he told his student there was a need to inform white people about how African-Americans think about race.

“This is a moment when we are not just talking past each other, but against each other,” Dr. Yancy said in a telephone interview, speaking about the current national climate.

“So for me, the condition for a conversation has to be that you are unafraid to speak courageously, and you are unafraid to tell your partner exactly what it is that you think about the world.”

But a two-way argument also requires fearless listening, “even if it is me talking to a white supremacist who is trying to tell me that I am inferior,” he added. “One of the conditions for the possibility of a fruitful argument is to allow for some kind of opening up in myself to hear.”

Sometimes it takes a painful step to find common ground, Dr. Yancy said.

“What you need to be able to do is to speak the same language,” he said. “They believe in God, and you would say: ‘You and I believe the same thing. How is it that this God who loves you can’t possibly love me?’ Is it possible that we can agree to disagree on some issues?”

Continue reading the main story

Frey Freyday – Election edition – For Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike.


Deeds Not Words. George Washington

Politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. John Kenneth Galbraith

Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote. William E. Simon

Nearly all people can stand adversity, but if you want to test a person’s character, give them power. Abraham Lincoln

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. John F. Kennedy

God Bless America.

Please go vote!

Frey Freyday – Comedy/Laughter

(Frey Freyday is simply a bunch of inspirational, motivational and other quotes meant to make you think, reflect, smile, even laugh a bit. Hopefully helpful, useful stuff..)

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.-Charlie Chaplin

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.-Erma Bombeck

Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.-Peter Ustinov

Disappointment is an endless wellspring of comedy inspiration. -Martin Freeman

Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy, they stand no chance.-Mel Brooks

When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.-William Shakespeare

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.-Kurt Vonnegut

I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.-Audrey Hepburn

It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.-Wayne Dyer

I loved to make people laugh in high school, and then I found I loved being on stage in front of people. I’m sure that’s some kind of ego trip or a way to overcome shyness. I was very kind of shy and reserved, so there’s a way to be on stage and be performing and balance your life out.-Steve Martin

Laughter was the most recognizable expression of emotion in a recent cross-cultural study of emotional perception published in Psychological Science. –The Rotarian

I live to laugh, and I laugh to live.-Milton Berle

Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.-Lord Byron

The best makeup is a smile. – Unknown


Laughter and Smiling –

We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. People who believe in the benefits of laughter say it can be like a mild workout — and may offer some of the same advantages as a workout.

One pioneer in laughter research, William Fry, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.

And laughter appears to burn calories, too. A researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a small study in which he measured the amount of calories expended in laughing. It turned out that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories

Action step: Let’s face it, our typical daily lives don’t always provide a lot of laughs – unless you take time to find them. Turn off the news, focus on good things, and take time to search for something upbeat or funny. Maybe a podcast, video, website, etc. There so many stand-ups comedians of all sorts on Youtube. There are great podcasts from clean to dirty jokes all over the internet. Buy a book of humor or jokes and take a moment each day. Joke with your loved ones. Play a harmless little practical joke on someone (make sure they’ll laugh at it too).


It will make you laugh a little….A funny little webseries that I like by Jerry Seinfeld:

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