My Tactics for Arguing to Re-Invent the Police or any Political Discussion
My personal notes and rules about how to behave in a discussion
These are notes and rules I have written for myself to remember when I am in a political discussion. I intend to follow them as much as possible but I am sure I will have some unfortunate exceptions.
While many of these concepts might work for anyone, many of them are tailored specifically for me and my personal speaking style and goals. I am not trying to tell anyone else how to talk.
If you feel I am missing anything, please add it in the comments. Or if you think any of my ideas may be harmful.
Rules and ideals:
Anger management is always the number one most important priority.
Gathering information about your opponent’s viewpoint and making sure you fully understand it is a close secondary priority. It’s always more important than convincing them to change it.
Ensuring you have a pleasant, respectful discussion would be third. It may seem counter-intuitive but we should be trying to make friends with people at the same time we are arguing with them.
Only after these first three priorities are met, should you think about “winning” the argument.
Do not allow yourself to express anger toward another person, no matter how much they may deserve it or how much it might make you feel better.
My personal trick that may or may not work for you (and may actually be dangerous for some) is to pretend I am playing a game with people and society. The goal of the game is to get people to show more compassion for each other, and to solve society’s problems as logically, efficiently and effectively as possible. My own emotions don’t matter because all of this is just a game. There are no negative consequences to me if I lose so I have no reason to become emotional, as long as I try my best.
Do not construct your statements to deliberately cause another person negative emotions, whether that be guilt, shame, fear or anything else.
Do construct your statements to deliberately cause the other person positive emotions. (For example, speak of the positives of defunding the police, not the negatives of continuing with the present strategies.)
Avoid words and phrases that are vague as well as abrasive or otherwise loaded such as “defund”, “privileged”, “racist”, “patriarchy”, “evil”, “SJW”, or “cancel culture”. If you do use these terms, be certain to carefully provide context so people know what you mean.
Draw attention to things you agree on.
Draw attention to things your opponent has done correctly.
Find ways to genuinely praise your opponent, particularly if they directly relate to the debate.
Avoid any talk of racism issues, unless you have a particularly good point. (This one is extra-specific to just me because I am deliberately trying to take a different approach and because I am woefully ignorant about racial issues. In other words, stick to what you know.)
Don’t make legal arguments. Don’t even try. If someone speaks of legal and illegal, gently remind them that you can only speak about what’s right and wrong. Again, stick to what you know.
Don’t even try sarcasm or satire. It’s never worked in the past and it will just make people take you less seriously.
However, it’s advisable to ask questions about the law if someone is knowledgeable.
Stick to the facts, even if those facts are specifically chosen to elicit emotion.
Always speak clearly and think about how every word could be interpreted.
Don’t speak for other groups. Only speak for yourself and what you want. For example, instead of saying “defund the police is about…”, say, “here is how I envision these changes…”.
Never speak in quips, memes or slogans. Always explain things out as clearly as possible, anticipating both deliberate and accidental misunderstandings.
If you cannot continue a conversation without getting angry, then remove yourself from the situation, but acknowledge the problem is yours for being upset, not theirs for upsetting you.
Do not view your opponent as an enemy.
But remember they may view you as an enemy. Be prepared for attacks.
Do not stand for personal attacks, logical fallacies and other manipulative behavior. Do not get angry, but call them out immediately and calmly refuse to continue a conversation unless basic levels of respect and honesty can be adhered to. Do not allow them to drag you down to their level. They will beat you with experience.
If they use a straw-man argument, false equivalency or other logical fallacy, call it out immediately. Never attempt to respond with a comparable fallacy that works for your side. That only legitimizes the unfair tactics. Do not try to navigate your way through their manipulative wording.
In other words, don’t allow them to control the frame of the conversation.
Try to construct win-win scenarios. Try to think outside the box with how to do this.
Try to establish a baseline of agreement. Figure out what you both agree on and move from there.
Make sure you understand how your opponent views your viewpoint. (For example, make certain they understand that defunding the police means redirecting resources to other forms of crime prevention, not simply slashing police budgets.)
Acknowledge that other people’s fears and experiences are just as valid as your own, even if they are deeply offensive.
If convincing them to have compassion for other people proves difficult, try to speak from their perspective, showing how changes can personally benefit their lives. We often can’t convince people to genuinely care about others but we can still convince them that we are all in this together and that working as a team benefits them personally.
Make certain you fully understand the other viewpoint. If you in any way question your understanding, focus on asking questions before attempting any kind of counter-argument.
Do not use logical fallacies. If you accidentally use one, call yourself out on it. If someone else calls you on a logical fallacy, admit to it freely and take steps to prevent it from happening again.
Admit to the existence of opposing viewpoints and address them instead of hoping your opponent won’t think of them.
Kalin Ringkvist is a queer, atheist, web developer, science fiction author, real estate investor, and police brutality survivor. In 2020 he is taking a break from the personal data organizer application he’s building to write about current social issues, particularly the call to defund or re-invent the police.