Dear Lifehacker, I have several close friends who are intelligent, worldly and opened minded. I respect their opinions generally and we can comfortably debate where there is disagreement. However there is one big exception: conspiracy theories.
Now, I can say that I enjoy the odd bit of political intrigue and I've probably watched an X-files or two about a decade ago. What I struggle with is when someone produces an item of outlandish news — something like a claim the Queen was spotted buying a jar of 'Dry Skin Be Gone For Space Reptiles' — and then insists that everyone around the table believes the tale and the complicated supporting conspiracy behind it. Any attempt to raise the notion that the Queen may in fact not be a subterranean tyrant from a distant star is met with cries of "Can't you see the truth?" and "the evidence is overwhelming!" What strategies can I use to respectfully disagree with a respected friend or colleague on a topic that we completely disagree with, especially when that topic is commonly considered outrageous? Thanks, Patiently Sceptical
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To paraphrase the Lord Humungus in Mad Max 2, our advice is to "just walk away". Getting a conspiracy theorist to see reason is an exercise in futility — it's right up there with arguing about the nature God with a religious fundamentalist. You're wasting your breath and agitating yourself for no reason.
Indeed, I was once nearly physically assaulted by a female pal's boyfriend for daring to question the existence of a worldwide conspiracy to suppress water-fueled car engines. (Apparently, an amateur scientist died in suspicious circumstances after discovering tap water was a perfect substitute for petroleum.)
However, if you're determined to butt your head against their tin-foil hats, you can pick up a few tips in our guide to dealing with difficult people.
Do any readers have any conspiracy-diffusing tips of their own? We'd also love to hear what the weirdest conspiracy theory is that you've ever been told personally. Let the craziness fly in the comments section below!
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