Sometimes we find ourselves in a serious discussion, debate or argument, and we begin to criticise the person instead of the point they’re making. Raptitude recommends breaking that habit to be more effective in our interactions with others.
It’s important to keep a debate on topic. Criticising the other person doesn’t only hurt the discussion itself, but it might even hurt the other person, causing them to feel the need to defend themselves when they should just be defending their point. Raptitude explains:
Ad hominem is what it’s called when you try to win an argument by criticising the other person, rather than the point they’re making. It can be subtle (“Young people often don’t realise this, but…”) or overt (“His book must be bullshit — he still wears pleated pants.”)
…Something really amazing happens in a discussion when both sides privately commit to avoiding ad hominem: the topic actually gets discussed, and learning takes place. People feel free to change their minds because they don’t have to defend themselves just to defend their view.
The fix is easy: when you’re in a disagreement, ask yourself if you’re addressing the person or the point. If you have to, pretend it’s your grandmother making the opposing argument.
So, next time you are discussing opposing views with someone, keep in mind to only address the point, not the person.
5 rules of thumb for interacting with people [Raptitude]