The best way to win an argument with an arsehole is to ignore them completely. But that’s not always possible. Sometimes you need to convince someone to stop arguing and physically move away, or you need to de-escalate an argument with someone you need to co-exist with. Sometimes you need to quash a very bad idea before it catches on. When you really have to argue with an arsehole, says lawyer Ryann Meer, you have to argue like an arsehole.
In a viral Tumblr post that recently became a viral Twitter post, Meer explains that when someone is arguing in bad faith, you cannot beat them by arguing in good faith. They’re not here to weigh two opposing ideas, they’re here to yell at you for disagreeing with them. You can’t play chess with someone who’s playing tetherball.
To beat an arsehole, says Meer, you have to abandon any hope of convincing them that you are right. “Here’s a cool terrible thing about humans,” he says: “Certainty has nothing to do with facts. And when people are certain, that is when they become arseholes.” Giving them facts will just give them material to be arseholes about. Instead you have to make the arsehole lose by their own rules. You have to be unfair.
Meer lays out several arsehole tactics, which you need to use on arseholes when — or before — they use them on you:
Make them define every term, and pick apart their definitions.
Whatever question they ask you, make them answer it first, or else they’re cowards.
Chide them for getting too emotional.
If they try to make a joke or use a euphemism based on an abhorrent opinion, pretend you don’t get it until they spell it out.
Laugh at them.
Let them leave.
Read a fuller explanation of these tactics on Meer’s blog. And as Meer points out, this approach is useful on arseholes because it’s the arsehole playbook. Don’t whip it out on someone who isn’t asking for it.