Sometimes your job is to convince others. Sometimes your job is to convince others not to be convinced by others. Intentionally confusing? Certainly.
Getting backlash in the online sphere is inevitable. Sooner or later, you’re going to say something that ticks someone off, and that someone’s going to leave a nasty comment or point out your mistakes (the nicer equivalent of “leaving a nasty comment”). Getting critiqued isn’t limited to the online community; everyday working life in an office is bound to have its setbacks.
So, How Do You Defend Yourself?
1) Concede Your Mistakes
Suck it up and say sorry. If you said something stupid, clarify it to make it look less stupid. If you said something blatantly indefensible, don’t defend it. The reason for this is damage control. Others who look upon you need to see a mature individual that can set aside their ego. The entire process of ‘defending yourself’ can be avoided by just recognizing that not every argument is worth your time. If you have nothing to concede, then this moves on to the second step.
2) Pick Your Battle
There’s this overwhelming temptation to disagree with everything another person says, just because they disagree with one aspect of your beliefs (anyone keeping tabs on politics?). Skip it. It isn’t worth your effort. When faced with conflict, quickly narrow down the scope of argument. That way your opponent cannot misconstrue your beliefs nor can they mislead others by assuming the rest of your beliefs. More often than not, arguments are solved when both sides realize that they never actually had any major disagreements with each other.
3) Attack the Idea, Not the Person
An “ethos” or an “ad hominem” attack is once again a tempting part of discussions and arguments. Why tackle the idea when you can tackle the bearer of the idea? After all, it feels so fulfilling to let everyone know that your opponent is a moron. In reality, this childish mud-slinging mentality only serves to paint you as incompetent and mentally challenged as you call your opponent.
Attack ideas. Avoid personal attacks; they only serve to convince those who are equally embroiled in anger and frustration as you. A casual observer is unlikely to view you as the protagonist in any argument if you stoop this low. Call a person’s idea stupid, but never call the person stupid.
4) Multi-Layer Defenses
Don’t just tell a person why they’re wrong. Tell them why, even if they are right, they’re wrong. This is called an “even if” argument. For example, if someone asked why you didn’t do something, tell them why it was impossible to begin with, and then tell them why it wasn’t that beneficial if done anyway.
5) Don’t Be Desperate
When arguing or receiving critique, remember that it isn’t about you or your opponent. It’s also about the onlookers. Don’t be too defensive and be ready to concede when deemed reasonable. Most importantly, be nice. “Arguing” is such a nasty word. Think of it as “discussions.”