General Question

PhiNotPi's avatar

What is the appropriate way to "break off" an argument without being offensive?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12185 points ) June 17th, 2012

I’m one of those people who don’t like to get into arguments that have no right answer. This includes arguments about politics, religion, correct punishment of crimes, etc. I’ll argue about math all day long since it does have a correct answer, just not politics.

Since these subjects are very subjective (due to the “no right answer”), there is going to be a lot of room for debate. Whenever I bring up an opinion in these topics, it is possible for me to get into a debate. I want to be able to stop these debates before either party gets too emotional / angry about the argument, and because I simply don’t like arguing.

What I don’t want to do is to make the other side angry about me cutting off the argument. I don’t want to make it sound like I am no longer going to argue because the other person is too stubborn / stupid to agree with me.

What is the best way to do this if I am in an argument? If I don’t like arguments, then there must be some way for me to solve the problem beside just not participating in a discussion.

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17 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

For those type of arguments usually someone can say they want to agree to disagree, or change the subject and everyone is fine with it. If you shut down the discussion and then just walk away, that is when I think sometimes there are bad feelings.

For arguments about other things, like in a marriage or a family matter where someone feels hurt I think the best idea is figure out a way to discuss things openly and calmly, and really listen to each other. If someone is raising their voice I think the owrst thing to do is for the other person to say, “I am not going to talk to you with you yelling,” and then walk away and be nwilling to discuss anything. I don’t think the yelling is ok, it is reasonable to ask someone to calm down, or to ask the topic be discussed in a couple hours when everyone has calmed down, but the walk away is just as aggressive and abusive as the yelling.

LostInParadise's avatar

This is a technique I have used with varying degrees of success. Summarize the other person’s position. You have to do this neutrally without being snarky. Then summarize your point of view. Ask the other person if there is anything he/she wishes to add. Usually the other person will say no. You can now say that you have both made your points and that there is nothing to be gained by continuing to argue.

I personally love arguing, but only up to the point where there is something new to say.There may be something ethnic in this. It has been said that whenever you bring two Jews together you will get three opinions

I really hate nagging and have employed the above technique as a way to, temporarily cut it off.

In an emotionally laden argument, it can be very helpful to agree with the other person. For example, if someone says that I must have been really stupid to have done what I did, I might say that it is true that I must have been really stupid. This can completely throw off someone who is trying to pick a fight, and is particularly effective against naggers.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I learned some time ago that it is not to anyone’s benefit to discuss religion, politics, ethics, and related items. Those types of beliefs are so internalized by the other person (and you!) that you’re never going to convince them and they are never going to convince you. And this is for the simple reason that if they were persuaded, it would take away a large piece of their own self image, and that’s highly unusual and simply not going to happen.

So when these occasions arise, and they do and there is little I can do avoid them starting, I usually say something like “let’s not waste a lot of breath on something where we will always disagree” and then change the subject.

Bill1939's avatar

I enjoy debating, as long as the exchange of arguments remain respectful. However when things become too passionate, I seek a means to end the discussion. As others here have suggested, the best way to do this is to communicate the points on which we agree and then agree to disagree on the remainder.

marinelife's avatar

You can say, “I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree on this topic.”

jca's avatar

My vote is for what @marinelife said. “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”

I avoid topics like religion and politics for this reason. Everyone has their opinion, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it’s not likely that I’m going to change someone’s mind, nor would I want to try, and vice versa. When people give their opinions, I usually don’t say anything.

Trillian's avatar

You did very well on that other thread which I believe prompted this question. Clearly that other person had an opinion which was being held to without the ability to concede points and have give and take like a rational adult. You wisely gave up because there clearly was not going to be any true exchange of ideas or supporting arguments, just a blind adherence to a belief.
I agree with @jca about opoinions, but I can understand your desire to make a counter argument when people give opinions as if they were facts.
Well done.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Try saying, “You know, I think I’m getting too heated up about this subject. Would you mind if I stepped away for a minute or two?” Return later and change the subject.

hug_of_war's avatar

I think you should say agree to disagree and immediately have another topic to talk about if this happens in day-to-day life That way it doesn’t seem like you still value them and their thoughts.

gailcalled's avatar

Keep it simple.

“Let’s talk about something else.”

Coloma's avatar

You just stop it! Easy, except that the tricky part is catching yourself.
I found myself engaged in a debate type situation with my daughter the other day. We both have a tendency to take a simple sharing and run with it.

Discussing something into the ground.
It’s called self awareness. When I realized we were going in circles, and there is no right/wrong answers, only subjective sharings I simply said ” I apriciate your opinion honey, I’ll keep that in mind.”

The end.

nikipedia's avatar

One technique I like to use is to ask the other person, “Is there anything that would convince you of [my side]?” They usually will say no, or ask for evidence that isn’t possible to get. From there I think it’s a little easier to gracefully step out of it since it should become apparent to both parties at that point that it can’t be resolved.

LuckyGuy's avatar

“Let’s agree to disagree.”

Brian1946's avatar

Just stop replying to your opponent.
I’ve never seen anyone involved in a debate get angry about having the last word. ;-)

wundayatta's avatar

Don’t get into the argument in the first place. Do not express your opinions. If anyone asks, tell them that you do not express your opinions because you do not wish to argue about them.

It is ironic that you asked this question in General, which requires that an answer be on topic insofar as the moderator sees it. Moderators often do not allow answers that answer the question on topic, but that the moderator doesn’t think is on topic. Your question requires one of those answers that answers your question, but not in the way you might have imagined, thus going afoul of the rules.

You don’t have to see conversations as arguments. See them, instead, as an opportunity to find out what someone else thinks and why they think it. Instead of spouting off your opinion, you ask the person to explain their opinion in greater depth. If they hate Obama, you want to find out why, not defend Obama. Why do they think he is not American? Why do they think other people do not believe as they do? Etc. Etc.

You don’t have to defend your opinion. You don’t have to argue it. You know what you think. Instead, take this opportunity to find out what someone else thinks. Arguing isn’t the only way to have a conversation.

I tend to ask question aimed at getting people’s experience because I also don’t like arguments. I don’t want to debate. I know how to debate, but I don’t like it. I don’t like trying to convince anyone of anything. I just want to know about people’s stories. How did they get to this point in life? How come they have this point of view?

There are times when I want to argue, and then I don’t really care about the other person. I just want to win, or if I can’t win, destroy good feelings. Do you see why I don’t like arguing? But it is inevitable that if you start arguing, there is no end. Just destruction. Unless the other person is willing to listen. Which, I find, is rare, unless I listen first. If the rules are not about arguing, it is easier for people to listen to each other.

cheebdragon's avatar

“yeah, well fuck you!”

I don’t mind being offensive.

Paradox25's avatar

Wow, I feel that this question was especially written for me, since I’m constantly getting into debates with family and co-workers whom have opposing views from myself. Basically I end these arguments by saying something as simple as; well we both made our points, but it is obvious that we are not going to agree with each other so let’s end it at that. This usually works for me.

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