But first you have to spot them.
One sign of trouble comes when somebody puts a label on you. They may say that you are a “liberal” or a “wing nut” or a “wacko” though they do not even know you and do not likely know much about your ideas.
These people are easy to identify because their use of labels is about all they have to offer. They tend to see or understand complicated issues in black and white terms and once they put you in a label box, they do not care what you have to say. Ignore them and move on to more interesting people.
The Subject Changer
A little more subtle are those who pretend to consider your point of view but they ignore the context with which you make your comments. They shift the focus of the debate.
For example, I argued in an essay in 2003 that the Democratic Party should not nominate General Wesley Clark for President. I made this statement because he had not been a member of the party for very long and he had endorsed several Republican candidates for a long period of time shortly before the Democratic primaries.
I got back replies from people who questioned whether I had paid my dues, though I was not a candidate. Some suggested I was a Republican or that I was for another candidate, neither of which was true. Here is a partial list of the replies I received:
Others may ask you to provide detail for your point of view. And when you do that, they respond with more complaints about your ideas than you can wrap your head around! Too bad you are not discussing the matter in person, where you could cut them off at some point!
It can be mentally exhausting to go through each of the claims made by an opponent, especially one who misstates evidence, misquotes you or takes you out of context or otherwise manipulates you into thinking that you are in a fair debate. If you proceed with the person, you have two choices: (1) answer every claim they make or (2) answer selectively.
Neither choice is very good. Answering every claim will undoubtedly produce more rebuttals from your adversary and more headaches from their unbalanced logic. But if you only answer some of the claims, you will likely get a response that your silence on the unanswered ones must mean you endorse their point of view on them.
You will really go nowhere discussing anything with those who play games with the facts and with your mind. Like the one who pays the piper, you should call the tune in how you debate another person.
Simply say up front that you would like to argue one issue at a time. If the other person does not comply, walk away. If they call you names, walk away. If they insinuate you do not care about victims or any other irrational point of view, walk away.
And walk towards the conversations of civilized people.