Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Sea lions

You know how every now and then, there'll be a new fad in how people say things? For example, getting upset and venting because something set you off is now called being "triggered," and people use the word, "triggered" a lot more than they used to. Well, today I learned a new phrase. It's called "sea lioning." I haven't heard it actually used yet, but somebody told me about it. He directed me to this comic strip which not only made me giggle, but it also made me think.

I agree somewhat with the point of the comic. I mean if you're going to have a debate or a discussion over some disagreement, you ought to be able to back up what you say. But it's kind of silly that a person can't express an opinion without being badgered sea lioned by somebody insisting that they prove it. And if you do want to press somebody to substantiate their claims, there's a tactful way to do it and an untactful way to do it. A lot of people on the internet use the untactful method, which is off-putting.

Nobody has an obligation to prove anything to you unless they have some desire to persuade you. Then it's reasonable to ask them back to up their claim. But most of the time people are just making conversation. If you're an apologetics junkie (or anti-apologetics junkie), it's easy to develop the bad habit of treating every encounter as if it's an intellectual battle that you must win. We ought to resist the urge to be in battle mode all the time.

My blog is kind of set up for argumentative situations, so asking me to substantiate what I say is perfectly appropriate. But in your day to day life, just be a normal person and have a normal pleasant conversation every now and then. People like to say what they think sometimes, and there's nothing wrong with that. You can say you disagree, but you don't have to challenge every little thing you disagree with. Sometimes a conversation can be nothing more than a pleasant exchange of ideas without everybody insisting that everybody else prove what they say.

If you are in an argumentative situation, or if you're just curious about the other person's point of view and why they hold it, then there's a tactful way to ask for evidence or sources. You don't have to be a jerk about it. Some of it has to do with your tone, which I can't reproduce in a blog post, but here's some examples of a tactful way to request that somebody back up their claim.

Really? Why do you say that?

Have there been any studies about that? I'm curious what they say.

What do the experts say about that?

That's interesting. Where could I go to read more about it?

How did you hear about that?

What do you base that on?

Here's some douchy ways to do it.

Oh yeah? Prove it, then.

That's an unsubstantiated assertion. Where's the evidence?

If you can't back up your assertion, there's no reason for me to take it seriously.

There's no evidence for that.

You're just making that up. Prove it.

I included those last two because they come across as being presumptuous and closed-minded. It may be that the other person has no reason for what they stated, but to treat them with contempt before they've even had the opportunity to explain themselves is rude. If you actually are closed to any suggestion that there might be evidence for what the other person is saying, a more tactful thing to say is, "Is there any reason for me to believe that?" Let them tell you there's no evidence or that they're just going on a hunch or something. Maybe they think their statement is axiomatic and doesn't require proof.

People are sensitive when you challenge their views, so they can perceive you as being off-putting no matter how polite you're trying to be. I don't have all the answers, and I screw up plenty, but I do want to encourage you to at least try to not be obnoxious or rude in these conversations. The world would just be a better place if we could all exchange our ideas and arguments in a pleasant manner. People would probably be more open about their views, too, if they don't feel badgered or on the defensive, and that will enable you to engage them more.

EDIT: Oh, and another thing. Don't ask people to prove their point of view if you already agree with them. That's just rude.

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