No one in the history of opinions has ever changed his/her mind after being called an idiot. They might have stopped sharing with you or even started an ad hominem fight online. Opinions change. As much as people with strong ones think that their mind will never change, it does happen.
That is the whole reason for debate. A debate is to bring the opinions, or political standings, into light against each other so the public can decide what they would like to do with that information. Now this isn’t really what has been happening with our recent Presidential debates. Stating clearly the proposals of action against each other has not happened.
I mentioned ad hominem before. Ad hominem is a fallacy in argumentation where the person calling you an idiot is appealing to one’s prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one’s intellect or reason and/or attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument. This is a huge problem in our culture. We have lost the ability and the knowledge of true argumentation. We don’t know how to share differing ideas without appealing to emotional or intellectual attacks. We have lost the ability to communicate on a grand scale.
In light of this problem, we have a solution! There is an actual philosophy of logic, where arguments can be arranged in a way that is clear and understandable and there is no need to attack the person. This has been around for centuries and we have lost the ability to use this knowledge! While it might be easier to call someone an idiot for believing something, it only creates division, and where division is, the enemy is also. When we communicate, we need to do so in light of being a Catholic and as a representative of the church. We need to do so in a way that shows God’s love for people. So let’s go over a few steps to communicate charitably and logically from the perspective of a Catholic.
Being able to present a differing opinion to someone requires understanding of where they are coming from and why they think what they do. After listening, ask honest questions to fill in the blanks if needed. This requires you to stop thinking about yourself and be fully interested in another person. When someone feels heard, they are more open and willing to hear you out. Most people struggle with the fact that in today’s culture they aren’t being heard. This opens the door to true communication with the person.
2. Respond in Charity with differing opinions, using logic.
Address your opinion in an objective way that doesn’t demean the other person and lays out your opinion in a clear and articulate way, allowing for questions if certain areas are unclear. Stay away from singular statements.
3. Depart respectfully.
Even if both parties disagree, it is valuable to tell the other person that even though you don’t agree, you will take his arguments to heart and consider them at a later time. Sometimes even though we do not mean to, emotions run high and it can be a stressful situation. Being open to consideration will show the other person that you have not rejected them and will lead to future conversations without the fear of being labeled or attacked.
Logic is a particular method of reasoning or argumentation where two or more premises point to a conclusion.
Premise one: People don’t like to be called idiots
Premise two: Calling someone an idiot is an ad hominem attack
Premise three: Ad hominem attacks are bad communication
Conclusion: Calling someone an idiot is bad communication.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
– of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
– of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
– of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.” – CCC 2477
As Catholics we are required to speak the truth in charity. We are to be a witness to the world in ways that others refuse. The next time you come across someone who is willing to actually share their opinion with you, try these steps and see how much further the conversation goes!