Dealing with arguments that are repeated back to you
February 28, 2012 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Is there a name for the type of argument style where the other person simply repeats back the accusation to you, for example: "I think you are being aggressive", reply: "No, You're being aggressive", or "You're being silly" reply: "No, you're being silly" and so on and so forth? How does one overcome this type of reply whilst exerting your strongly held opinion?
posted by bootlaces to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
tu quoque
posted by joost de vries at 2:09 PM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Well, when you're arguing about the state of the other person you're already in a pretty serious deficit. Look for ways to just drop that line altogether and focus on what specific things that person is doing that prompt you to characterize them as aggressive or silly.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:10 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't call names to begin with? Don't make it personal.
posted by stockpuppet at 2:10 PM on February 28, 2012

Avoid being personal. Instead of saying, "You're being silly," say something like, "That argument is silly because ____________." Then, they have to defend their argument, instead of simply returning a personal attack.
posted by Nightman at 2:14 PM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Recrimination. There's no good way around it except not letting yourself say "you too" and stopping the cycle.
posted by Jon_Evil at 2:14 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

By the time you reach that point in an argument, you are no longer arguing about something. Instead, you're just sniping and trying to undermine one another's stance with details irrelevant to the matter at hand (unless the argument is about one of you being aggressive or silly.) Rest assured that your strongly held opinion has been exerted. Then just walk away, because if you see it through to the end, there will be no winners in this fight.
posted by griphus at 2:16 PM on February 28, 2012

Nightman above has it right. Reframe the argument so they have to engage with it and can't just turn it back around.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:16 PM on February 28, 2012

Remember: You're not trying to win the argument, you are trying to work together to come to a solution that works for both of you. If you're looking for the name of a particular argument style, I can only assume that you're hoping to point it out to the other person--i.e. you are being unproductive because you are engaging in X behaviour--and that in and of itself is destructive.

Instead of telling the other person what you think they're being, tell the other person how you are feeling/perceiving them, and why. I.e. instead of saying "You're being silly", say something like "I feel like you're not giving my points the consideration that I'd like you to give them, and that makes me feel undermined."

Even when you win an argument, you don't really win. Stop thinking in those terms.
posted by Phire at 2:29 PM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I usually find that once the argument has reached this point, it is time to walk away.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Monty Python's "argument clinic" this is called gainsaying.
posted by Killick at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Pee Wee Herman:
I know you are but what am I
posted by Postroad at 2:37 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I dated a person who always threw back any complaint I brought up back at me -- in the end I had to break off the relationship. Any 'discussion' after that point was destructive, not constructive.
posted by bushmango at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2012

In Monty Python's "argument clinic" this is called gainsaying.

No it isn't.

No, seriously, "recrimination" is closer to the meaning.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:00 PM on February 28, 2012

To gainsay is simply to deny or contradict. The argument form mentioned above may include the idea of gainsaying, but to assert that YOU are whatever you've accused me of is recrimination.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:01 PM on February 28, 2012

Honestly, I would just call this "juvenile."
posted by DarlingBri at 3:03 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

As to how to deal with it - if someone is arguing with me at this level, it's best to walk away. If the person must be engaged with, I just ignore rubbish like this and keep dealing with the facts, not their opinions of me or their emotions about the facts.

An "argument" about "what someone is like" or other stuff that is all happening between the ears cannot be won; it's entirely subjective. If there is a real point to all of the palaver in the real world, I try to stick to the facts and just completely IGNORE any comments directed to me personally. If the whole argument turns into a he said/she said about what someone supposedly thinks, I do my best to just walk away from it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:07 PM on February 28, 2012

No, "recrimination" isn't good either -- to engage in a recrimination is to answer an accusation with another accusation, but it need not be the same type as the initial one. This behavior is more juvenile yet.

My strategy is as follows:

Clyde: "You're a liar."
Pete: "No, you're a liar."
Clyde: "Now you're being juvenile."
Pete: "No, you're being juvenile."
Clyde: "You're Pete."
Pete: ". . . ."
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:12 PM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

According the the latest manual of the esteemed American Nyah Nyah Poopyhead Association, it is known as the Rubber/Glue paradox.
posted by Elly Vortex at 3:33 PM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Thanks, Elly. "I'm rubber you're glue. Your words bounce off me and stick to you." —Urban Dictionary
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:26 PM on February 28, 2012

Take a look at joost de vries's tu quoque suggestion. Googling it turned up "You too: Seven rules for honest hypocrisy management," which may get at some of what your question is about.

"Accusations of hypocrisy are annoying cheap shots when they're used automatically to turn the tables on any criticism. With some people, there's no receptivity, no reflection, just an automatic "well you do it too," or "well what about the way you do this other bad thing?" or the thoroughly vague, "well, you're not perfect." If the accusation of hypocrisy is simply a defensive formula, it's no more worthy of our attention than "I know you are but what am I?""
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:37 PM on February 28, 2012

"Being contrary" comes to mind, but it's not so much a description of an argument as a description of a mood.
posted by Ys at 5:56 PM on February 28, 2012

It sounds like projection, maybe?

I would turn the other cheek or walk away and formulate a strategy that gets to the heart of the matter another time, if possible.
posted by devymetal at 6:56 PM on February 28, 2012

you should always end those arguments with "your momma is!"
posted by udon at 9:42 PM on February 28, 2012

tu quoque wraps it up best, I think.

It's a logical fallacy, regardless, and the best way to defeat those is with straight logic and empirical, provable, citable facts.

If emotions are involved at all (like in a personal disagreement about individual feelings), this is when one uses "'I' statements" - "When you [blah], I feel [foo]."

You can also turn this method on its head with many people with a sincere acceptance of the accusation, displaying confident humility in response, and pointing out that it doesn't invalidate the reality. Even better if you then take responsiblity for resolving the apparent hypocrisy for yourself.
posted by batmonkey at 7:03 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tu Quoque is the fancy version. "I know you are but what am I?" is the playground version.
posted by Decani at 2:23 PM on February 29, 2012

On reflection, I think it's called a "comeback line." Comeback lines can be elegant, amusing or witty, or they can be dumb as rocks, like the perennial favorite, "I know you are, but what am I." In fact, there it is, in the line above me. Jinx! Mirriam Webster online likens the comback to the word "retort," which I think also fits: You offer an opinion, the other person rips off a retort.
posted by Ys at 6:00 PM on March 7, 2012

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