Thursday, 28 June 2007

The Straw Man Principle

I’m beginning to believe that the art of verbal communication is becoming redundant. How many times does one start a conversation with a specific focus, only to end up somewhere else, nowhere near to where one started. Both at home and at work. It’s a frustrating experience, and often one surrenders in hopelessness.
Oftentimes the conversation wanders off into other areas, triggered by something that’s said or just happens. This is fine when one is just chirping and talking for entertainment, it’s the serious stuff that irritates me. Cant get one’s point across so you withdraw, let them live in ignorance.
While wandering around I came upon the Straw Man Principle that put everything into perspective. Basically it works like this. If you don’t agree, understand or want to participate in the actual topic, you create another topic within the conversation to switch focus. The original “argument” is misrepresented or weakened. Attack this and you have a good chance of avoiding the issue or winning the watered down topic.
An example I saw was :-
Child: "Can we get a dog?"
Parent: "No."
Child: "It would protect us."
Parent: "Still, no."
Child: "Why do you want to leave us and our house unprotected?"
Now it’s no longer about not having a dog, its about not caring for the children and property. Geez maybe she wants a Great Dane on the 20th floor of a housing complex.
The concept is derived from setting up a “scarecrow” for military bayonet practice. It’s easier to defeat a straw man than a real person.
Pay attention to your conversations, if you see a Straw Dog, attack it before it becomes the focus. It pisses people off, but it can be fun.


bokjae said...

hey! Graham, you've got a great blog! Keep it up! Mentioned you today! Cheers!

Marloes said...

Hah...if ever I saw a real life example the comment above should get first price.