– Do not allow yourself to be baited in debate.

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Every once and awhile you run into a person who is determined to “get your goat,” someone hell-bent on antagonizing you. It doesn’t have to be over anything in particular, some people just contrarily want to pick a fight with you. You say “white,” he says “black,” not for any particular reason other than to just irritate you. Regardless how polite you might be or how rational your argument is, they fight you. In fact, most of the time they offer sardonic witticisms and perhaps some vulgarities to refute what you are talking about and try to bait you into a brawl in order to make you look bad, and they can be successful if you are suckered into such a confrontation.

For years I have run into such people; not too many, just enough to leave an impression on me. These types of people fall into the category of what I have been calling “Homo Sapien Ass*****” (HSA) whose perceptions of reality are distorted and there is no swaying them otherwise. In some cases, their perception of reality is fine, they are simply jealous of anyone else in the spotlight and argue just to make you look bad.

I’ve noticed this occurring more and more recently in Blogs and Internet discussion groups. I’ll see someone write something valuable in such forums only to have someone else maliciously ridicule it, not because it is wrong, but because they simply don’t like the person and want to discredit him. It’s interesting, such forums offer the means to conceal your identity. People seem more inclined to criticize and ridicule when their identify is concealed, as opposed to when it isn’t. They seem more apt to write a poison pen letter than to confront you face-to-face. These people are, of course, cowards. The negativity and sniping in some of these discussion groups is such that I am reminded of the old expression, “If you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say anything.”

Regardless, what is the best way to deal with such people? Well, having survived such attacks on the Internet perhaps I can offer some advice. First, never take the bait. Never dance to their tune. Never. Always take the high ground and maintain your dignity. Remember, other people will be watching your response. They already know there is a troublemaker trying to get to you, but do yourself a favor and don’t lower yourself to their level. Remain calm and if you have to refute their arguments, due it respectfully and professionally, especially if they do not follow suit. Those watching will take note and think the better of you. Stay above the fray. Make the other person look like the idiot that he is. Inevitably, you will get more supporters than your antagonist. I am reminded of something Oscar Wilde said years ago, “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

How you handle an antagonist in the public is one thing; how you handle such a person one-on-one is something else. Understand this, they are not interested in rational discourse, only making you look bad in some public forum. Always take the high ground in publicly refuting them, but for one-on-one confrontations, the kid gloves are off.

I write on a variety of topics and I’m not expecting everyone to agree with me all of the time, believe me they do not. I’m simply trying to get people to think about things they normally wouldn’t. I welcome all calm and respectful discourse, but if it turns malicious, I know how to hit the delete key and filter out such people from participating in future dialogues. This brings up an important point, if you have the means to control the text entries, be sure to do so. After all, it is your story, not theirs. They may whine about you deleting their comments, but you have to do what is best for the article.

I remember one time when I was in a meeting and had an antagonist heckle me throughout the session. Despite my attempts to answer his questions, he kept badgering me to the point of irritating everyone in the room. Finally I looked at him and said, “Tell me, did your parents have any children that lived?” This resulted in a pregnant pause and gales of laughter (and finally broke the logjam).

Usually your antagonists will try to get in the last word on a subject. If you are lucky, you can get the last word in before they do, but that is uncommon. Its more likely they’ll get the last word, but don’t despair, if you have done your job, they are the ones who will look like the fool, not you.

Remember, don’t let yourself get baited; don’t let them get your goat. Defuse the situation and stay in control.

First published: September 18, 2006

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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