“You’re being defensive”

I learned of this strategy a few years ago at a debating tournament. Someone (who shall remain unnamed) recommended that you should always describe your opposition as “defensive”.

There’s no coming back from being called defensive. The natural (instinctive) reaction is to say

I’m not being defensive

– a defensive person

which doesn’t work because now you’re being defensive about being defensive. So you’re stuck with two options

  • say nothing, in which case you lose1
  • argue, in which case they say “see, point proven, they’re defensive”
  1. At least in the world of debating, where saying nothing in rebutal to someone else’s argument is a bad idea. ↩︎

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