How can you better be in verbal defending yourself from offensive arguments?

I’m not that good at that, so I can only explain how I’m going.

I have watched a lot of videos on YouTube from Christopher Hitchens.That was a journalist and atheist who had a huge arsenal of debating tricks that he effectively put in. Actually, I have never seen a debate that he did not win and really did not love the minsts. He performed in the chalk against politicians, bishops, cardinals, professors, imams, rabbis and pastors.

Of course, not everything suits everyone.But there are quite a few things to get out of it. Wait your turn and hit back, in words, but not with voice elevation. Do not offend the people, but hard to trap wrong ideas. Do not let yourself be of the wise by irrelevant twists and leftmost withdrawal. A much-applied trick is to summarize someone else’s words so that they can make a caricature of them and then attack that caricature. I have never seen the Hitchens cross the border, but I did see it on the brink. But he never stepped in there.

One of the most beautiful:

And he was always well prepared.Almost always he had more ready and relevant knowledge than his opponents. The subjects he spoke to had little secrets for him, and he did not speak of things he had no knowledge of.

Original question: How can you better be in verbal defending yourself from offensive arguments?


I am somewhat curious about this question.In a debate, you are not so much defending yourself as one or another proposition that you stand for. Moreover, what should we mean by ‘offensive‘?Is the fact that another does not agree with your stance is already offensive?

For example, a believer who talks about the resurrection of Jesus, will not so much defend his person (ability), as though the assertion that Jesus was indeed resurrected from the dead.

If I argue against such a believer that we have no way to determine whether such an event has ever taken place and, moreover, that all the stories about it come from the mouths of believers, without even a single mention of it From an independent source, and that even the existence of Jesus himself as a historical person stands for the same problems, am I then attacking the believer or his assertion that there is a man who has risen from the dead?


Yourself‘ (your theorem) better defend against offensive arguments consists for the most part:

  1. The most important thing is, of course, that you do not take or make things personally.

Your thesis is criticized, not your person! Just so, you have to attack the arguments of the other and not his/her person.

  • A good understanding of what your own theorem is. What is it exactly that you proclaim for true?
  • A good understanding of the ground assumptions, facts and clues that suggest that your thesis might indeed be true.
  • Why should another accept your thesis?

  • A good understanding of what it’s exactly that your ‘attacker‘ attacks.
  • What assumptions are being questioned, what facts denied, what indications otherwise seen/interpreted?

  • A good understanding of why you want to defend your thesis at all.
  • If it is good, it is clear from the above that especially clear language and a good understanding of the other are language of interest.And such clear language, can only originate in a clear thinking pattern combined with a good knowledge of the relevant matters. You cannot talk clearly and understandably about what you have insufficient knowledge about. This knowledge not only embraces facts, but also recognition of the assumptions you make.

    Conversely, you see your opponent’s arguments in the same way!What exactly does he/she say? Based on what facts and assumptions? Are these ‘facts‘ indeed facts?Do you accept the assumptions made? What have his arguments of doing with your own theorem?

    However, I would like to point out that I have marked the fifth point above not for nothing in bold: Why do you initially wish to defend your thesis?What is your motivation for entering into a debate?

    This is often the tricky point in debates.Are you going to the debate because you are looking for ‘truth‘, or want to book a ‘profit‘, score points, increase your own prestige?

    Let me say that the second reason is the wrong, if only because with this motivation you make matters personal .

    If you are looking for knowledge and magnification, an attack is not anattack, but only a test of your knowledge.Being wrong is a reason to party, since you have just enlarged your understanding of something! You always ‘win‘ in that case.

    On the other hand, when it comes to personal prestige, there is no real gain, only a semblance of this.You have not learned anything. If there are mistakes in your reasoning, stick to it. If facts concern ‘alternative facts‘, you continue to persist.

    Anyway, in answer to your question how you can get better at this (if you’re already opting for defense), I can only say that you have to focus on clear thinking and talking, and listen carefully.This requires patience, a lot of exercise and the necessary research into what is and is not known about the subject you are arguing about. Above all, don’t make anything a ‘personal thing‘.Even you are personally attacked (‘ Youare an idiot‘, ‘you have no understanding of matters‘, etc.), then you see its relevance to the subject.

    For example, on the allegation that you are an idiot, you can react by noting that even if an idiot claims that 1 + 1 equals two, that he is right, that intelligence does not contribute or detract from facts, and therefore that your idiotion is irrelevant to R the argument.Note that the introduction of such irrelevance is not very conducive to the strength of your confidence in the good reasoning abilities of your opponent, which of course can also happen somewhat personally, but is clearly Justified by the course of the debate.


    Perhaps I can best summarize the above as: Consider a debate as a moment to perhaps learn something, rather than as an attack.

    It is weird that you can consider arguments as offensive.For if we investigate deeply and indeed are arguments and not baseless, an argument offers a perspective on a multi-faceted truth.
    I explained this to a colleague yesterday by submitting his mobile phone between us and asking: is the on/off button now left or right?

    This is an absurd simple example on which he immediately replied: For me the button is right, but it was immediately clear that here we have a potential interpretation problem of perception.We both see that there is a button on the phone, but because we have a different perspective, our “truth” is different. The solution is simple: I come to him or I come to him and we have agreement.

    What is more interesting is when I move to my colleague and the button still remains on the left.We both look from the same direction, but have no agreement. With a button, that is not the case quickly, but with a more complex issue it can occur. Then you can come up with a very simple question: I do not understand, can you explain that to me?

    This has been part of my field and work for more than two decades, and in the course of time I have become much better at this.But the essence remains the same: grasp the perspective of the other, try to understand it, and if you are at that point you know whether you are dealing with a perspective problem or a “truth problem”. If I present my colleague a red phone and he says Green, and then I lay down a green pen and he says Red, then we have a different definition, he sits too sarren, or my colleague is color blind.
    This brings me to the point where it turned yesterday in the conversation with my colleague: How do I move from such a situation to someone on my side, how do I convince someone?That means that this person comes to my perspective.
    I don’t need to convince anyone that something is true, all I have to do is ask to come and look from my side.


    This is often difficult for more complex issues.I have had very clever colleagues who have confound: how is it that they do not see this? And then they talked about other amazingly clever colleagues.
    This is the infamous word what we all know, and if we use it stop all the brain cells with works, even if only here.When we hear the word, we know exactly what it is, and with that the problem is “solved”. Because we know what the problem is, and we don’t need to ask further. That infamous word is: communication.

    In theory it is so easy: transmitter sends message-receiver confirmed reception and links back to transmitter.Message received, job done.
    And what happened in practice:

    Transmitter: < very complex story >
    Transmitter: Have you understood?
    Receiver: Yes
    Transmitter: Do you know what to do?
    Receiver: Yes
    Transmitter: OK, thank you

    What you would expect:
    Transmitter: < very complex story >
    Transmitter: Can you summarize briefly what the main points were?
    Receiver: < short summary >
    Transmitter (at correct summary): What are your next actions?
    Receiver: < This I’m going to do >
    Transmitter: I see that you have written it down, do I have to send another reminder?
    Receiver: No, I’ll come back to you tomorrow morning
    Transmitter: I call you after tomorrow in the afternoon if I haven’t heard of you yet

    This is not argumentation, but it does indicate how easy it is to create mental shortcuts within communication.And we do this all the time. We take things (from our perspective) for true and assume that this is also the same for the other.
    Of the week in the elevator, a junior colleague expressed her astonishment: I cannot understand that this colleague (an older manager) does not know what a standard deviation is.But if this is not part of your field, and you have been working on other issues for three decades now, then you really don’t remember what a standard deviation is and how it works exactly. Even though it is high school knowledge (where I don’t know if statistic was part of education 4 -5 decades ago). These are of those-huh-moments that are very important to become aware of your own perspective, and therefore also in the danger of assumptions in communication.


    Back to the offensive arguments.
    I have kept my speech rational so far, but we do not work people in practice.Emotions play with it. I have been in talks through that someone completely untrue things they, purely to protect his own ignorance. I have seen a colleague heavily in the stress shoot about the behaviour of one of her colleagues (she does not work in my business unit and therefore I look at things differently so that feedback is often more effective, she asked me feedback).
    I have also witnessed the fact that people from a certain life conviction are assuming things that are not understandable to an outsider.And with my Thai wife, I have also become very conscious of culture-related differences.

    These are all things that you have to take into account in a “debate”, because that is what we are talking about, but which is also often not possible at the same time. Yet this all plays a role.

    On top of that, people also have a preference in how they solve problems.
    You can create an array, for example: result-oriented, content, relationship, collaboration.Think of a (amateur) football game. Some people want to win mainly, others mainly want to play football, others mainly like it because it is a team sport and others play because they do this with friends. Combinations of the above are of course possible, but everyone has their own preference.
    If you are in a debate with someone who wants to win costs, you have a completely different debate as someone who wants to investigate the truth (content), which again has a very different dynamism as someone who wants to win or investigate together, or just search the relationship with you , in which the debate is part of the form of the relationship.
    My example of moving to another is an example of looking for cooperation and strengthening the relationship.If you see it as a win/loss contest and not as a win/win opportunity, then you have very different arguments, even though the underlying truths or perspectives do not change them.


    The above gives an impression of how tricky it is to give a generic answer on the best verbal defense against offensive arguments.
    It is clear that someone, or both, play a win/loss match and do not tackle a win/win opportunity.Here you have to look for your motivation: Do you want to win/win this, are you going to play the win/loss match, or do you walk away?
    And if you want to make win/win, about which axis are you going to play it: content, collaboration or relationship?And is the other open here, either now or in the future?
    There are sat situations where I let “offensive arguments” come over me because the transmitter has a big emotional investment in it (anger, frustration), the other is not waiting for a debate at all.
    And there are also people who want to play the win/loss game and abuse the other elements.In strongly polarizing debates (religion, politics) this is still sometimes the same. “There is too much at stake”, to express it in English. I am gone.

    Over the years I have built up a decent arsenal of little tricks that allow me to conduct a conversation/debate on all four matrix values described above.Which is my preferred result (profit), and my least preferred collaboration. From my analytical background I am pretty much focused on the content, but over the years I have been going to see the importance of the mutual relationship (I can totally disagree with people on content, for example religion or politics and good friends with them) Which gives me more focus.
    What often helps me, that is less in the direct debate and more on the total game of communication, is to consult all involved in the issue and also to understand their mutual relations well.I can then confront two people who have a “hierarchical” relationship when needed, which means that I am no longer the head of Jut in a question which is not mine.
    In addition, it is also very important to understand the group dynamics.I have had a colleague who came under pressure in a heavy substantive issue with strong debate and said: but that is always the way!
    And I have completely gone from my plate to the whole group, and have addressed the person directly to the total lack of professional behaviour.
    It was quite a while afterwards, because everyone knew that I had spoken to everyone, and had made a second round, and clearly indicated that the cooperation was very much to be desired.And the debate also drew on that side, where I always let other specialists speak and made their vision visible.


    This brings me to the last part.
    I am becoming more and more aware of two things.The first is that we people are reasonably “hard wired” to think in stories. Stories explain the relations and relationships. Facts are fun, but it’s about why they’re relevant -and that’s a relationship -or a relationship issue.

    The other thing is that we people are very visually set up.
    With a simple drawing, We can present a huge mountain of information, where it also deals with relations and relationships.

    You can also make use of this in debate, if you have resources to make something visible.You can draw what is said, where the other can give direct feedback on what you draw. With this you have the most important part of communication-the feedback “I understood correctly”-directly address. And because you draw it, this is also immediately fixed. If the position of the other is drawn, you can color your own vision. Other color pen, indicating how your relationships and relationships look different. Or where you see something that the other does not see. Or where the other sees something you don’t see.

    This provides space to conversation, and much better/simpler as with words only.Then you must remember what the other has said and assume that this position (not even in the nuance) remains unchanged. That requires a lot of repetition.

    And people who collaborate a lot with me know that I am constantly looking for drawing material.


    As a valve, however, the most important advice: pick your battles .
    Often a (polarizing) debate is just not worth it.And sometimes you should not want a non-polarizing debate either. Then you speak out expectations, and when someone enters the debate you just cover this (preferably with a good argument). If the other does not accept this argument, this is his/her problem.

    I am not defending against offensive arguments.I leave the person for whom he or she is and tap into the discussion.

    With people who disagree with me I like to discuss.

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