Conversational Terrorism Visitor Additions, Pg. 2

From Garry Marshall


This is good for disrupting the other person's train of thought: whilst your opponent is talking, switch your gaze momentarily to his forehead and then back to the eyes. In 60 seconds he will become agitated ... and might even go away if you've done your job properly.

Dave Oppedal adds the variation--vaguely remembered from a body language book--that "If you want someone to stop talking, stare intently at their mouth."

From Will Briggs


Refute an argument that's truly ridiculous, with the same conclusion as your opponent's.

"People who say that are First-Amendment absolutists, but we all know there are kinds of speech that must be restricted."


"All men may be created equal, but women are better/worse."

"Sure, torture's wrong, but these so-called 'victims' of yours were not permanently injured."


Describe the other person's case using slur words or other emotionally packed terms.

"I would never beat my children."

From Kay Crandall


A variation of LISTEN UP, precede comments with "Like I said," or "Again," especially when first mentioned. The idea is to imply that the other person is not paying attention or is not very bright. Best said in a haggard voice, as if you are quite irritated for having to put up with such a dullard.

"Like I said, you file all of the blue copies in the lateral files."

"Again, you have to make 5 copies the Blotchsky report before mailing it out." ["But you never told me that before."] (Stare at victim. Give a deep sigh. Pause. Repeat original statement, overpronuciating each word.)


If someone is trying to enact a policy change or introduce an idea, and the boss (or anyone) doesn't agree with them, they will say it is because they are refusing to "think outside the box". It couldn't possibly be because their policy change or idea is unworkable, but simply because others can't "think outside the box."

Receptionist: "I don't know why the boss won't let me work from home. He just refuses to think outside the box." (Yes, our receptionist actually said this!)


It sounds like an apology, but really is a subtle way of conveying disgust or feigned pity. Kay calls this the NON-APOLOGY, APOLOGY.

"I'm sorry you feel that way."

The victim may well only hear the coveted words "I'm sorry" and not get it for a few moments.

"I am really terribly sorry and want to apologize for your position on this matter."

From Jenna Gordon


Disarm your conversational opponent by bringing up any other views they hold or facts about their life that have nothing to do with the subject at hand and ask them to reconcile the two.

"So you're in favor of the death penalty, that's your position? Didn't you say you had government loans in college? How can you possibly justify your position as a recipient of educational loans?"

Of course, if they express a disbelief that one has anything to do with the other, you must reply that someone who doesn't understand his/her relation to the "collective" shouldn't be arguing for any policy.


Pretend to agree, with a wink and a nudge, when you obviously don't as way to give a shallow compliment, to curry favor, or as a negotiation tactic. This is maddening, as it shows that you think the other person's case is poor, but that you will patronize them in your magnanimity. The implication is that the other person is a bimbo and not worthy of arguing with.

"Hey, I mean, I'm so nuts about you I'd believe the earth was flat..."

"You're so gorgeous you could talk me into any one of your crazy theories."

From Jay Michael Taylor


If someone uses a word such as "could", "should", or "would", point out that the conditional tense is being used. This allows one to attack the conditions upon which the question is based rather than answer the question.

["What would you do if ...?"]

"What I WOULD do depends entirely upon the context or conditions involved. I can't sit here and give you a valid answer without knowing the complete context. YOU might be able to justify conclusions using biased or one-sided information, but I prefer to know the whole story.

From Lars Hjalmarsson


"Yeah, RIGHT! And the earth is flat (water is dry, winter is hot etc.)!"

"And I suppose that birds have lips!" (Deep sigh, rest head in hands, shake head, etc.)

Variant: "Yes, yes, yes; and water is wet." (To imply that point is banal.)


A variation of the DESCRIBE THE ANSWER technique that is used in the event that you are asked a question that you should, but do not know the answer to. AKA the "SHIRLEY YOU KNOW" (sic) ploy.

["What kind of baliwick is this?"] "Surely you know... the answer to that." (Look at the other person as if thinking "I never realized he/she was that stupid.")

It is hoped that the other person will just shrug and move on. If he/she responds with: "I really don't know, won't you tell me?" then shift into giving pedantic clues. "Notice the form of the gizmos, and observe the structure of the bobulates..." in a professorial tone, as if tutoring a child in basic classification skills. End with:

"You really don't understand this, do you?" (Look very disappointed.) "Perhaps George (or other third party, dictionary, etc.) can explain it to you later."

From Christine Mencken


Someone is making a point and making it well. Ask them sympathetic questions you know they'll agree with. Little by little, twist the focus of the questions into something completely different from what they were originally saying, always making sure to allow them to do most of talking. By the time you ask them the last question, they will have slipped their unwitting little neck into the noose of words you just created for them.

[Barney is a great show for kids. I really love how he keeps the kids occupied while I start dinner] "Really? I've noticed that my niece will sit quietly for hours watching him. Your kids too?" [Oh, it's a blessing. Sometimes I think I could just leave them alone without a babysitter.] "How long will they sit there?" (etc.) until .... "So, leaving the educational and emotional needs of your children completely in the plush hands of a purple dinosaur while you take a break from PARENTING is perfectly okay, then?"

From David Delibato


After goading the other person with such tactics, they should eventually whip themselves up into frenzied, loud speech in a vain attempt to make their point. What a great opportunity to put your index finger up to your lips and administer a long, drawn-out "Shhhh". This requires a bit of facial caricature best rendered when your eyebrows are knit in feigned disappointment in your opponent's irrationality. Conversely, your lips reveal a slight smirk while shushing the other person to silence. Drive them completely off the edge when you extend your finger to their lips, continuing to hush them.

From Jake Lodwick


A variation of the THE PATRONIZING "HUSH" technique which intends to provoke a person further by prodding them with commands they are not likely to relish being given. The tone is abjectly condescending. Pauses and general slowness are key.

"Whoah, there! Just C A L M... D O W N... (Put hand up at 25 degree angle, as in "back down.") ["I AM PERFECTLY CALM!!!"] "No you're not! Look at you! Just R E..... L A X...."

"Just... Just take a deep breath, now. Breathe in..."


To be executed about 3 seconds before the speaker's conclusion; the perpetrator uses some disrespectful phrase to dismiss with utmost contempt and sarcasm, and then walks away with a victorious attitude.


"Yeah, right!"

"Fine. Now that that is over..."

(To someone else not listening:) "Let me know when he is finished, will you?"

From Emily Brecade


Throw in big words that cut down the other person into conversation, using them like compliments. Make sure to say them with a big smile and enough inflection and sweetness in your voice so the person thinks you're giving them praise. This works especially well coming from a person with a known large vocabulary to another person with a not-so-large vocabulary.

"How insipid of you!"

"That's very recalcitrant ..."

"Your points today are quite vapid, as usual!"

"How typically scatological of you."

From Aaron Leitch


In online discussions groups, the tactic is to utterly ignore an answer that your opponent has given to one of your challenges, especially if their answer is obviously correct and proves you wrong. Continue with your point and even restate the challenge itself, accusing the person of not having an answer at all.

Repeat this often, forcing him to explain the same point over and over and OVER ... until he simply hits a boiling point. The trick here (at least with public e-mail lists or forums) is to remember that other people are watching this, but are not necessarily keeping up with the details. You have to take the chance that they have not seen, or do not particularly remember, his original responses to the question. Then, when he finally explodes, he has totally discredited himself. After all, if he were right, he would just answer your question and not throw a little tantrum over it.

The only way to fail at this maneuver is if your opponent saved the original response, and cuts and pastes it. Then you have to resort to another tactic to get out of that one. But even this "proof" can be ignored, and the process repeated endlessly.

Another one from Kevin Krom


By pointing out a possible source, real or imagined, you can make it seem as if the other person can't think for themselves. This technique works even better if the supposed "source" of the other person's opinion is controversial, much like the NAME IT tactic. The utility of this is to avoid the point entirely and subtly imply that such a derivative idea (whether this is true or not is of no consequence) is WRONG BY ASSOCIATION, an alternate name for this technique.

"Really now, Cindy, all you're doing is spouting liberal dogma. I'm trying to make a real point here ...."

"I'll bet you heard that on Rush Limbaugh!"

"You got that off of the INTERNET, didn't you?"

From Kate Smith


This tactic works with one's sweetheart. Instead of continuing a debate, the person (generally the one in the wrong) becomes physically affectionate to end the discussion. This can halt the conversation for minutes, hours, perhaps forever.

["Let's get back to the salient point here..."] "Shhhh..." (with seductive glance and finger placed gently against the other person's lips.)

["So you can see that it is illogical to say that..."] (Proceed to embrace, kiss, and so on to passionately drown the discussion.)

From Elizabeth Ligon


From her college students, real life actual statements ...

"I was absent because I wasn't here."

"If you didn't start class on time, I wouldn't be late."

"I don't know why I have to take reading. I already know how to read. The only thing I don't understand is the words."

"I could pass English if I didn't have to write anything."

"I don't see why you gave me an F for not doing the assignment. I didn't do the assignment because I already knew how to do it."

"I don't see why I have to take developmental math. I know how to add and subtract and multiply and divide; I just don't know when to do it."

How NOT to Talk

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