In the spirit of reason, logic, communication and rationality, I am going to suggest a few reasons why people so often don’t make sense, and what they can do about their sense-less-ness. I refer to the way people engage in conversations, debates, critiques and other interactions with people where they’re trying to say something, but in fact say something else – or even worse, are trying to say something that really has nothing to do with the topic or context of the conversation.
There are several root causes for the dreaded disease of sense-less-ness:
- People don’t listen. Many people have the insanely annoying habit of listening only for gaps in the conversation so that they can continue to spew forth their out-of-context agenda at any cost. These people have no idea what anyone is talking about because they’re not engaged for the purpose of discovery or learning anything, but rather to give… and give… generously from their never-depleting resource of knowledge and oracle-like opinions. There are others in this category who simply don’t have time to both listen AND speak, so they err on the side of speaking. And then there are others still who can’t listen to you if they don’t like you – so the more offended they get, the less they hear anything you may have to say. You will never make sense until you learn to listen.
People don’t understand or care about the rules of rational argument. This is my personal favorite! I can still handle someone who may not understand that they have broken three rules of logic in one sentence because they simply don’t have a clue what logic is or how to use it, but when someone who understands logic, insists on being illogical, for manipulative and bullying effect, I tend to lose my sense of humor. The following are NOT reasonable or logical arguments:
- “Because I say so!”
- “It must be true because I read it in a book”
- “I’m fond of carrots. Some cakes have carrots in them – so I love cakes”
- “Zulus are taxi drivers”
It’s one thing for someone to get their argument muddled up in the heat of verbal dialogue – not everyone thinks quick on their feet – but there’s no excuse for sending an illogical email or letter which you’ve had time to think through and double check with a colleague for instance. Logic takes practice, and I have a strong conviction that all children should be taught logic and rational debating skills at school in their language classes, especially because so many kids drop mathematics as a subject in grade 10.
- People are dominated by their right or left brain. Not all systematic and logical people (left brained) make sense – mainly because they often lack in the emotional and people skills department. Often discussions only make sense in the context of both feeling (right brain) and fact (left brain). For instance, an emotional wife says something like “My whole world is crashing around me!!” Her left brained husband says “Don’t talk rubbish!” Of course, from a purely logical point of view he is correct in his assessment that his wife may be overstating the case, but he’s not connecting with the emotional truth that she feels as though she’s about to be crushed by a heavy weight. Her statement makes more ‘sense’ than his in the context of what is being discussed. Equally, an entirely right brained person might take every conversation down a rabbit hole of fantasy and feeling and ignore all rules of logic. To be truly good at problem solving you need to develop both sides of your brain and also learn to be in tune with irony and sarcasm, as most people don’t usually ‘literally’ say what they mean.
People don’t know the difference between healthy debate and emotional warfare. All points of view that can be argued or defended are merely that – points of view. There are multitudes of people who simply cannot discuss some topics without getting ‘personally offended’, as though the topic defined them, and any disagreement is perceived as an attack on their character. Here are examples of points of view that have such people lashing back with personal attacks and irrationality:
- “I don’t think God exists”
- “Marriage is irrelevant today”
- “Pornography can be healthy”
- “Women should have the right to have an abortion”
- “There’s nothing wrong with being gay – people have the right to have sex with anyone they like”
- “George bush was correct to invade Iraq”
- “The bible is not God’s word. It was written by men”
These are the sorts of topics that cause people to switch off, stop listening and shut down – and they shouldn’t be! It’s 2010 – time to grow up and stop living in the dark ages of cultural and religious censorship.
So what can one do when they discover the early symptoms of sense-less-ness in their lives? Pray… Only kidding! Read – grow your paradigms and vocabulary which are tools for rational discussion. Learn about the language of logic (Philosophy 101). Listen! Listen to hear and understand – not to respond – then your responses will make sense. Grow your general knowledge and sense of the world. Practice – engage in debates on hot topics with people you trust and feel safe with, this will help you practice the techniques of reasonable and rational debate. And finally – don’t take everything personally – have fun talking to people, even when they disagree with you… no wait – ESPECIALLY when they disagree with you!