I thought about an earlier post entitled Unfathomable Versions recently because I dealt with a situation that was very much the same as what inspired that post. I had an online discussion with someone who I know is reasonably well educated and intellectual. His ideas and points are rooted in rationality, but his compassionless and demeaning approach toward people who disagree with him on a variety of subjects is impossible to avoid.
Unfortunately, the more patient you try to be with these personalities, the more opportunities you give them to do exactly what it is that they do. With people who choose, or perhaps are simply doomed to be this way, the discussion, more often than not, will turn into two arguments. The first is the argument they are having with you to get you to agree with them across the board. They insist on nothing but absolute forfeiture of any deviation from the way they feel or think. The other argument is the one in which you are pushing for them to be respectful and decent to people who disagree with them.
Should you push back with the type of aggression they brought to the conversation from the start (most likely in a passive-aggressive manner to goad you into this banal battle because they so desperately need interaction, and this is the only way they have left to get someone to have a conversation with them) the aggressive nature of the conversation will now be pinned on you.
Gaslighting is the popular terminology. When dealing with individuals who are stuck in this loop, people who know no other way of interacting, the battle becomes one of you attempting to retain any shred of respect for them. Unfortunately, for both people, it’s highly unlikely. Eventually, and perhaps after a great deal of torture for the strongest willed and most caring, you will tire of your efforts and cut these people out of your life. I’ve paid attention when these situations have happened. It seems that these tendencies are rarely isolated. If you check into these unfortunate souls, you will see that there is often a pattern. They drive even the most patient of individuals out of their lives, including those who very much agree with their ideas and opinions.
You see, being right makes you no less of an asshole. It doesn’t matter how intelligent or well-read or how easily you figure things out, or how revered you are for your intellect if you haven’t learned that it’s more important to be kind. Until you do, you are simply dumb and emotionally inept. And you will be alone, and you will be as right as anyone who has no one to disagree with them.
I remember writing the original piece due to the last conversation I had similar to this sad situation. It’s much shorter than the explanation I’ve just given you, it’s possibly a bit redundant at this point, and this whole thing could probably be easily summed up by saying Just don’t be an asshole, but here is the original post, Unfathomable Versions.
How much you know or learn is not a measure of your depth.
Depth resides in remembering and empathizing with who and how you were before you knew what you now know—before you learned how valid or invalid what you believed is. And doing so while giving the same respect to the limitless versions of what you could have been or could never be. What you know is simply not as important as your willingness to understand the things that you do not.