Conversational Terrorism

Last mod. Mon Mar 25 15:22:44 EST 2002

First, we have the Ad Hominem Variants where you attack the person as a way to avoid truth, science or logic which might otherwise prove you wrong.

Next are the Sleight of Mind Fallacies, which act as "mental magic" to make sure the unwanted subject disappears.

Then we move on to Delay Tactics, which are subtle means to buy time when put on the spot.

Then the ever popular Question as Opportunity ploys, where any question can be deftly averted.

Finally, we have the General Irritants, which are basically "below the belt" punches and cheap-shots.

Other miscellaneous techniques.

Ad Hominem Variants


"I'd like to respond to that, but taking into account your background, education, and intelligence, I am quite sure that you would not be able to understand."


"My next point will be so cogent that even you will be able to understand it."

"Even you should be able to grasp the next point."


"I used to think that way when I was your age."

"As you mature emotionally (or mentally, or spiritually), you will grow out of your present way of thinking, and you will eventually come around to my point of view"

"You're new here, aren't you?"


Instead of proving a point true or false, this technique tries to imply that the individual's desires have led him/her astray without dealing with the merits of the issue itself. (C.S. Lewis termed this "Bulverism".) Any strong desire can be shown to have tainted a conclusion or clouded objectivity, which cast in doubt the legitimacy of a point. This is very close to the classic ad hominem fallacy - "you say that because you are a man".
"You support capital punishment because of a deep-rooted death wish common among those who have suffered emotional traumas during childhood."

"You oppose capital punishment because of an irrational suppressed death taboo common among those who have suffered emotional trauma during childhood."

"You weren't breast fed as a child, were you?"


Make it seem as if the other person is attacking you rather than making a simple point or correction, if you suspect that the other party is right. Rather than staying on the subject, begin to act hurt - as if you have been viciously attacked as a human being - rather than admit you are wrong, or could do better, etc. in some particular. That will teach them to keep quiet about such things in the future, no? Also known as the ESCALATION PLOY.
"I can't do anything right..."

"I suppose in your eyes I am just a total failure."

["I think the reason people are honking and gesticulating at you is that the sign says MERGE, not STOP."] "Well, if you think me such a terrible, horrible person..."

Sleight of Mind Fallacies


Instead of dealing with a comment or question directly, the idea here is to focus in on some insignificant detail to evade the issue or buy time to think.
"We need to define just exactly what you mean by _________"

"Your last sentence ended with a preposition. Please restate it properly."


A twisted version of NIT-PICKING, the technique here is to purposely misunderstand some word, phrase, or analogy and shift the focus to it instead of the subject. This ploy will derail the other person into a defense of the word, phrase, or analogy instead of the case at hand.
"You said 'feel' instead of 'think'. If you are feeling instead of thinking, I won't be able to convince you with reason."

"You said this happened five years before Hitler came to power. Why are you so fascinated with Hitler? Are you anti-Semitic?"


This is a marvelous way to come off as nice while saying things that would otherwise be considered rude.
"Have I ever brought up the $523.52 you owe me? Never! Have I ever embarrassed you or made you feel bad over it? Have I ever told you how much I need that money? No, I never have."

"I don't want to spend a lot of time on this, but..." (blah, blah, blah...)

"My dear congregation, I hate to speak of money matters, but (money, money, money...)


The intent here is to throw the other person's competence in doubt while at the same time changing the subject. A question is asked that the other person is not likely to know the answer to, destroying credibility and confidence. To really rub it in, the questioner can give a full answer to his/her own question proving him/herself to have superior knowledge of the subject.
"You mentioned the constitution. Can you quote the preamble for us?"

"Do you realize which of the dialectic principals you've just violated?" [ "No."] "I'd be glad to explain them to you, but (branch to OVER YOUR HEAD)."


"I have observed that those who disagree with me on the next point tend to be unsophisticated, and those who quickly recognize the validity of the point to be more educated. The point is..."

"Of course there is a lot of debate on this subject, but the best scholars believe..."


This technique requires prior knowledge of some embarrassing mistake or painful event in the other person's life. This knowledge can be woven into a comment in a way that agitates the other person without direct reference. A key word or phrase is tossed out like a grenade that embarrasses or humiliates the other person.
"What was it your ex-wife used to say..?"

"Didn't we already have this argument just before you went through the de-tox program?"


A technique where an obvious question is asked, the response to which is driven by common sense or decency. The yes or no response is then implied to mean a COMPLETE AGREEMENT to the asker's point of view.
Family get-together: "Doesn't your family mean anything to you?" ["Well, yes!"] "Then I will see you at 10am..."

Support a political movement: "Do you want communism in America? Is that what you want?"

Join a Health Spa: "Don't you care about your own body?"


A rhetorical ploy to give more emotional force to a point of objection than is appropriate. This requires showmanship and involves risk, but when it works it can be quite effective. It is useful to use exaggerated facial expressions and/or pound an any nearby objects to effectively communicate the over-reaction.
"How DARE you question such an obvious point?"

"Honestly! You can't REALLY expect me to believe that?"


A person will likely be off-center of the ANALYTICAL/EMOTIVE SPECTRUM (an alternate name for this technique) in any heated exchange. By pointing out which side the other person is on, (either side will do) he/she is obliged to defend his/her temperament instead of the case at hand.
"Your cold, analytical approach to this issue doesn't take into account the human element."

"Your emotional involvement with this issue obscures your ability to see things objectively."


If a person is making an imaginative or novel point, the approach here is to push the idea to a radical extreme generally agreed to be bad. The extreme can be either real or imagined. The hope here is that the other person will reflexively back-off and retreat to a defensive position, thus short-circuiting the veracity of the argument.
"So you think we ought to just throw out the whole system, then?"

"How is that different from classic fascism?"

"So you would just like to kill off anyone who disagrees with you, it appears!"


If you can see where the other person's logic is leading, you can make it very difficult along the way by arguing each minute sub-point and example. If the other person can not get past point #1, how will a case ever be made? Most of the techniques listed can be used to achieve this end.
"I don't think we can go on until we establish the scientific validity of that last statement."


This is the opposite of the CUT 'EM OFF AT THE PASS technique. Instead of arguing along the way, agree with all of the sub-points but deny the obvious conclusion. This is very frustrating to the other person because it automatically changes the subject to epistemology (how we know what we know). Generally, the other person will attempt another explanation rather than get into a heavy epistemological discussion, and the technique can simply be repeated.
"I don't see how you figure that."

"I agree with everything you said except the conclusion. It doesn't make any sense to me and I can not accept it. I am trying, but your brain must work much differently than mine."

Delay Tactics

If when put on the spot to answer a question you come up blank, then delay tactics can buy time to dream one up. These tactics are risky, because if you are not able to think of anything clever during the time you buy... you will be pinned even further.


Give descriptive attributes of the eventual answer, then pause as if expecting a response, while thinking of a real answer. When this technique is repeated the other person will appear to be begging you to give an answer.
"Excellent question, and I think the answer will startle you." (Pause, look thoughtfully as if a response is due while thinking up an answer.)

"I think the answer to your last question will clear up your confusion on this subject. (Long pause...) Are you ready?"

"I'm glad you asked. Would you like a long or a short answer?"


Same as above, only here the diversionary shift of focus is on the question.
"This question could only come from the confusion of the ______ mind-set."

"That is an interesting question coming from you. Interesting, interesting, interesting." (Pause, as if admiring the other person... )

"The question asked, is basically _______, ________, _______." (Re-state the questions in various ways, pausing for approval between each, while thinking up an answer.)


A great lead-in for the technique of WISHFUL THINKING, or a method of delay to give yourself time to think of an answer.
"Why do you ask that?"

"What drives you to make such a statement?"


A complex statement that paralyzes the brain.
"What you inferred is not what you implied."
"Your problem is that you are thinking in a linear versus configurational framework."
"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."


This is a recipe for sophisticated babbling. Ingredients include: philosophic sounding words and sentence structure, unintelligible Latin terms, banal folk wisdom, jargon, catch-phrases, truisms, etc. Sprinkle lightly with a few words that appear to pertain to the subject. This will sound very impressive without really saying anything, and buy time to think of something meaty to say while your lips are flapping. In some circles such machinations can actually be passed off as an answer - or a point!
"In view of the Federal Budget Deficit, civil unrest and international politics, we need to consider that notwithstanding the mitigating circumstances, this country has got to get back on its feet. Don't you agree?"


Echo the question back or ask the other person a similar or difficult question. (This can be a valid technique if not used merely as a delay tactic.)
"What do you think the answer to your question is?"

"How 'bout if I ask you a similar question?"


With a sparkle in your eye, start into a long-winded story which presumes to apply to the subject at hand. Continue until the other person calls your bluff, then act insulted and claim that you are not getting equal time or a fair chance to explain you case. Then, thoroughly offended, drop the cover story and start with the real answer (whatever it was you were able to think of while you were babbling). (Ronald Reagan did this a lot.)
"This reminds me of the time I was in Cucamonga. Let me tell you, it was hot! (Time to think up real answer during dramatic pauses) And we were in a small hotel when a gas leak started. Well! You can imagine how we..."


To give an obvious, over-literal, useless, or pun response to delay with humor.
["What is your first point?"] "My first point is point #1."

[How do you explain the difference between salaries of men and women in this company who are perfoming the exact same jobs?] "I'm not sure, but I think it has to do with gender."

Question As Opportunity

A standard response for politicians is to view any question as an opportunity to say whatever they want. The "answer" does not have to have anything to do with the "question" asked. This practice has all but killed the utility of debate and dialog in politics, and unhappily it is spreading to other areas of life as well. Following are some inconspicuous (to the uninitiated) techniques that allow a deft shift from the question subject to the desired subject.


Deny that the issue is limited to the question at hand. Redefine the issue to your favorite topic.
"It is not a question of (this) or (that), but rather it is an issue of (whatever it is you want to say.)"

["Are you for or against capital punishment?"] "I don't think the issue is being for or against capital punishment, the real issue facing our country is the federal budget deficit. I propose that we... "


Acknowledges the issue and quickly change to a new subject.
"X is certainly one topic that could be discussed, but Y is another..."

"Well, my track record is certainly one issue, but this month's agenda is another. Do you know that in the next five days..."

General Cheap Shot Tactics & Irritants


"Take this example: suppose you were a person who was incredibly stupid but was trying to come off as intelligent. What would the proper response be if you were me?"

"Let's just say that we knew for sure that you were a sexual pervert..."


"Why, that is a brilliant question coming from you!"

"You're looking less repulsive than usual today."

"Your statement is partially correct."


Active listening is where you parrot back what the other person is saying in order to draw them out and to keep them talking. DISTORTED ACTIVE LISTENING parrots back what the other person is saying, but gets it all wrong, or makes it sound incredibly stupid. Similar to LUNATIC FRINGE.
"If I hear you correctly, your point is... (get it all wrong)."

"It sounds as if you are saying that torturing children is a good idea..."


To the feebleminded, if there is a NAME used as a label for IT, then it must be wrong, even if it isn't. The NAME, now an "proof" of sorts, can be used as a "sledgehammer" if IT comes up again.
"The case you just made was first made by Edgar Sullivan in the late 1800's and was quickly disproved. The 'Sullivan Error' inevitably occurs to people when they first start studying the subject."

"Your line of reasoning is called the MacGregor Phenomenon."

"Why, that's Calvinism!"


A clever and socially acceptable way of denying what someone has said by claiming to know more about what the other person thinks or feels than they do. Believe it or not, this technique is quite commonplace and effective.
"That's a cruel thing to say, and I know you don't mean it."

"You've made that point well, but: (1) I know where your heart is... (2) I sense that you're not comfortable with what you're saying... (3) I know what kind of person you are deep down, and that you cannot continue to hold this position and maintain your integrity."

"Johnny, the reason I can't give you permission to go to the party is because I know that deep in your heart you'd rather spend the time here with me."


To bring up a past event and GET IT ALL WRONG, or even make up a past event. The intent is to get the other person confused, angry, and defensive.
"You never admit defeat. Remember that chess game I beat you in?" (The one you lost...)

"But last week (or a minute ago) you said the opposite! Make up your mind!"

"Remember last time we had an argument and you turned out to be wrong and you wouldn't admit it? Now we are in the same spot we were last time."


When all else is lost, refer to a phony study that supports your case. This is a bet the other person will not call your bluff. Does he/she know for certain the study didn't happen? The usual response is "I have not seen or heard of this study", further discrediting the other person as not doing comprehensive study of available source material.
"Research at UCLA has proven conclusively..."

"I know the idea sounds unorthodox, but the recent study at Harvard has substantiated this view."


The repeated use of an assertion, truism, bad joke, or even physical gesture when used to the point of extreme irritation.
"The customer comes first!" ["But what about our profit?"] "The customer comes first! ["But they don't have any money!"] "The customer... (etc., etc., etc.)"

["What do you think?"] "It's crazy." (wave arms while stating.) ["What is that supposed to mean?"] (wave arms wildly) ["Huh?"] (repeat as necessary.)


"I would like to answer your question directly, but considering your (1) past reactions... (2) ability to cope with the truth... (3) emotional instability... I feel that to do so would be a disservice to you at this time." [Other person gets (justifiably) upset.] "See, what did I tell you. You are flying off the handle already!"


After using any of the previous ploys, point out any physical manifestations of the other person's irritation as further proof that they are wrong.
"You seem to be sweating a lot. Of course I would be too if I had to try to support your flimsy position."

"Why look, your lips are quivering. You have a hard time admitting defeat, don't you?"


Use an actual, fabricated, or hypothetical statement from some universally credible source.
"What would your father say if he could hear you now?"

"As it says in the Bible: 'God helps those who help themselves'."

"If Albert Einstein were here I think he would agree with me. Didn't he once say 'If an idea does not at first seem absurd, it is probably incorrect'?"


If proven wrong or corrected in any way that you do not like, revenge is the answer here. This can be accomplished by throwing a fit, glowering at the person with a death stare, complete withdrawal or pregnant silence, or some other form of dramatic emotional blackmail as manipulation. The idea is to train people not to correct you in the future by making them pay dearly for correcting you now. Also known as the "THAT WILL TEACH YOU" technique.
"If you are going to be that way about it, then... "

"You don't love me...(sob!)"


The technique here is to answer so quickly or in such detail that no one could ever doubt the response.
["Do you really think that anyone else agrees with this crazy idea?"] "52.359% of Americans surveyed agreed."


Pretend that the reason the other person isn't able to agree with you is that they are not listening, or at least not hard enough.
"If you'd just listen you would have heard me the first time when I said that..."

"Since you obviously weren't listening when I said this before, I am forced to repeat myself."


To take an extraordinary amount of time or go to great technical depth to wear out the other person and get time on your side. The other person is pushed to give up and agree with you rather than endure the torture of hearing you go through another sincere, long-winded answer.
"Since you are a true intellectual, I will have to give you a more comprehensive answer than most... Blah, Blah, Blah... (use WORD SALAD technique) "Now that I have answered your point, do you have any other concerns?" (repeat until the other person collapses or gives in.)

Miscellaneous Techniques


A variation of the basic Question as Opportunity ploy is to ask the other party many rapid-fire difficult or time consuming questions... more along your lines of interest - or as a delay tactic similar in effect to the NIT PICKING technique. The questions should be asked in rapid succession so that the victim has no reasonable chance to reply, and will likely forget a few if they (foolishly) take the bait. Any that are neglected can be brought up later as an example of "not being able to answer a question".

"Define truth... Define religion... Define God... Define evil... Define mind... "


With the nose tilted slightly upwards, appear to be disinterested in what the other party has to say: 1) because you "know" what they will say in advance, 2) to make the point via body language that what the other person is saying is essentially uninteresting or boring, or 3) as a bluff to see how far you can go with this rudeness before it is pointed out. Look around, nod with a patronized look on major points as if enduring an idiot, tap the fingers, roll the eyes...


A response based on the premise that everything must somehow relate to me, as I control reality, you see. If you have an opinion, this only makes sense to me if it centers in me or my reaction to it. (Mary calls this the "JUST SAYING THAT" technique.)

"You're just saying that to annoy me."

"Oh, you like to express outrageous opinions just to shock me."

"Well if that's so, how do you account for my feeling that..."


Claim wild elasticity in words... to shift the meaning if caught in a misrepresentation or gaff. (Named by Mary as "WORDS, WORDS, WORDS!")

"You're missing the point! You keep getting hung up on the words without seeing the meaning! Besides, that's not what *I* mean by science."


A variation of I'M NOT SAYING THIS, the idea here is to put words into the mouth of a mythical them.
"Everyone knows that...; People are saying...; Well, they say that...; The other kids...;" etc.


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."

(Or as C S Lewis's "Screwtape" said to a fellow demon: Convince them that since they can't believe in a horned man with a pointy tail in a red suit, therefore they cannot believe in you.)


"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."


"Don't worry, we understand that you are emotionally insecure and have a difficult time admitting you are wrong."

"You seem really upset about this issue, Bill. Is there something in your personal life you would like to talk about?"


Use flexible words like "sometimes", "often", "perhaps", "many", "could be", "in this scenario", etc. and be as vague as possible. Then whatever turns out to be correct that someone else mentions - claim as your own position. Also known as ONE WAY OR THE OTHER or THE CHAMELEON.


Assume the person's input or opinion is of no consequence based on some pretext.

"Since you are always negative, we will not bother responding to your concerns."

"Ignore Joe, he is just 'like that'!"


Subgroup of THE CHEAP SHOT. In response to a political, philosophical, religious, etc. statement that you do not like but cannot refute, switch gears from academic debate to personal attack

"If you approach life like that, you'll never be able to sustain a marriage."

"God, I just wonder how your kids are going turn out."


A variation of the REPEAT OFFENDER gambit, the idea here is just to laugh and laugh and laugh. Sure, this is rude, but laughter is involuntary so it must be the other person's fault for being so silly, right?


A variant of I KNOW BETTER is to convey that not only do you know - deep down - that the other person is wrong, but so do they. Used to imply target is either too emotional, too biased, or too lazy to see the obvious "truth". This can be a great lead in for the I KNOW BETTER technique, as the resultant dumbfounded stare of the victom can be taken as tacit permission to tell them what you know they know.

"You should know better than that! If we did it your way..."

"If you'd just stop and think about it for a second, you'll realize what a stupid point you just made."

"It's odd you'd say that, since - surely Jim - you know better..."


In the middle of a conversation, preferably in a group, make an irrelevant and subjective personal announcement if you do not like the direction the dialog is going. (Dorothy calls this the UNSOLICITED ANNOUNCEMENT technique.) Similar to the LOOK AT YOU technique, only here it is LOOK AT ME.

"I'm cold. Isn't it cold right here?"

"I'm so hungry! I didn't have breakfast."


Someone is making a salient 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.]

"For 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?"


Suddenly become your opponent's closest buddy through back-slapping affectation. It works as a delaying tactic, and if done with enough charm can also allow for a complete change of topic - sort of like a PIVOT POINT that has no merit except that "we're buds" (even if, or especially if, you are not). Refer to the other person by name - very slowly - and give a knowing look, etc.

"Paul... [long silence - with a smarmy emotional look on your face - to think of an answer]"

"We've known each other a long time... Paul...... and you know that [change of topic]"


In polite society, we have noticed a couple of rather stark code phrases that act as euphemisms that are strikingly common in meaning and general understanding.

"BLESS HIS HEART" (OR HER):  ... means "what a jerk".
"Minnie Bumpfrass called today to check up on me, bless her heart."

... and we all understand what is meant. For a flaming jerk (or worse) we add the ever latent with meaning "LITTLE", as in "...bless her little heart".

"HE MEANS WELL" (OR SHE):   ...translates "avoid like the plague", as complete incompetence is likely in view.
"Minnie Bumpfrass means well, bless her little heart..."


When family or friends have a negative reaction to a parent's choice of name for their child... it would never do to say so, at least directly. Instead, we say things like:

"Well now, THAT'S INTERESTING!"   which means, "You have got to be kidding!"

"ISN'T THAT UNIQUE?"   which translates, "The kid's life is ruined."

"Really? WHAT WILL YOU CALL HIM (OR HER)?" other words, "There is no way you can be serious with THAT name, so what did you REALLY have in mind." (A family we know who named their son Rembrandt got this a lot. They finally came around to retorting with absurd answers like: "Moondoggie!".. in a totally deadpan manner.)

"IS IT A FAMILY NAME?" the ultimate code phrase for disapproval. The gist is, "Such a horrid choice could only be rationalized by family pressure or tradition, else how could you?"


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.

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


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 a 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."


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."


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."


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.


"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."


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.


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?"


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."


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.


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?"


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.)


"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."


Coffeehousing is the act of making distracting noises (i.e. shuffling papers, jingling keys, clumsily rearranging items on your desk) in an effort to distract someone while you are avoiding an answer to their question.

Some material from: VanDruff, Dean & VanDruff, Marshall (1995), Conversational Cheap Shots: How Not To Talk. [Online,]