Sometimes people use being mean to sound right. (Intentionally or unintentionally).
When you’re afraid of someone, it can feel dangerous to disagree with them. (Sometimes the danger is real, sometimes it isn’t.)
If you’re afraid to disagree with someone, you might find yourself coming up with a lot of arguments in favor of their position, and feeling like they’re more credible than they really are.
It can be worth noticing you’re afraid, and thinking through whether you’d still agree with them if you weren’t afraid.
- Susan (in a mean, not-quite yelling tone): Implausible hounds are real! I can’t believe anyone thinks they’re not. I’m glad all my friends get it.
- Susan’s friend Bob isn’t sure whether or not implausible hounds exist, but doesn’t want to get yelled at, doesn’t want Susan to stop respecting him, and doesn’t want to be a bad friend
- So Bob might ignore his doubts about implausible hounds and try to convince himself that they definitely exist by ignoring all the arguments he can think of that implausible hounds are implausible.
This can happen subconsciously, so it’s worth trying to notice when it’s happening:
- If someone is saying something forcefully
- And you find yourself agreeing
- And you feel really bad about agreeing
- Or you feel really bad about doubting them
- It’s worth asking yourself whether you’re agreeing out of fear, and whether you’d agree with them if you weren’t afraid
This can happen for other reasons; sometimes learning a new thing can feel bad (eg: if you realize you were being a jerk). It’s worth considering whether you’re agreeing out of fear, and also worth being open to the possibility that you’re agreeing because you’re actually convinced. It always takes thought to figure out which it is.
Short version: When people are mean or scary; it can make their arguments seem better than they really are. If you’re afraid, feeling awful after agreeing with something, or feeling awful about doubting someone, it’s a sign that you might be agreeing out of fear rather than having been persuaded. When that happens, it’s worth pausing to think through things and figure out whether you’re agreeing out of fear, or agreeing because you’ve actually been persuaded.