The Verbal Cheap Shot Artist Part 6: Jedi Mind Tricks

This is part six of a 12 week series where, on Mondays, I plan to explore the tactics of verbal cheap shot artists – people who can’t, or won’t use valid arguments to present their case, but instead resort to verbal cheap shots. To make sure you don’t miss a single article, be sure and sign up for my RSS feed or subscribe by email (both are free!) so you can get a new article each day! Check out my other articles in the Verbal Cheap Shots category.

Don’t know what Jedi Mind Tricks are?

Elan: “You wanna buy some death sticks?”
Obi-Wan: “You don’t want to sell me death sticks.”
Elan: “Uh, I don’t wanna sell you death sticks.”
Obi-Wan: “You want to go home and rethink your life.”
Elan: “I wanna go home and rethink my life”
— Elan Sel’Sabagno and Obi-Wan Kenobi

In Star Wars mythology, Jedi’s were able to impose thoughts into the weak minded. Today’s verbal cheap shot artist tries to do the same thing, but in a different way. By using words that redirect the conversation, the verbal cheap shot artist buys time to think, or to alter the conversation entirely.

For example, instead of dealing with a comment or question directly, the verbal cheap shot artist will try to focus on some insignificant detail to evade the issue or buy time to think.

  • “Are you qualified to even be asking that question?”
  • “Can you define just exactly what you mean by [fill in the blank]?”
  • “Your sentence ended with a preposition. Do you even understand English?”
  • “Tell me what you mean because what you said makes no sense.”

The essence of Jedi Mind Tricks is to nit-pick (as in the above examples), throw you off balance, label you as a “feeler” rather than a “thinker,” or to outright deny a valid conclusion.

The Off Balance Attack:

  • “Didn’t we have this same argument just before your fifth boyfriend in a row dumped you?”
  • “You DO care about your family don’t you?”
  • “Why are you so unhappy all the time?”

The “Keep your emotions in check – or not” Attack:

  • “Your cold, analytical approach doesn’t take into account the need for compassion.”
  • “Your emotional involvement prevents you from seeing things objectively.”
  • “You keep saying ‘feel’ instead of ‘think’. If you are feeling instead of thinking, I won’t be able to convince you with reason.”

The Outright Denial Attack:

  • “I have noticed that those who disagree with me tend to be [rabble rousers, trouble-makers, unsophisticated, rednecks, etc]and those who quickly recognize the truth of what I’m saying are more [informed, educated, enlightened].”
  • “How can you POSSIBLY question such an obvious point?”
  • “You can’t REALLY expect me to believe that, can you?”
  • “Honestly, how can you know what you know beyond a shadow of a doubt?”

All of these tactics have the same effect: they divert attention from your valid point and away from the argument. Your response, either internally to yourself or verbally is, “That isn’t the point! Can we stay on track here?”

Don’t let yourself fall for the Jedi Mind Tricks that verbal cheap shot artists employ. Their tactics are to throw you off balance and alter the conversation or argument to suite their needs.

Stay on track and force them to stay on track!

What other tactics have you experienced?

Technorati Tags: verbal cheap shots,,verbal fallacies

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