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Become Personal, Insulting, Rude

 

Techniques General persuasion > The Art of Being Right > Become Personal, Insulting, Rude

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

A last trick is to become personal, insulting, rude, as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand, and that you are going to come off worst. It consists in passing from the subject of dispute, as from a lost game, to the disputant himself, and in some way attacking his person. It may be called the argumentum ad personam, to distinguish it from the argumentum ad hominem, which passes from the objective discussion of the subject pure and simple to the statements or admissions which your opponent has made in regard to it. But in becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack to his person, by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. It is an appeal from the virtues of the intellect to the virtues of the body, or to mere animalism. This is a very popular trick, because every one is able to carry it into effect; and so it is of frequent application. Now the question is, What counter-trick avails for the other party? for if he has recourse to the same rule, there will be blows, or a duel, or an action for slander.

Example

Do you think I'd accept an argument from a known liar? Yes, I can see through your selfish tricks.

Call that an argument? I've seen more reason in a lump of clay.

Don't be stupid, although I know you can't help it. You in over your head, here so why don't you put your little tail between your legs and go home to mamma.

Discussion

Attacking the Person is likely to trigger their fight-or-flight reaction and drive them into an emotionally-charged and weakly-reasoned response. When you have them up in the air, you can then redirect them in whatever direction you choose.

A personal attack also distracts them from their train of thought, encouraging them to defend their character instead of pursuing their argument.

Be careful with this, though, as an insulted person can sustain a grudge for a long period, particularly if they were embarrassed in front of other people. 

'Become Personal, Insulting, Rude' is the thirty-eighth of Schopenhauer's stratagems.

See also

Attack the Person, Distraction principle

 

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