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I have a close friend who seems to hyper-analyze some things I say and gets upset with things he thinks I didn't give much thought to.

One example is: we were hanging out and talking about card games that involve bluffing, like poker. I said I don't believe in tells that give off when someone is lying, I think much of the stuff about reading other people are overly hyped. My friend seemed to get really worked up and said:

Look. The FBI invests a large amount of money to train their agents on how to detect lies.

And went on for a really long time like this. He spoke in a condescending way.

I didn't mean to start an argument.

How can I get him to stop doing things like this?

I think it's important to address the issue head-on. For example, I got him to stop by saying I was talking more about reading your opponent in card games than police interrogating a suspect, but I think it would have been more to the point if I said: "I'm not interested in debating this topic". I have tried something like that. It feels a bit rude and after leads to an awkward silence. Usually then he starts up a conversation with someone else that doesn't involve me. It feels awkward. I think in his head he may think he's helping me.

A lot of the answers say I should just admit I'm wrong. I don't feel comfortable doing that because it's not honest. I could certainly argue with him, such as saying "just because the FBI are trained in lie detecting, doesn't mean it's accurate in card games" but the whole point is I don't want to go down that path.

Part of the problem is he can be very long-winded about things. I don't get the chance to respond before he goes on his rant. This only happens with this particular friend, and on different topics.

  • 1
    I feel like I have trouble finding a good answer to this, because this seems like a very specific example. I have the impression you guys were talking about something related to the psychology of lying. If that is the case, I feel like pointing out that interrogation is an actual profession is pretty valid and on-topic. I obviously cant tell if he was condescending or not. Would you mind sharing another example? – AK_is_curious Sep 5 at 15:55
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54

I live with someone who often tells me that I'm completely wrong but if I push back and say I am in fact right, says things like "I didn't really intend anyone to take that seriously" or "it was just a throwaway comment" or "I didn't mean to start an argument." I find it intensely frustrating. And you want the other person to stop reacting to what you say when you say these things?

Ok, here is what would stop me proving I am right to someone who just said "I don't believe in" the thing I was just talking about and that's it "overhyped." Try saying:

Oh good point. I didn't put a lot of thought into this. I think you're right.

Really simple. Stop defending your throwaway nonserious statements as though they were wedding vows and let the other person be right.

If you can't do that then try:

I think you're right in general. The FBI is a good point. I do think it's overhyped for casual card players, but I made a too-general statement and you're right.

If you can't do that either, then please revisit your opinion about which of the two of you is too worked up about the topic and the rightness of positions. What I mean is, this whole "oh I wasn't serious, I don't want to argue about it, it was just a throwaway" is incompatible with not wanting your friend to do anything beyond just accepting that you said "you're wrong" and didn't even back it up with anything. You describe yourself as using very strong "you're wrong" like "bs" but you can't use mild "I might have been partially wrong" because it's dishonest. Perhaps your friend feels that way too?

If you truly honestly feel that something your friend said is totally and utterly wrong and it's important to teach your friend this fact, then have that conversation, including listening to and rebutting your friend's defense of their position. But if the whole thing is no big deal to you and you don't even care and the last thing you want is to discuss the truth of the matter, then why did you take the time to tell your friend something they believe is "bs"? Nobody asked you if lie detection was real or not. Nobody checked in with you if it was ok to believe it. You can think a person is wrong and not say they are wrong. If you're not enjoying a conversation because it involves listening to someone be wrong, you don't have to tell them they're wrong, you can just change the subject.

I don't know about this tells stuff; what I think is interesting is the stats (or card counting, or using the same strategies with big money on the line as you do playing for matchsticks, or basically anything you find interesting about poker that isn't the thing your friend is wrong about.] I wonder how long it takes to get good at that part.

Unlike "I'm not interested in debating" this offers an alternative topic. It doesn't involve rejecting what the person was saying before or telling them they are wrong, which will make many people immediately tell you they aren't wrong (quickly agreeing that you're wrong is as unpleasant for your friend as it is for you.) It keeps the conversation going.

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    Could you please clarify, do you beleive that if a person is not willing to be a bit disingenuous for the sake of a relationship, they should revisit their opinion? – Andrew Savinykh Sep 7 at 23:39
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    If the OP is convinced they are 100% right, and can't concede any rightness at all to their friend, then they don't have to revisit their opinion on lie detection or bluffing, but they do need to revisit their opinion on their friend being [the only one who is] "worked up". Clearly their throwaway not serious not to start an argument side comment actually means a lot to them. Which is cool, but own that. Or it doesn't, in which case quit fighting for it so hard. Pick a position. – Kate Gregory Sep 8 at 0:08
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I have a friend with whom I end up passionately discussing stuff quite often, but its usually fun and we both learn a lot. That being said, we both have developed very simple techniques to avoid having a lengthy discussion: Gracefully dropping a topic. A very real conversation we might have could go like this:

You: [Something about not believing in "tells"]
They: Look. The FBI invests a large amount of money to train their agents on how to detect lies.
You: True [or Good Point].

And then the topic is done. You have admitted the other site has a point, but by not responding further have indicated that you aren't interested in a discussion. If the other side brings another argument, just repeat the same thing one more time. They'll quickly pick up that you aren't going to engage in the discussion and drop it. At the same time, you haven't indicated you were wrong (if such a thing is important to you) and can go back to the discussion at some later point without having lost face (if you wish to do so). Personally, I would not admit to being wrong just for the sake of stopping a discussion, because I simply am not the submissive type and would not want to be seen that way.

Another thing to keep in mind:

I didn't mean to start an argument.

Another great technique for avoiding an argument is not bringing up a topic in the first place. If you make controversial statements, it is quite likely someone will disagree with you and start a discussion. In the case of poker and tells, it is a popular opinion that there are such tells, and you saying you do not think so is a statement that practically invites a discussion. Avoiding controversial statements if you do not wish to have a discussion about some topic is the best way to not have a discussion.

16

If you don't care about debating the subject, don't want to start an argument, and are only interested in stopping your friend, then there's a pretty simple solution.

Just admit you were wrong.

If you know ahead of time that you don't actually care, and aren't invested, then you can block this off right when it starts. As soon as he raises his hackles and gets ready for a fight, just give him a friendly smile and shrug. Apologize, and explain that he probably knows more about it than you.

You: "I think lie detection techniques are kinda bs though, honestly"
Him: "That's absurd, the FBI spends SO much on lie detection professionally"
You: "Ah... that's a good point, I hadn't really looked into it at all, sorry."

If you're willing to be open and attentive, you might even learn something and establish a healthy, cooperative, knowledge-based relationship with your friend.

For what it's worth, this technique is exactly what my friends and I use with each other, and we haven't had a serious argument in decades because we're working together to try and identify the correct answer, rather than fighting each other.

5

One approach:

Be more specific, restricting your statements to something that's closer to what you mean.  (And that you are ready to stand by.)

So instead of:

“I don't believe in ‘tells’ that give off when someone is lying.  I think much of the stuff about reading other people is overly hyped.”

“Look.  The FBI invests a large amount of money to train their agents on how to detect lies.”

It might go more like:

“I don't believe most poker players can read each other's ‘tells’ to see when they're lying.  There's lots of stuff about reading other people, but it seems overly hyped.”

“Hmm.  The FBI invests a large amount of money to train their agents on how to detect lies, so it certainly seems possible.  But maybe not so much in poker.”

(OK, that's an exaggerated example, but I hope you get the idea!)

The real problem here seems to be that both your friend and yourself are making this adversarial, about one person being ‘right’ and the other being ‘wrong’ — instead of being about sharing knowledge and ideas.

You can't change your friend's attitude, of course, but you can make it much less of a problem if you can change yours and let him be ‘right’, as other answers suggest.  It can be galling, but the discomfort should be over quickly as it ends the argument and lets you both move on.

Another way around that might be to ask open questions instead of making assertions, e.g.:

Do you think most poker players can read each other's ‘tells’ to see when they're lying?

You can then see how your friend reacts, and take it further or not as you wish.

  • Thanks I think this answer is very applicable to the situation. Re: the paragraph about "both your friend and yourself are making this adversarial" I notice this happens and don't understand why. The same day we had a different opinion on another topic and had a enjoyable exchange of different views. I don't get why, in situations like this one, it feels like we're fighting. – user24255 Sep 7 at 20:29
3

You call this person a "friend". My friends and I are all very opinionated, and all speak our truths when we disagree with something that is said. We are similar to your friend.

This fact, however, does not mean that we have arguments with each other. We like seeing our differences. They are what makes us unique. It is non-threatening to be interested in what our friends' opinions are.

Perhaps you could get your friend to stop going on about something by acknowledging that you hear where he is coming from. I think you will find, more often than not, that people tend to go "on for a really long time", when they feel like their personal opinion about something is treated flippantly.

Frustration can come across as condescending when all that is wanted is an acknowledgment and perhaps (as others have suggested):-

"Ah... that's a good point, I hadn't really looked into it at all, sorry." - Onyz

and

"Oh good point. I didn't put a lot of thought into this. I think you're right." - Kate Gregory.

and

"True [or Good Point]." - Polygnome.

2

The situation is as thus: You think you are right, your friend thinks he is right, but you don't want a debate.

In that situation I find that the best solution is to simply say the magic words:

How about we agree to disagree?

Agreeing to disagree is a well known idiom that signals to someone that you don't agree with them but no longer wish to debate the matter, which offers them an easy exit without further embarrasing themselves or causing too much awkard tension or silence.

Ideally you should have another topic lined up ready to prevent a sudden silence. Preferably something you think is less likely to start a debate.

If your friend is particularly argumentative and likely to turn any topic into an argument then in some cases silence may be preferable and you may prefer to not start a new conversation.

If your friend does not take the hint and continues their rant then you may have to be more firm with them and respond with something like:

Honestly, this is getting tedious. Can we find something more interesting to talk about, please?

Hopefully they will get the idea, particularly if you repeat those same words each time such a conversation occurs.

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This is rather annoying friend. My usual solution is to dismiss its knowledge as no longer interesting when he's going too far.

"Ok, [pal/buddy/nerd/geek], whatever/I don't really care"

The main point is to make clear that the conversation is annoying to you. Pushing the subject any longer would look ridiculous, which should stop him in the moment. You'd also be mocking what he probably feel as a quality : his great knowledge about random subjects. By using this method you'll make him understand that it's more like an eccentric trait at best, which could prevent him to continue this behavior in the future

Of course he'll probably feel a little humiliated and/or insulted but you didn't specify anything about this. I'm very conscious that mocking education and culture is not the smartest idea around here but I'm fairly confident in the fact that it can be useful if used wisely.

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    That sounds very rude to me. How well do the other people usualy react to that statement? – Ælis Sep 27 at 17:03
  • Well it is but as I said there wasn't anything about not being rude in the question. This is just a method to make it stop. – GlorfSf Oct 15 at 7:12

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