It’s kind odd that I don’t like direct conflict but I enjoy debate.
I blame my parents. Both my mom and dad taught me to idealize truth and honesty. My dad gave me the debating skills to pick apart any argument and he taught me the love of wisdom. My mom gave me an irritable disposition that leads me to being very upfront with my opinions. Also, my mom gave me a non-intellectual interest in human nature. Combined together, I have an equal ability to analyze both the argument and the person making the argument. Furthermore, my mom gave me a stubborn streak that goes directly with an ability to obsessively think about something for endless hours. To mix metaphors, when something gets caught in my craw I don’t let go until every stone is turned.
But I can’t entirely blame my parents. The MBTI personality type that I am is INFP which is fairly different from my parents’ personalities. INFPs are idealists to the extreme. In a sense, I took too seriously the lessons my parents taught me. If it wasn’t for the fact that I see every side to every argument, I could almost make a good zealot. Sometimes when an INFP gets hold of an issue or idea that they consider of great value, they hold on like pitbulls. We INFPs may look like fluffy teddy bears, but we often have sharp teeth.
My intellectual side is partly a genuine aspect of my identity and is partly learned behavior. I have an inner sense of self that is sensitive and non-rational to an extreme. I live more by imagination than by thought, but it’s thought that I often use to relate to the world. Right or wrong, I tend to use my intellect to justify my existence. I just want the world to make sense. And because of this I’m hard on myself (and everyone else) for failing to make perfect sense. It’s kinda sad, but it’s my life and that is just the way it is.
So, when I’m in an irritable mood or when a value of mine is challenged, I can be a tireless debating opponent. However, I’m usually only aggressive to people who deserve it. I call them like I see them. If someone is being mean-spirited or if someone is flaunting their ignorance, then I’ve been known to clearly point it out to them. As I see it, either discuss intelligently and politely or don’t say anything at all. If you have nothing relevant to add but still feel you must throw in your baseless opinion, then I will tear your view apart until you either shut up or start crying like a little sissy girl. But as long as your comments are minimally relevant and rational, I’m perfectly fine with disagreement. In fact, I love disagreement of the intelligent variety because it means I can learn something new. And when learning something new I’m in a very good mood.
I realize I should be nicer than I am sometimes. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve always valued honesty above almost everything else. I worship at the altar of truth. And if you get in the way of my ideal of truth, I can’t be held responsible for my behavior. Let me just say sorry in advance. If you ever catch me in an irritable and defensive mood, just let me vent and afterwards I’ll quite likely be one of the most warm and understanding people you’ve ever met. As long as you’re willing to be honest and considerate with me, I’ll do the same for you. So, be open and upfront in how you express yourself and I’ll do my best to understand your view. Talk straight with me and don’t play psychological games. There is no point to it. You’re wasting my time and your own.
If all you want to do is argue, I’ll sometimes concede to that way of relating… until I become too emotioanlly drained (which can take a long time as my obsessive persistence usually lasts longer than that of most people). If you want conflict, I can be a worthy debate opponent. Sadly, though, it seems to me that those who seek conflict the most are the very people who aren’t talented debaters. Be argumentative if you must but at least be interesting rather than simply annoying. In particular, I’d rather not deal with the condescending snarkiness of know-it-all intellectual wannabes.
I should add that what I love most in life is seeking and sharing knowledge. When I get obsessed with some idea or topic, I can spend enormous amounts of time doing nothing but research. I dig deep to find every interesting connection and every significant detail.
If I don’t know something, I admit it. But I’m not content to simply admit my ignorance. If it’s important enough to voice an opinion about, then it’s important enough to inform myself about. If you ever find yourself debating me, don’t pretend to know what you don’t actually know. I will check every fact you claim and I will look up precise definitions. I don’t care if you have a college degree and are an expert in your field, don’t try to bullshit me.
Most importantly, don’t present opinions as facts (and the same goes for beliefs). That is just plain wrong in my book. Opinions are fine. I have plenty of my own. Just be humble enough to admit that it’s just an opinion. If you lie to me about a fact or simply talk ignorantly, I will throw it back in your face and will publicly humiliate you with glee. Or if you try to hide your true intentions behind facts and logic, I’ll pick at them like scabs until your motives start to show. Don’t mess with the truth and I won’t mess with you.
All that said, I’m a pretty easygoing guy. You have to be trying hard to get me rattled. Basically, I really really do enjoy a good discussion and I’d rather have a friendly exchange than a heated argument. I get excited about exploring new possibilities and I’m happy as can be when I meet someone who knows something I don’t. As I see it, the quest for truth is an endless quest because truth is a mystery best understood in terms of questions rather than conclusions. If like me you are a lover of truth, then we shall get along like best pals.