Posted by: CJ | November 1, 2011

Forgot how easy it is…

I’d forgotten that my extreme skepticism will always piss a given person off eventually.

My roommate is upset at me. Apparently because I asked him one too many times to back up a fact he claimed was absolutely, positively true. Based on a long conversation we had, I think I can articulate in more detail why he’s upset.

  • His assumption is conversation is adversarial in nature, not cooperative. He states his position, his supporting facts and arguments, and the other person can do likewise. The key thing–for him–is coming up with clever arguments based on your facts.
  • Having any sort of amicable conversation depends on accepting the other person’s claims, at least in their area of expertise, as true. I.e., don’t fight someone tooth and nail about facts if that someone has a lot more qualifications than you.
  • As such, me asking for sources for his claims, or ‘why, why, why’ until he doesn’t know, shuts down the argument. Making it, apparently, effectively impossible to enjoy or win any argument with me.
  • And he says I do this constantly. Incessantly. (Which I might–I have no idea if I do.)
  • But all of the above is based on his rather overly-rational, after the fact arguments. What I think pissed him off most was that in an argument from the night before, when I rather indelicately told him I simply didn’t trust a claim of his, and wanted a source. He got pretty pissed about that because, as he said (repeatedly), it was based on a composite of 5+ books he read that I wouldn’t be able to find online. And so me asking for sources and then (in his mind) impertinently badgering him with random short explanations I found online seemed rude on multiple levels. Rude because I didn’t trust him, rude because I doubted his expertise, and rude because I tried to counter his expertise with random crap I found online after 20 minutes of googling.

I’m not really sure what to make of all this. I don’t think I really agree with my roommate about the nature of conversation, or that I should just trust him when I don’t. Most of all, I don’t think my opinions are that big a deal. Me not believing what someone says until I’ve seen it myself is hardly unusual for me, nor does it affect anyone beyond me. If I don’t believe him and I’m wrong, that’s my loss. Who cares.

On the flip side, I enjoy talking with my roommate and think its a bad idea to leave a roommate upset with you. But I’m uninterested in discussions where I can’t ask the questions I’m really interested in.

I guess for right now I should just figure that if we start to discuss something where my roommate’s side depends on me taking certain claims of his on faith, I’ll have to politely say I’m no longer interested in the topic and we should find another.

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