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Opinion Editorials

Six rules for effectively arguing any opposing point

Online or offline, humans are programmed to be thoughtful, but not necessarily logical. Remembering six simple rules for arguing can do wonders for discussing any topic with someone whose viewpoint opposes your own, be it a client, a coworker, or an online commenter.

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The rules for arguing

We’ve all created embarrassment for ourselves by parading our ignorance in public. Most of the time we’re convinced the problem resided in the other side’s inability to see the logic in our position. How many times have we realized the error in our logic after we’ve taken positions basically declaring gravity is a myth? This is me raising my hand in shame. Done it — many times. Merely recalling a few of ’em can make me blush a bit.

One of my OldSchool mentors tired of me arguing meritless points, so he laid down a brief set of rules.

  • Answering the other side’s question with a question isn’t allowed — ever.
  • Your answer may challenge the question’s premise, if you believe it’s false.
  • If answering, you must only address the question asked, nothing else. 
  • Label opinion as opinion, not disguised as fact. Otherwise, be as empirical as you can.
  • Never, as in never ever, get personal. You not only show the world your position is weak, you also demonstrate a lack of emotional maturity.
  • If in your judgment, the other side proves its case, smile, you learned something.
As an aside — ever notice those who’d rather argue the earth is flat than learn that we’ve known otherwise for hundreds of years?

Those rules have been a gold mine for me on a few levels. They’re especially valuable when you don’t understand the other side’s logic. I’ve learned to first assume it’s my logic at fault. As a young man, if I didn’t understand their logic, the default was, ‘they’re illogical’, which is silly on its face. Admitting I didn’t understand and asking for clarification works wonders. Duh. Solid questions will either teach you something you didn’t know, or help you undress their logic. Either way, you make progress towards a better understanding of the subject matter. Once I accepted the value of learning I might be incorrect, debating (discussing?) became the conduit to many of those ‘teaching moments’. Learning something new, especially when it simultaneously cures your own ignorance, is what fuels our growth.

A real life example of the rules in action

I was a very involved youth baseball coach when my son was growing up. One day after practice, one of the dads mentioned that Cecil Fielder, a Detroit Tiger, had just inked a huge multi-million, multi-year contract. Some of the kids, knowing this new contract would pay Fielder far more than their local hero and future first ballot Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, were enraged. I embraced the opportunity for a teaching moment.

First, I went over the above rules, to which they agreed, even though many were rollin’ their eyes. I allowed myself the first question.

Me: “Why shouldn’t Fielder get a far higher salary than Tony?”

Them: “Cuz Tony’s batting average is literally more than 100 points higher than Fielder’s!”

Me: “If that’s so, why did the Tigers decide to give him so much more money than Tony?”

Many at this point were sensing a trap, much to their credit. You could see it on their screwed up facial expressions. After all, the owners of a MLB team must be smart, right?

Them: “Don’t know cuz it makes no sense. It’s stoopid. Why did they?!”

Me: “I don’t know for sure, but logic tells me it’s due to the fact he hits so many homers, and knocks in so many runs every year. He knocks in over 100 runs every year.

What do you think the Tigers value more, total runs scored — OR — total number of singles hit?”

Them: “But Tony’s hittin’ over .350!”

Me: “Answer the question.”

Them: “Total runs scored?” (Dripping with teenage sarcasm.)

Me: “Let me come from another direction. How do we know who wins a baseball game?”

Them: “The one with the most runs.”

Lights go on above a buncha teenage heads. What they learned was that yes, .350 hitters are worth a bunch, but those who produce what, you know, wins games? They get paid a BUNCH.

Using the rules in my industry

Using those rules is how I learned what works better in real estate as a brokerage. My initial belief, set in stone, was that those representing nothing but buyers were kings of the real estate road. Then I had The Conversation (calling it a debate would have insulted debaters everywhere).

Though agents specializing in buyer representation can and do earn impressive incomes, listing agents who also take care of buyers do much mo betta. I had to learn this from someone packin’ over a decade as a broker who also happened to own the biggest listing brokerage in town. When I learned the facts, it became painfully obvious I had come to the table clueless in real estate land. It also showed me I was unnecessarily limiting my earning potential. It’s one thing to opt in for a lower income with full knowledge.

It’s quite another to leave money on the table due to ignorance, or worse, cuz you’re somehow emotionally committed to conclusions which are fantasy based.

If I hadn’t been forced into adhering to the aforementioned rules, my emotional, opinion driven attachment to an erroneous belief would’ve remained intact. I would’ve been plowing fields guaranteed to deliver smaller harvests than other available fields.

In business this approach has saved me countless times. We all believe in what we’re convinced are axiomatic principles. We’ve also learned from time to time that some of those beliefs were proven false, by evidence about which we were ignorant.

I propose a new way forward

Finally, how many times have we allowed ourselves to ignore mountains of evidence disproving something we knew was true? How many times have we seen folks personally attack someone simply because their position has been undermined by incontrovertible, documented evidence? When we do that it, not only does it reflect poorly on us, it’s prima facie evidence that we’re outa ammo.

It’s alright to say, “I was wrong, thanks.” Or, “I didn’t realize that was the case.”

Let’s argue our various cases, but in a way allowing both sides, if at all possible, to part ways knowing the truth. Being wrong about something isn’t a big deal. Defending that wrong position in the face of empirical evidence to the contrary makes us dumber than dirt.

Let’s stop doin’ that, OK?

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. JensThomason

    May 24, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Really good article, Interesting and useful, apart from this I am an engineer & yesterday I was reading an article about <a href=”https://jasonhalek.datanetgroup.com”> Jason Halek  </a> . I really feel to share with you guys. I read about him. He was only 10 years old when he started working small jobs in his community and then he started business of soft drink and now he is the successful business man. He owns several oil and gas production companies. Jason Halek is not only the successful business man but also a philanthropist. He established Halek Charities & nonprofit organization dedicated to providing assistance to various humanitarian causes. I really got inspired by him.
     

  2. gregcook01

    May 25, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Jeff, the first rule of arguing: Never argue with idiots, from a distance no one can tell the difference

  3. Ro4RealEstate

    May 26, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Very well written piece, Jeff.  I enjoyed it and will share.

  4. Frugyl

    June 4, 2012 at 8:05 am

    That’s debatable! Ha ha! 🙂

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Why robots freak us out, and what it means for the future of AI

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Robots and humans have a long way to go before the social divide disappears, but research is giving us insight on how to cross the uncanny valley.

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Close of R2D2 toy, an example of robots that we root for, but why?

We hate robots. Ok, wait, back up. We at least think they are more evil than good. Try it yourself – “are robots” in Google nets you evil before good. Megatron has higher SEO than Optimus Prime, and it’s not just because he’s so much cooler. It cuz he evil, cuz. It do be like that.

It’s not even a compliment to call someone robotic; society connotes this to emotionless preprogrammed shells of hideous nothing, empty clankbags that walk and talk and not much else. So, me at a party. Or if you’re a nerd, you’re a robot. (Me at a party once again.)

Let’s start by assuming robots as human-like bipedal machines that are designed with some amount of artificial intelligence, generally designed to fulfill a job to free up humanity from drudgery. All sounds good so far. So why do they creep us out?

There’s a litany of reasons why, best summed up with the concept of the uncanny valley, first coined by roboticist Masahiro Mori (Wow he’s still alive! The robots have not yet won) in 1970. Essentially, we know what a human is and how it looks and behaves against the greater backdrop of life and physics. When this is translated to a synthetic being, we are ok with making a robot look and act like us to a point, where we then notice all the irregularities and differences.

Most of these are minor – unnaturally smooth or rigid movements, light not scattering properly on a surface, eyes that don’t sync up quite right when they blink, and several other tiny details. Lots of theories take over at this point about why this creeps us out. But a blanket way to think about it is that our expectation doesn’t match what we are seeing; the reality we’re presented with is off just enough and this makes us uncomfortable .

Ever stream a show and the audio is a half second off? Makes you really annoyed. Magnify that feeling by a thousand and you’re smack in the middle of the uncanny valley. It’s that unnerving. One possible term for this is abjection, which is what happens the moment before we begin to fear something. Our minds – sensing incompatibility with robots – know this is something else, something other , and faced with no way to categorize this, we crash.

This is why they make good villains in movies – something we don’t understand and given free will and autonomy, potentially imbued with the bias of a creator or capable of forming terrifying conclusions all on its own (humans are a virus). But they also make good heroes, especially if they are cute or funny. Who doesn’t love C3PO? That surprise that they are good delights us. Build in enough appeal to a robot, and we root for them and feel empathy when they are faced with hardships. Do robots dream of electric sheep? Do robots have binary souls? Bits and zeros and ones?

Professor Jaime Banks (Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication) spends a lot of time thinking about how we perceive robots. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic that covers anthropomorphism, artificial intelligence, robot roles within society, trust, inherently measuring virtue versus evil, preconceived notions from entertainment, and numerous topics that cover human-robot interactions.

The world is approaching a future where robots may become commonplace; there are already robot bears in Japan working in the healthcare field. Dressing them up with cute faces and smiles may help, but one jerky movement later and we’ve dropped all suspension.

At some point, we have to make peace with the idea that they will be all over the place. Skynet, GLaDOS in Portal, the trope of your evil twin being a robot that your significant will have to shoot in the middle of your fight, that episode of Futurama where everything was a robot and they rose up against their human masters with wargod washing machines and killer greeting cards, the other Futurama episode where they go to a planet full of human hating murderous robots… We’ve all got some good reasons to fear robots and their coded minds.

But as technology advances, it makes sense to have robots take over menial tasks, perform duties for the needy and sick, and otherwise benefit humanity at large. And so the question we face is how to build that relationship now to help us in the future.

There’s a fine line between making them too humanlike versus too mechanical. Pixar solved the issue of unnerving humanoids in their movies by designing them stylistically – we know they are human and accept that the figure would look odd in real life. We can do the same with robots – enough familiarity to develop an appeal, but not enough to erase the divide between humanity and robot. It may just be a question of time and new generations growing up with robots becoming fixtures of everyday life. I’m down for cyborgs too.

Fearing them might not even be bad, as Banks points out: “…a certain amount of fear can be a useful thing. Fear can make us think critically and carefully and be thoughtful about our interactions, and that would likely help us productively engage a world where robots are key players.”

Also, check out Robot Carnival if you get the chance – specifically the Presence episode of the anthology.

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Opinion Editorials

4 simple tips to ease friction with your boss while working remotely

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Find it challenging to get along with your boss while working from home? Here are a few things you can try to ease the tension.

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Woman stressed over laptop in remote work.

Most people probably feel like their relationship with their boss is fine. If you’re encountering friction with your boss for any reason, though, remote work will often exacerbate it—this is one instance where distance doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Here are a few ways to remove some of that friction without adding to your boss’ overflowing plate.

According to CNN, determining the problem that exists between you and your boss should be your first step. There’s one caveat to consider, however: Your boss’ boundaries. Problem-solving on your own time is fine, but demanding more of your boss’ time—especially when you’re supposed to be working—may compound the issue.

An easy way around this is a low-impact communique—e.g., an email—sent at the beginning or end of the workday. Since that’s a more passive communication style that takes only a minute or two out of your day, it’s less likely to frustrate your boss further.

If ironing out the issue isn’t your prerogative for now, examining your boss’ parameters for success is another place to start. Does your boss prefer to receive multiple updates throughout the day, or do they want one summative report each morning? Do you respect your boss’ preferred communication styles? These are important questions to ask during remote work. If you find yourself reaching out more than necessary, for example, it may be time to cut back.

It can also be difficult to satiate your boss if you don’t know their expectations. If you’re able to speak to them about the expectations regarding a project or task, do it; clarifying the parameters around your work will always help both of you. It is worth noting that some supervisors may expect that you know your way around some types of responsibilities, though, so err on the side of complementing that knowledge rather than asking for comprehensive instructions.

Finally, keep in mind that some bosses simply don’t communicate the same way you do. I’ve personally been blessed with a bevy of nurturing, enthusiastic supervisors, but we’ve all had superiors who refuse to acknowledge our successes and instead focus on our failures. That can be a really tough mentality to work with during remote periods, but knowing that they have a specific communication style that hampers their sociability can help dampen the effects.

As always, communication is key—even if that means doing it a little bit less than you’d like.

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