The answer to "How dare you?"

I hate "How dare you?" I hate it so much.

How dare you is a meaningless bit of outrage. Argumentative spittle. A waste of three words. A ridiculous rhetorical question designed to express overdramatized personal outrage.

We must stop "How dare you?" in its tracks. Bring it to an end. Remove it from the lexicon.

When faced with, "How dare you?" your response must always be to answer this stupid question. 

Something like this:

"How dare I? I'd hardly call what I said daring. I'd characterize it more as a valid argument contain vast amounts of truth and wisdom. How dare I? Who even says that? Who relies upon rhetorical questions of such little meaning to make their point? How dare I? I dare with the strength and conviction of a person who knows he is right and is fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. That is how I dare. Now perhaps you could say something of substance and meaning rather than spitting rhetorical drivel."

Maybe not exactly that, because it's a lot, but something like it.

In the case of Kellyanne Conway, a simple, "How dare I? I dare because children are at stake, and I am a journalists whose job it is to ask hard questions and point out bigotry, intolerance, and cruelty wherever I see it. I dare because it's my job to be daring." 

I would've loved that so much. 

So practice. Prepare yourself for verbal combat. Be ready to fire off a response when faced with this stupid bit of rhetoric. I've had the great pleasure of pulling off a "How dare you" rant more than once (including a college classroom once in the midst of a debate), and it is truly a glorious thing.  

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 11.44.31 AM.png

Verbal sparring: Don't allow your opponent (Trump) prescribe beliefs to you

A bit of advice to all of the journalists and news anchors who are interviewing Donald Trump (or any other politician):

When Trump says makes a wildly false assertion and then adds, "I know it. You know it. Everyone knows it," it's perfectly acceptable and even advisable to say something like:

"Actually, Mr. President, I don't know it. And I know a lot of people who also don't know it."

Trump uses this amateurish tactic with journalists constantly, and I have yet to hear a single one challenge his assertion. I assume that it's because they don't want to derail their interview by provoking Trump to anger or placing themselves at the center of the conversation, but you can't simply allow the subject of your interview to push his beliefs onto you and then use those supposedly shared beliefs to defend himself.  

Please, journalists. Push back. Most of the time, you don't "know it." No one except Trump knows it. Don't allow him to normalize his lies by allowing him to pin them upon you as well. 

Verbal sparring: Never tell someone to do something that they can ignore

As a result of my outspoken opposition to Donald Trump, I am frequently attacked online by trolls who disagree with my positions.

When I say trolls, I don't mean the people who support Trump and respond to me in thoughtful, measured ways. I'm talking about the people whose emails, Facebook messages, and tweets are laced with insults, hate, and meaningless stupidity. 

For those folks, I'd like to offer a small bit of rhetorical advice:

When you respond to someone who you oppose or whose comments and opinions run counter to your own, don't fire off a command that can easily be ignored or even laughed at and mocked. You end up looking weak, stupid, and lacking any foresight.

For example, if you tell me to "Move to Canada!" or "Shut your mouth!" I can simply reply, "No." 

Or...

"No, thanks." 
"Who made you King?"
"Make me." 
"You've obviously mistaken me for a robot."
"Bite me."

Issuing a command absent any authority to enforce it is rhetorically ineffectual and almost always backs you into a corner. What do you say after I respond with, "No?"

Yes?
Please?
Pretty please?

You probably change course, at which point I highlight your change of course and hang onto it like a dog to a bone, continually reminding you of your weakness and stupidity.

If you haven't thought about the range of responses to your verbal assault, you're not even playing the game. You might as well be poking the dirt with a stick. 

Oh, and while you're at it, the name calling is just as stupid. Snowflake, libtard, and cuck are all popular amongst the trolling knuckle draggers these days, but every time someone calls me one of these names, I can't help but think, "Really? You called me a name? I stopped caring about names in middle school."

Why waste time and energy on something so meaningless and ineffective? You'd be better off blowing soap bubbles in my general direction. They would do more damage than your stupid names.

Of course, the best part of these verbal attacks is the way I ignore them. No response is so much better than any response for these pathetic trolls, and this is what I do today. There was a time when I enjoyed firing back at these cretins, but I quickly learned that I have much better ways to spend my time.

Besides, ignore the trolls, and they remain trapped under their pitiful little bridges, unable to glimpse even a bit of the sunlight that I enjoy. 

Four pieces of debate advice for Hillary Clinton. Someone please pass this post onto her people.

It demonstrates Trump-level hubris to suppose that I might have something to say about Hillary Clinton's performance during the debate last night, but at the risk of sounding a little too certain of myself, I have a few notes for Clinton that I think would help a lot.

And while I'm sure that she has incredibly skilled experts working with her, I have spent much of my life preparing for arguments like these. I have been debating lunatics for years. Going toe-to-toe with anyone who I could find. I started battling my evil stepfather at the tender age of eight and have been battling ever since. 

I've been training for a debate like this for all my life. 

I was also the Connecticut collegiate debate champion two years in a row.

This is something that I do well. 

I've reached out to the Clinton campaign via Twitter with all sincerity, hoping that they will contact me and hear what I have to say, but if not (and it's highly unlikely), here are a few things I would tell her.

I've got more - including things that she did very well that she should continue doing - but these are four of the best pieces of advice I have.

____________________________________

Your website fact-checking idea was a good one. Many people watch television with a laptop in front of them, and this idea creates a second channel, not bound by space or time, for viewers to hear from you. However, when you introduce it - and you should again at the next debate - you must do so forcefully. Say it like you mean it. Last night you made it sound like an after-thought. You actually laughed a little while explaining it. Instead, say this:

"Look, this debate is only 90 minutes long, so there is no way that I am going to be able to refute all of the lies that Donald has told and will undoubtedly continue to tell tonight, so please, go to my website, where we will debunk his lies in realtime. We cannot allow falsehoods to stand when so much is at stake."  

Say that with force. Say it like it is a moral imperative.

____________________________________

Open more your statements with a single word or phrase like "Look" or "Let me explain something to you" or "Make no mistake about it." Even stating the moderator's name, as if you are speaking to him or her, works well. Trump either does this naturally or understands the value of focusing an audience on him. Short, imperative words and phrases like these do that. They command attention. Too often you are easing into your point, slow at the start and gaining momentum throughout. Instead, open with a punch. A single word or phrase that commands the audience's attention and demonstrates authority and the importance of what is to come.  

____________________________________  

When Trump is categorically lying, like when he states that he opposed the Iraq War from the onset, a simple and effective way to dismiss this lie is to turn one of his own tactics against him. Trump loves to imply that everyone is in agreement with him. He uses phrases like, "People tell me..." or "I'm hearing from a lot of people..."

Do the same. Say this:

 "It doesn't matter what Donald says was his initial position on the Iraq War. We all know what the truth is. The American people decided that issue a long time ago."

Not only will this put Trump in opposition with the American people, but it will likely poke the bear, because one of the best ways to hurt an opponent is to use his words or strategies against him. And this is a bear you want to poke. You want to knock him off his game. You want him to get angry. You want him to show his true colors.  

____________________________________

Trump scores points when he talks about your 30 years in office and how much time you've had to fix America but haven't. You must have a rebuttal for this, and the rebuttal is simple and should come in three parts.

Use a different rebuttal each time he brings it up. 

1. State your achievements over the last 30 years.

Say this:

"If Donald is going to blame me for everything that has gone wrong since I entered public office, then I deserve to take the credit for what has gone well."

Then start listing these things. Trump says the country is a disaster. This is your chance to point out all the incredible things that have been achieved while you have been in office. 

2. Trump presents a simplified version of the government. He presents an image of the world in which walls that America doesn't pay for can be built and concessions can be added to international negotiations with ease. He wants people to believe that you could've fixed the world over the last 30 years but didn't. This is the time to expose his inexperience.

Say this:

"Making deals with countries in possession of nuclear weapons or attempting to develop nuclear weapons is not the same as making deals with architects who you then stiff or big banks looking to make a buck on the backs of the American worker. You don't get to declare bankruptcy and start over when dealing with a country like Iran or Russia or North Korea or China. These are not countries that can be pushed around like the painters and builders who you push around daily. But you don't understand that, because while I have been serving America for 30 years, traveling to 112 counties, negotiating complex deals that you would never understand with people you have never met, and sitting in rooms watching and waiting and praying while American troops are risking their lives going after the likes of Osama Bin Laden, you have been dodging income taxes, appearing on reality TV shows, and closing failing casinos. This world is a complex and changing place, Donald. You don't understand that, and you never will." 

Say that, damn it. Just like that.    

3. Make damn sure that you point out that government is a three branch system, and no matter what you want to do, you need Democrats and Republicans to come together to do so. In the last 30 years, we've had Republican Presidents, as well as Senates and Houses controlled by Republicans. Don't let him hang every failure on you.  

Say this:

"This is not a monarchy, Donald. Or a dictatorship. Perhaps you need a lesson on civics. You're not happy with the last eight years of the Obama presidency? Your own party has made it their point to oppose anything that our President has attempted to make happen. They stated this explicitly before he ever came into office. It's a miracle that he's done as much as he has. And when John Boehner attempted to reach across the aisle and make a deal with Democrats and make government work again, your party threw him out."

Not only will this tie Trump to Republican obstructionism, but it will also demonstrate that there are Republicans who are willing to make government work again. Good Republicans who we need in office. Just not Republicans like Donald Trump. 

If you really want to get daring (and you should), you could add:

"I feel bad for my Republican friends. People like ... (list well known Republicans who you can call your friends) who deserve better than this. These are people who have been serving our country for years. People like John McCain who you don't consider a war hero. And now they are tied to a man who calls women pigs and believes that judges can't be impartial because they are of Mexican descent. They deserve better. The country deserves better." 

3 verbal tics that you must stop

These may not seem like big deals, but they are. The world is oftentimes far too uninteresting a place, thanks to the inability to communicate with verve and aplomb.

The wasted words. The lack of vigor. Verbal tics that cause conversations to be grating upon the soul.    

Stop these three things now.

1. Thesis followed by evidence

I heard the perfect example of this on a podcast recently. A woman was discussing cheeseburger preferences when she said, "I don't do any condiments at all on my burger. No catsup. No mustard. No relish. No mayonnaise."

In conversation, we do not require a person's thesis statement to be followed by the supporting evidence. We are not writing a scholarly paper. Either summarize the evidence ("I don't do any condiments") or present the evidence (list the condiments), but please don't do both unless listing them will provoke an emotional response (a laugh, tears, surprise). 

We understand what "no condiments" means. No need to list the condiments, even for emphasis. We get it.

I hear this verbal tic all the time. I hate it so much.  

verbal tick

2. Laughing at your own statements.

If you are funny, other people will routinely laugh at the things you say. With rare exceptions, you are not supposed to laugh at the things you say. Yet this egregious and abrasive tic is surprisingly prevalent in the world. People make a statement and then laugh at that statement all the time. 

There are people who laugh at the end of almost everything they say.

I'm convinced that these people don't even realize that they're doing it, so please don't read this and assume it's not you. It might be. Pay attention to the way you speak. 

If this is you, stop it. We all hate you for it.   

3. Attempting to recall insignificant details at the expense of the momentum of a story.

How often have you been listening to a person tell a story, only to watch that story grind to a inexorable halt when the person telling the story begins to debate a meaningless detail?

Was the woman's name was Sally or Samantha?
Was the town was Bethesda or Barksdale?
Was it 1986 or 1987?

These are details that mean something to the storyteller but nothing to the audience, and when we tell stories, the audience's needs are the only ones that matter.

Stop fussing about details that won't ultimately change the story. Many, many things are required to tell a good story, and pacing is one of them. Making your audience (whether it's one person or one thousand people) feel like your story has energy and momentum is critical to maintaining their attention and ultimately entertaining them.

We don't care if her name was Sally or Samantha. We don't care if it happened in Bethesda or Barksdale. We don't care if it was '86 or '87. 

Just pick one and move on.  

Verbal sparring 101: Comparing apples and oranges makes a whole lot of sense. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The next time someone attempts to counter your argument by claiming that you are making an “apples to oranges” comparison, say this:

Really? Apples and oranges are both similarly sized spherical fruits that grow on trees and weigh about the same. They have about the same number of calories per fruit. With the exception of vitamin E, they contain the same vitamins and minerals. They are two of the most cultivated and consumed fruits in the world. They can both be squeezed into a juice. 

Is it really so ridiculous to be comparing two things that have so much in common? 

image

Whoever decided to first use apples and oranges in this idiom wasn’t thinking straight.

Interestingly enough, it’s an idiom repeated around the world but using different objects. In France, the idiom compares apples to pears, which is even more ridiculous since apples and pears are even more alike than apples and oranges.

In Latin America, the comparison is potatoes to sweet potatoes. Also ridiculous.

Other cultures seem to understand the concept much better. The Serbians, for example, compare toads to grandmothers. The Romanians compare grandmothers to machine guns. And the Polish compare gingerbread to windmills.

The next time someone accuses me of making an apples to oranges comparison, I think I’ll say, “Did you mean a grandmothers to machine guns comparison, because apples and oranges have a hell of a lot in common.”