For three weeks I’ve missed publishing a post. I’ve written them, but I have not published a single one. It might be because they all involve some level of emotional processing based on recent events with protesting, race, or disease. It could also be due to the lack of progress I see with the blog itself. In any case, I’ve got 16 drafts worth of posts that are all nearly ready to go. For me, I’ve been stalling myself.
What I’ve been doing is not anything different that I see every day. I see people wait for the storm to pass aka stalling. Usually people stall to get through a difficult argument or to avoid confrontation. If you’re going to keep the other person waiting for your opinion, consider keeping to a specific type of stalling.
“Stalling for time” is a rhetorical tactic that utilizes inaction, silence, or misdirection to get the audience to stop. For instance, when you were a child, did you ever ask your parents for something they didn’t want to give you?
Child: “Daddy, can we have ice cream after dinner?”
Parent: “Maybe, we’ll see”.
Child: “That means ‘no’ doesn’t it?”
Parent: “Maybe, just means maybe”
Little Timmy didn’t get ice cream that night.
One major version of the stall tactic I like to call the “the siege”. In real life, a siege is pretty boring. It’s quiet, tedious, and uneventful. In history we remember the times in a siege where the defenders tried to break the lines or the attackers stormed the city. Heck, even the Trojan Siege (Trojan War) took ten years. Us as readers only got the good bits of the decade long epic from Homer.
In a rhetorical situation this looks more like simple stubbornness, but it can also go unnoticed. When the U.S. took Japanese-Americans and placed them in internment camps during WWII, many U.S. soldiers misunderstood the general compliance and politeness as “understanding”. In fact, those Japanese-Americans utilized an ethos based rhetoric known as “Gaman“. Those who live to remember the Japanese-Americans’ camps generally believed that those imprisoned didn’t mind and understood the camps as “necessary”. The reality is much different.
The siege is best utilized towards someone with blatant opinions. You allow the other person to degrade their argument by noncombatant gesturing. When pressed for choosing a side, you remain neutral. The point here is to stall silently until the other person talks themselves down. This is great when you’re trying to avoid a person with an opinion that is just…well…wrong and they won’t let you get a word in edgewise.
If you didn’t know, a maze has a start and a finish, a labyrinth does not. Well, that’s not true. At some point, when you’re tired of going through turn after turn, you give up and go back where you started. So, you could say that the start is also the finish. In a rhetorical situation this is utilizing “the labyrinth” stalling technique. This is best used against someone who has oversimplified a complicated problem with a “simple enough” solution.
You can all think of dozens of examples. We’ve all experienced those awkward moments when someone overstates their opinion. A friendship gets strained when they suggest, “We should reinstate capital punishment” to the issues concerning drug crimes. You might avoid an overly political uncle at Thanksgiving when they start telling everyone that Trump’s Wall will, “solve all those illegals coming in”. You might even feel uncomfortable finishing dinner out when the person at the next booth states, “All the homeless need to do is get a job”. Stewarding a siege won’t stop those people from continuing. You’ll need to trap them.
You know you won’t change their opinions, but you can get them to stop. Just rapid fire back small considerations in the form of questions.
Audience: “All the homeless need to do is get a job”.
You: “Many employers won’t pay for benefits, what about healthcare?”.
Audience: “Well, they could pay for it themselv…”.
You: “With companies going overseas how can you guarantee that they could keep their job?”.
Audience: “You can’t guarantee anyone keeps their…”.
You: “What about qualifications? Would you hire someone that dropped out of highschool?”.
Audience: “I wouldn’t, but…”.
You: “Well, if you wouldn’t how do you expect for them to get a job? What about clean clothes or showers?”.
Audience: “Maybe someone could…”.
You: “What about…”.
Audience: “Please stop”.
The idea is to quickly make turn after turn. That’s the easy way to get them to get lost in their own overly simple argument. Once lost in the labyrinth, they will want out.
The last I’ll leave you with is “the riddle”. This one is a little more difficult in terms of a stall tactic, but is best used when someone keeps repeating their argument. (Don’t confuse “restating” with “repeating”).
We’ve all met that person that will make a statement and throughout a discussion repeat verbatim the same point no matter where the discussion goes. These types of people are thinking about what to say next and ignore your words entirely. Sure, they are nodding like they are listening just fine, but the truth is that they could care less about what you think. They won’t stop until you start agreeing with everything spewing out of their mouth.
The next time that happens try to make up a complicated series of thoughts (they can even be nonsensical). The point is to provide a thought that forces them to stop and think about what you said. For instance, say you’re talking with a person that keeps repeating, “What do you do with an English Degree, teach? Seems like a waste of money”.
Though this may be a bit passive aggressive, it is a real example of me losing my cool at a bbq. My response, “That’s true. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read books, watch movies, sit and watch television, or ever go to a play. I mean, it’s not like a lot of English majors go on to work as grant writers for nonprofits, columnists for news publications, playwrights for theaters, or technical writers for tech companies. I mean, learning critical thinking is just so limited. I mean, how can anyone…”. Just keep going until they can’t fit in a word and don’t stop until they give up.
At some point you’ve given them one massive block of info to dissect. They will latch on to one thing, but just keep going. Keep going until they don’t know the answer to your riddle.
Really, much of what I’m suggesting seems mean or trite, but these tactics are meant to be used against those people who could care less about your opinion.
There may be a part of me that has avoided posting because of these overly harsh opinions. There may be a part of me that is stalling because having an opinion is too difficult. Maybe, I just don’t think my opinion would be heard. In any case, here’s a post.
I really hope that you’ve found something to add to your everyday rhetoric repertoire. Thank you for reading.