As much as I hate to admit it, Mama is usually right.
Especially when it comes to her little pithy words of wisdom.
I have always rolled my eyes when she would tell me not to try to argue with what she calls ignorant people, a harsh phrase for my usually genteel mother.
But to Mama, someone who is not listening to reason or seeing any other perspective is ignorant.
She actually uses another word but that seems so harsh, and very un-Mama like, I can’t even bear to write it.
While Mama would never call someone that to their face, or even behind their back, she would declare lack of engaging in a true discussion to be stupid.
There are some people who already have their minds made up and no matter how much proof, data, or evidence we show them to the contrary, they don’t want to hear anything that doesn’t support their cognitive bias.
Mama preached for me to always be respectful to others’ opinions and consider that I may not know everything, something I have always tried to do.
A lot of times, I seek to understand, even if the person and I share the same opinions, just so I can have a full appreciation of why they think the way they do.
When I have encountered opportunities where the other party was not wanting to have an open discussion, I have tried to heed Mama’s words and not even tried to argue. It can be hard though; I have an argumentative streak in me a country mile long at times.
Mama would tell me not to even engage.
“Kitten, you can’t talk to those kinds of people,” Mama would say. “Just don’t. If they want to say the sky is purple, let them think the sky is purple. You aren’t the troll whisperer.”
Since I don’t have the time to go fussing with people about nonsense, I usually let people win their one-sided debates.
If they tell me the sky is purple, I usually look up, smile, and say, “And what a lovely shade of purple it is!”
But Lord have mercy, there are a lot of people that know that they know the truth and nothing but the truth about absolutely everything, and all that’s left is for the rest of us to know it.
If we try to present anything different than what they know that they know, they are going to argue with us until we are exhausted by their claims.
Even, and perhaps especially, when their argument is erroneous and weak.
I found myself smack dab in the middle of these very types of situations just a few weeks ago.
It was supposed to be a different kind of gathering, one where we were all supposed to come together to work on something better.
I soon found out I had been misinformed.
It was a sneak attack in a way.
I was trapped.
Facts were being presented that were so beyond wrong, they were almost laughable.
Anytime a rebuttal was offered, it was dismissed with five reasons why it was wrong – even though they were facts based in opinion.
I wanted to scream, cry, and dissolve into the floor.
“What did you do?” she asked when I relayed the incident to her. “Did you just politely excuse yourself and leave?”
I sighed. Why does Mama always think just saying, “Oh, pardon me, I need to go,” covers every opportunity to flee the scene of an intellectual crime.
“Did you tell them why they were wrong?”
Was she forgetting her own mantra and advice for the past lifetime?
“Well, what did you do?” she asked.
I sighed again.
Just telling her about it made me exhausted all over again.
“Would could I have done?” I asked. “I was stuck in a situation where the people I was sitting there with had a totally different grasp on the situation than I did. It was clear they were not open to change. They believed what they wanted to and that was that.”
What did I do?
I sat there and felt myself shutting down and closing off. It did not feel good; in fact, it felt horrible.
I was surrounded by people who was not seeing things the way I did and had already determined what we were doing was wrong and a failure.
I knew differently; I had proof, evidence, and data.
They had opinions and the emotional investment to hold tight to their view, something I had but I was outnumbered.
“Mama, I did the best thing I could think of,” I said. “I just sat there and took notes and said I would see what I could do.”
“So, you didn’t argue with them?” she asked. “You didn’t try to show them the facts they were missing?”
I sighed again. “Mama, do you remember that advice you’ve always said, about how you can’t talk to ignorant people?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Well, I decided to give that a try,” I said.
“Hmrph,” she mumbled, quite pleased with herself.
This time, her advice was right on the money.
Don’t no one tell her that though, or I will never hear the end of it.