Posted by: devinmoore | June 9, 2010

Interacting with Illogical People

Life gets a lot easier when you understand two very important rules:

1. A large percentage of the population operates their lives outside of the world of logic.

2. No one operating outside of the world of logic is capable of understanding a logical argument in any context whatsoever.

Is this a harsh, cynical analysis?  Perhaps.  But this analysis also does an important service to those of us who are logical.  These two rules allow the logical people in our population to avoid repetitive, unproductive, and always futile arguments or disagreements with those who cannot understand a logical argument.

To understand how this works, you have to look at what a logical argument might look like, and how an illogical person might respond to the same stimuli that presuppose the logical argument.  Immediately the logical mind will experience cognitive dissonance based on the illogical person’s choice of action.

Suppose that a glass of milk spills on the kitchen floor.  There is a paper towel roll nearby.  The logical person goes for the paper towels and mops up the spill.  The illogical person does something else requiring much more effort, and has an explanation for not using the paper towels that doesn’t make sense to the logical person.  Therefore, the logical person can now be relatively certain they are talking with an illogical person.

The certainty with which one can be sure they are dealing with an illogical person is based on the severity of the cognitive dissonance experienced by the logical person when encountering this type of situation. In other words, the more illogical the choice seems to be, the more certain you can be that you’re dealing with a person who exists outside of the world of logic.

Logical people might try to prescribe a logical basis to an illogical person’s decision making process.  This is a mistake.  There is not going to be a logical basis, that’s what makes them illogical.  For example, an illogical female politician might appear to be campaigning against women’s rights.  In this case, the logical person finds cognitive dissonance there, but to the illogical person this is just a strong woman making a stand.  Illogical people can’t see the conflict, and no logical explanation will clarify it for them.

Precious few public individuals advance examples of illogical decisions, but the political figure Sarah Palin has advanced one such relatively recent example.  Note that as a part of this illustration, I need not take umbrage with her politics at all.  She was asked where she gets her news sources, and her answer caused cognitive dissonance for a large percentage of the population who expected a logical answer.  As soon as that happened, I knew that I would not be able to prescribe logic to anything she said, and then she was much easier to understand.

So what do you do if you need to interact with an illogical person on a regular basis?  How can you talk to them so that they understand what you are saying, what you mean, and what you may need?  I will attempt to answer these questions with future blog posts, but basically you will need to use non-logical arguments.  I will review how to use emotional pleas instead of literal explanations in order to relate to those of us who by no fault of their own are unable to use logic in their lives.

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