In Short

Why would someone want to use a distracting technique? Perhaps they are faced with an argument they feel they can't win or they are uncomfortable discussing a certain topic. Whatever the reason, techniques such as red herrings, ad hominem attacks, and straw men are commonly used, not only by politicians and pundits, but by schoolchildren, business people, and friends as well. Learning how these fallacies work will hone your critical thinking skills and help keep you from falling victim to their faulty reasoning.

Skill Building Until Next Time

■ Think of an issue you feel strongly about. Now, come up with an argument against that issue that includes an ad hominem attack. Make it as effective as you can. How would you argue against it, without getting defensive?

■ Listen for a few minutes to a radio program known for its controversial host. As the host discusses his or her opponents, note how many times straw men are used. How extreme are these arguments, and what are the real issues they are distracting the audience from?

Friendly Persuasion

Friendly Persuasion

To do this successfully you need to build a clear path of action by using tools if necessary. These tools would be facts, evidence and stories which you know they can relate to. Plus you always want to have their best interests at heart, in other words, you know what is good for them

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