Saturday, September 15, 2007

Of Influence Power & Picking Fights

Carmen, u once mentioned to me that a person with influence power have a heavy responsibility. yes i agree with that. So here is my issue of picking fights as in argumentative fights. I'll use myself as guinea pig here. I have a tendency to choose fights that i can win. Wait ! b4 u think of anything let me finish. There is a reason why i do that. See, if i choose fights that i can win, i know i will come up with good arguments/comments bcoz i know my stuff.

Meanwhile for a fight that i know i can't win, should i push myself into it? I say no. B4 any hasty judgements are made, hear me out first. No, i'm not being a coward backing out of unwinnable fights. No, i'm not a sour grape that cant take losses. The reason i think i shouldn't enter into the fight is because i want to be fair to the others. If i dont know my stuff, why should i even say anything. I'll just come up with half-baked arguments/comments. These half-baked comments might be accepted by some ppl because i wield the power of influence. Like what anthony and I used to mention in class, some ppl just take what the lecturer or opinion leadears say because most of the time the things they say are correct. But how would these ppl know when i come up with half-baked comments. They might just think, oh its because he/she said that then it is right. I give all of u an example: Say a prime minister who specializes in law. Should he make decisions regarding economics without consulting economic experts first?

So what now? Is picking correct fights good or what? I would love to hear comments from everyone and especially you Carmen..haha


L.W.Jau Yn said...

Sometimes i do pick fights that i know i may be losing. but losing is not the thing but to learn something there is the idea. And of course prime ministers Do consult economic experts in making decision. Unless they themselves got some self-study and is proficient enough. But having to ask more than a person of advise is always better.

KahJoon said...

u did not get the point of what i am saying..try to read again and understand what i said..

suesin23 said...

walao.. why u wana back off from a losing game? why u wanna throw away the bat and leave the field? its like u r nt going to give a try at all after you think u cant win.. what's the point of thinking critically if u are afraid of picking up a strong fight? u'll learn and experience more from these type of challenge.. go ahead and say what u hv to say and who knows you will come up with something better in the half round? haha..

KahJoon said...

alamak, another person who din really get the meaning of what i said. dr carmen, y no reply from u 1?

amy2kyo said...

at home busy marking. kaka

Carmen N said...

Ok. KJ...

You said: "if i choose fights that i can win, i know i will come up with good arguments/comments bcoz i know my stuff"

My response: First of all, not all discussions are "fights" and secondly, to call them that would be to position to the argument as something that can be "won" or "lost" when in fact, in any good CT discussion/argument, the objective is to analyze and weigh the value/merits of each idea.

Some ideas have both good and bad elements, some ideas are total crap, some are brilliant. But bearing that in mind, even the so-called "crap" ideas can be helpful in getting you to see things in a new light or in understanding your discussion group member's point of view, however much you may disagree with it.

Additionally, by choosing "fights" you can win, it does put you in a very interesting position as someone who only "speaks" in order to be "right". I assume you mean that winning a fight means you have enough points to be "correct", proving your opponent "wrong".

If your job when arguing is to be "right" then surely you won't be listening--really *listening* to the other person's point of view in a manner to understand why s/he says what s/he does. You will be listening only to identify weaknesses in his/her points so as to attack them.

Let me end by saying that when you are busy figuring out how to "attack" someone, then you are not busy trying to understand his/her ideas. Because you will be too busy trying to strengthen your own argument so that it will "win" the "fight".

Finally, when you are busy trying to strengthen your own argument or trying to make sure it is airtight, it also means that you are (for the most part, though not always) going to solidify your position rather than be *open* and *flexible* in your thinking. Once you are in attack mode, it is hard to concede a point and a lot harder to be open to other ideas OR to CHANGE your own. After all, how to be open to other ideas when you are busy shooting them down?

SO, in short, that is why I think your logic is flawed. Now, this is NOT to say I don't *understand* why you say what you do because hey, I definitely have had my pick of "fights" too and want to win but as I age (hahahaha), this happens less and less. Why?

Because if indeed most of the arguments I take part in are about my "winning" then it would be impossible for me to be a good teacher because who would be my nemesis but my students? And that makes for bad teaching when my goal is to "beat" my students at each verbal sparring match.

See my point?

Carmen N said...

I think Louis says it best, even though you claimed he did not understand you:

"losing is not the thing but to learn something there is the idea"

Perhaps it is not that he didn't understand *you* but rather, that he was *engaging* your ideas, rather than your *position*

Carmen N said...

I am not quite done :-) You asked for it, KJ!

You said: "The reason i think i shouldn't enter into the [losing] fight is because i want to be fair to the others"

My response: So, this is *really* interesting... you only fight when you know you can win. When you are sure you will lose, you don't fight BUT ONLY BECAUSE you claim you want to be "FAIR" to the others. Fair in what sense? Fair in that you want to see them fight and lose? Since you can't win, you want to see someone else win? I am not sure what this "fair" is referring to but to me, the problem occurs when you only think it is befitting you to be "FAIR" when you don't think you can win. So, when you think you can win, it is Ok to be UNfair to the rest?

Hmmm... again, I need you to explain what you mean by "fair" because that is imperative here.

In any case, as a football fan, surely you know that LOTS of teams fight losing battles all the time. This is true of any sport. There is always a 50-50 chance that something miraculous happens and the opposing team could make ONE BIG mistake and then, you win. So, to say that logically people don't fight when they know they will lose... well, this is just NOT true in the real world, if you want to use that as an example. :-)

I think SueSin mentions this when he talked about not backing out from a losing game. I would agree. A game is different from a verbal fight because a game has rules. When you have say yes to playing a football match or to taking part in a formal debate, you have also agreed to continue even when the chips are down, as they say. That is the spirit of the agreement you entered into when you consented to play the game.

That is why I think a verbal argument (informal, not like a formal debate) is VERY different from a football game or any other "fight" in the rule-bound sense. This is because when you are having a heated discussion with someone, there are no prescribed, pre-determined, pre-agreed upon rules. So, it is "anything goes", which means you CAN back out when you want to. Or, in your case, you can OPT not to participate. No-one can slap a fine on you for leaving the "fight" when you feel like it.

But back to the main point. I think I was digressing. I don't think it was a red herring though because I was not using it to divert from your idea. Hehhehe.


You said: "If i dont know my stuff, why should i even say anything. I'll just come up with half-baked arguments/comments"

My response: What is "know my stuff?" Or, more specifically, what is "stuff"? Do you mean you don't know your "facts"?

Now, this is just an observation. I notice that when you make your points known in class, you are almost always arguing from the point of facts and you know more facts than the average classmate because you read heck of a lot (which I truly truly APPLAUD and ADMIRE by the way!) and you do "know your stuff" as you say.

But, just to elucidate... not all arguments need to be fought on the basis of facts. There are many problems, crisis, issues which are still in the infancy stage and need to be thoroughly discussed withOUT the benefit of hindsight, previous facts or present facts to support you. And sometimes, it does happen that facts ALONE will not be able to help you come to a viable decision/solution/analysis.

So, this is where creative thinking comes in. We didn't talk much about that in class but it is in the textbook by Ruggiero. Creative thinking relies on something beyond mere facts. It delves into instinct, intuition, that certain something that cannot be pinned down into a number/statistic/factual nugget.

In addition, a LOT of critical thinking--certainly, among philosophers--depend NOT on facts but on logic. To logically argue a point is not necessarily to rely on facts alone but also to look at the way the argument is structured, to identify possible fallacies or flaws (which is partly what CT trains you to do), and to critically evaluate the merits of the points--this may or may not need to rely on facts alone.

Almost all philosophers do not engage in facts alone but also in the rationality and logic of ideas as abstract concepts. In fact, astrophysicists and mathematicians are dealing in the realm of abstraction, theorems, scientific theories, paradigms, etc. A LOT of science is about theories which have become "facts", in fact (pun intended)... Hahaha

Here, we will really be moving into new territory--namely, science and scientific paradigms--so, I won't go there just yet. Not unless you want me to :-)

So what am I saying, in essence? Well, my point is this: a fair "fight" in any discussion is NOT about winning, losing, attacking, etc. but about understanding and listening and giving space to the other person to speak/make the point/defend the point/elucidate/support. Space MUST be given to everyone, that is what FAIR means to me anyway. Only then can you have an equal playing field where people can really be about CT and not about competition.

Finally, even half-baked comments have their place. A lot of Nobel prize winning scientists attribute their scientific breakthroughs to moments of half-baked ideas, which they then SHARED with others, got shot down, laughed at, etc. and IN THE PROCESS, they learned something, they refined their ideas and then, they succeeded. So, half-baked does not mean RAW... just means it is ON THE WAY to be becoming fully-baked :-)))

J-Chee said...

Please tembak me if this is not related, coz i really wana say something, and after i read all the comments by dr. carmen, a lil info overloaded here haha. not yet digest.

Well i think, sorry no offence kah joon (disclaimer here: credentialing haha :P) but i think.. most of the time, you, or i should say most guys, very care about the RESULTS rather than the PROCESS. That's when you view the WIN and LOSE part, and choosing the fights and all.

And, like Dr. Carmen said, it's arguement and discussion. And i think i mentioned in my post which i written whole long thing thr, It's also depends on the MANNER of how you discuss. It can be a FIGHT or ARGUEMENT or just mere DISCUSSION.

And I must say, it is good that you are very confident in yourself, but i believe, there are always new things to learn, i believe, NO PAIN, NO GAIN. Even half-baked opinions, is just YOUR thoughts, how would you know without even trying?? I think it's more coward to NOT WILLING TO TRY than to back off.

And another thing is, flexible is truly important. It's not jz always about YOU only. And, what about times where you CANNOT choose?

I believe, there are times you should look at the PROCESS also, instead of ONLY the results. I think, certain things u may look at the RESULTS 1st, when its RISKs and COSTS is really really really BIG.

Well, life is always unexpected and full of surprises, whether u like it or not. Even the best calculation could flaw, u might never know. :)

Sometimes, too careful is also a mistake. and Sometimes it's good to risk.

*okay cannot think od, stop here for now heh*

KahJoon said...

ok here's my reply. the first comment of urs i accept ur argument for the time being. i really have to read again and again to fully comprehend it so i'll say something some other time.

now moving on to the 2nd comment of yours. i think u only got half of wat i meant. i already stated it wasn't about fear of losing or sour grapes case.

you nvr read the whole of 2nd paragraph 1 mer. you see hor, if the topic i know ntg about and i decide to say sumthing half-baked and i have the power of influence. what would happen then? bcoz not everybody will think back on what the influential person says. LETS SAY i'm a lecturer, and i say sumthing half-baked wouldn't some ppl just take it as something true and correct? i know there are some ppl that will argue that the argument i as a lecturer gave is somehow flawed. but there are some ppl who still doesn't bother and still takes what the lecturer says. why? bcoz the lecturer has more authority, influence and experience ma. u have to admit that not everyone are critical thinkers.

that is what i'm tryin to share with everyone. its not about winning or losing la. u got me totally wrong.

KahJoon said...

and did i say i din want to learn new things? i bet i din say that.

Harwina said...

Hey Kah Joon,

I think i get your point but everyone is just answering your question (Is picking correct fights good or what?)from the last passage.

I agree with you from what you have said that If you don't know your stuff, why should you even say anything. And Dr Carmen, i think what KJ mentioned about his 'stuff' is not only confined to facts but also his instinct and intuition. Am i right KJ?

His point is that, there is no point in arguing when you don't have anything to say at all. That is the main reason most of them do not open their mouths in class too.

I agree to the other posts from Dr Carmen, J-Chee , Suesin and L.W.Jau Yn but Im just trying to comprehend what KJ really meant.

Feel free to correct me but KJ, i need you to tell me what do you really mean by 'your stuff'? Was my guess above correct, that its not confined to mere facts but it also includes your instinct and intuition?

Till then, Good Day people..

KahJoon said...

well i think i know why everyone dont get what i am saying. the focus should not be on the stuff! the stuff basically means the things i'm gonna say and how true it is or how good it is.

the main thing to be focused here is INFLUENCE! my thesis statements says it all "of influence power & picking fights" INFLUENCE came first..why did everyone ignored it?

what i think is, when everyone reads my post, they think that they found a weakness to tembak d which is i dont get into losing fights..that's not the issue at all..and taking sports into the equation is like a red herring. 2 totally different thing. how can INFLUENCIAL arguments interefere with sporting results? i dont see any similiarity here. i maybe KAKA or Ronaldinho but the things that KAKA or Ronaldinho says wont affect other ppl..

harwina, u almost got what i mean but too bad its not yet there. what i wanted to say is should influential ppl say half past six arguments/comments? simple as that..make it easy for all lah.

Carmen N said...

Hmmm... let me just say one thing first: perhaps, if LOTS of people (me, J-Chee, Louis, even Harwinna to a certain extent--and everyone who responded to your posting, i.e. 100% of those who responded)... if 100% of us, according to you, do NOT truly UNDERSTAND what you are saying, then... then I think you need to say it more clearly.

It can't just be our inability to understand you because certainly all of us have tried to. So... perhaps you have to rephrase or rewrite your points in a simpler and more straightforward manner...

which you have... it seems:

"should influential ppl say half past six arguments/comments"

My response: Of course not but this ONLY applies to people who KNOW they are influential. If you don't think you are then it wouldn't matter much because whatever you say won't bear much weight. Or so you think.

BUT... I do want to go back to an earlier point I made and to relate it to what you are saying now about influential people.

My question: Should influential people even pick fights to begin with? If they think they will win, should they?

You see, the question is not only about the half-baked ideas (which, by the way, is NOT the same as half-past six ideas. I DON'T understand why you had to change your original words unless you think by changing them you can win this argument with me! hahahah) but the question is about the influence.

To me, even if your ideas are 100% foolproof, it is still worthwhile to be careful about what you say WHEN you think you have influence. Win or lose, a person with influence needs to be aware of the power s/he wields. In fact, if the person KNOWS s/he will win, it becomes ALL the more important to think carefully.

This is because I don't think there is anything such as a foolproof argument. Even facts can be disproven over time, depending on the facts. Like the earth being flat. Like cholesterol being bad for your health. etc. Lot of things we think are "facts" actually have many sides to them, many points of views, many theories. Scientific facts are tougher to disprove but facts of any other kind can be modulated, added to, revised, etc. Historical facts certainly fall into this category.

So, my final point is this: when you are a person of influence, you ALWAYS have to be careful of what you say, whether half-past six, half-baked, fully-baked, factual, 100% foolproof, whatever. This becomes all the more important when you are a teacher, in my view.

But of course, a lot of people who are in positions of influence might disagree with me.

AND... to add to that: if we live in a critical thinking world with a lot of critical thinkers everywhere then influential people will have MORE to be careful about because critters will not just ACCEPT things at face value and SHOULD and WILL always question, rethink, review what an influential person has to say. THIS would be the ideal environment, to me, because ultimately, I think the only people who can keep influential people in check would be other critters.

In fact, I think this is what we are doing when we respond to you, KJ. We are being true critters :-)

So... don't feel like you are public enemy No. 1 lah.. if we don't love you, we won't tegur/tembak you. It takes time, energy, effort, thinking, time, time, time... for me to write this to you and for all the rest to write to you... so, for you think that we are out to "GET" you... well, you just don't see the love, do you? :-))

KahJoon said...

ohh thanks alot man..this is the explanation/ comment that i kind of expected from the beginning..this is the one i seek lo..adresses both my issues i raised..thanks alot dr carmen and thanks to all that contributed..if u you guys din contribute, i wont even know that what i wrote is hard to comprehend. oh ya anyway, may i know why it is that hard to understand? it wasn't that long or cryptic after all.

dr carmen, isn't half baked comments = half past six comments.. both are not properly thought of comments. arent they the same? enlighten me pls.

KahJoon said...

dr carmen, here are the things u said:

1.Additionally, by choosing "fights" you can win, it does put you in a very interesting position as someone who only "speaks" in order to be "right". I assume you mean that winning a fight means you have enough points to be "correct", proving your opponent "wrong".

2.If your job when arguing is to be "right" then surely you won't be listening--really *listening* to the other person's point of view in a manner to understand why s/he says what s/he does. You will be listening only to identify weaknesses in his/her points so as to attack them.

3.Let me end by saying that when you are busy figuring out how to "attack" someone, then you are not busy trying to understand his/her ideas. Because you will be too busy trying to strengthen your own argument so that it will "win" the "fight".

ok first of all may i know if you're implying that debate style is not good?

1.well, its not an easy thing to prove an opponent wrong unless the things that my opponents said are non-sensical or very raw.

2. how can i not really be listening to the other person's POV if i want to prove a point that he/she is wrong. first i have to understand why the person thinks the way he/she does and the reason why he/she came up with the particular argument. only then could i come up with a reply. not everybody that identifies other person's argument weakness think like the way u described. listen to just pin-point faults. i think thats a generalisation.

3. Is identifying weakness and strengthening own arguments that bad ? in my opinion, when i give strong arguments and it still could be proven wrong or could be refined thru discussion or being shot at is a good thing. it makes me realize where i went wrong and why it went wrong.

finally, isn't a discussion with alot of sound and solid arguments/comments better than one with lots of crappy/half-baked comments?


i won't say i can relate to what you wrote, KJ, cos i've never thought or see a discussion (what whatever close to that) as a win-lose or right-wrong's well, just a how did the idea of picking on fights that you're only 100% sure you'd win applies here??

i guess most of you have said it best - it's a healthy discussion. it's okay if your views aren't 100% factual or accurate...and it's okay to have your ideas shot down once in the end, you'll still benefit from the entire process.

eg. 1) you learn to be proactive, voice out your opinion
2) you learn to listen and open up to other ppl's views and ideas
3) you lean to evaluate and weigh both ideas and understand each and every single one too
4) you either choose to stick to your own stand and do more research so you can strengthen your stand or you accept other ppl's ideas..either way, it adds to the perspective
5) you learn to handle rejection, acceptance and criticism more effectively

that's how i see least, this applies to me...i don't mind losing my idea to the rest, so long as i gain another to my perspective and mental development...



just to add, i don't think we'll ever lose to anything in Life...

take for example, ppl tend to think they'll lose out on time, effort and opportunities if they choose the wrong decision eg. a job...but seriously, how can you lose when you learn a new thing every day while you are at it? even if you may not like or enjoy it, you still learn something...that's how life experience, you observe, and you learn...

we tend to be real pessimist and always always think we're at the losing end...i guess that's the real 'enemy' that stops us from improving or becoming better...we are our enemies...we always create our own 'enemy' by thinking that it's about winning-losing game...we imagine the worst by counting our the end of the day, you're the one disillusioned. you just created your worst fear/enemy - LOSING.

i guess what i'm trying to say here is that it's pointless to argue or believing for the sake of winning/'s more about holding on to values(or ideas) that you feel right that matters..

hope that helps.

Carmen N said...


I will reply in a bit... didn't realize you had posted a while back. That's the problem when only 10 recent comments are visible. We forget about the rest that are not noted.

Be back soon.