I took offense to something I read on BlogHer today, commented on it, and then someone else took me out back behind the bleachers and showed me my poo. Or at least that’s what it feels like to me when people take offense that I take offense on the way some choose to (or not) express their opinions.
Here’s my thing: When someone says “I’m just playing the devil’s advocate,” what I HEAR is “I would like to argue with you now.”
I think saying “I’m playing the devil’s advocate” is a cop out. I think it’s what people say when they have opinions that they are too afraid to just express themselves, when that opinion is opposite to what the rest of the conversation is.
In common parlance, a devil’s advocate is someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with, for the sake of argument. In taking such position, the individual taking on the devil’s advocate role seeks to engage others in an argumentative discussion process. The purpose of such process is typically to test the quality of the original argument and identify weaknesses in its structure, and to use such information to either improve or abandon the original, opposing position. It can also refer to someone who takes a stance that is seen as unpopular or unconventional, but is actually another way of arguing a much more conventional stance.
Folks, I don’t like to argue. In fact, I will usually go as far out of the way as possible to avoid arguments and confrontation. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy expressing my own opinion (ahem, BLOG), but I don’t appreciate, enjoy, or particularly care for a person who wants to argue for the sake of having an argument.
Here’s the thing about playing a devil’s advocate – sometimes I DO get it. Sometimes I do think it’s important to challenge people and the things that they say. But is it worth it to challenge someone’s opinion? That’s what an opinion is all about, not being right or wrong, just a thing a person thinks. Why argue?
If I say “OMG THE CURE IS THE BEST BAND EVAAAAAAAAAR.” and you don’t agree with me, what? I am wrong? Your favorite band is actually the best band ever? Show me the entry in the book of all the things proven to be true in the world and show me who THE BEST BAND EVAAAAAAAAAAAR is, and then maybe we can argue.
Sometimes, playing devil’s advocate can have negative effects. It can take the the focus of an important conversation totally off the point. It can belittle people’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions. It can be really, REALLY insulting. It can be a dick move.
This post is linked up with the Extraordinary Ordinary’s JUST WRITE.