Setting up a straw man

Setting up a straw man is one of the most blindingly obvious techniques a control freak will use in an argument. I’ve seen it being used so often with such success that I just cannot believe people do not pick up on it more often.

There are two basic ways of setting up a straw man.

The first is to listen to what the other person has to say and then pick something they mentioned that is entirely incidental to the argument. It does not matter if it is entirely irrelevant, all you need is a way to turn that thing into an attack. It is also useful if the incidental statement is one they don’t know that much about and you can claim to know more than them.

For example, you say

“One of our competitors has won an award for a great new invention. Why aren’t we inventing anything?”

I reply

“We can’t waste time and money trying to win awards, we’ve got real work to do.”

Now what goes through your head after this is, “Hang on, I was talking about inventions not awards”, but most people simply don’t say anything and just let it go. Perhaps they’re ashamed they left a chink in their argument that someone could exploit like that. Or perhaps they are distracted.

The second way to set up a straw man is to simply invent one. This works best if you invent one that embodies a whole set of characteristics that others despise and then attibute a heinous view to it, which you then rebut. Politicians do this all the time.

For example, you say

“Some of the team don’t agree with these proposals, they think they will make some customers very unhappy.”

I reply

“Some people will reject all change, they don’t want to see any improvement, they are only interested in protecting their own position.”

Alright, maybe that is normally a bit more subtle in practice, but you get the idea.

So please, if you see a straw man, then point it out, especially to politicians.

4 thoughts on “Setting up a straw man”

  1. Great blog. Is really useful. What I also find about “control freaks” is that if they make a mistake of if they hurt you –they wiil make you feel as if you were misbehaving and as if you had gotten them totally wrong. Like if you fall in love with such kind of person and he/she just wants to play with you– he/she will make you feel as if you were a lunatic who misinterpreted his /her bodylanguage or whatever. Of course, such things like having a crush on sombody who does not like you back happen. but a normal person would not let you feel guilty or ashamed of it and would act in a more self-conscous way.

  2. Hi
    Just found this Blog. Would you say that a person (my Wife) is a control freak if : after any comment /general oservation made by myself to her she always has a negative response returned. I at times to test her mention an oppion which i know she is in favour off, and await the answer which always comes back with the opposite oppinion which she had a few weeks ago.
    What are your thoughts.

    Mr Wilson

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