Pt 5. When To End Discussions: Final Thoughts & Closing

In my final post about ending discussions, I want to just add some odds and ends that I couldn't justify entire posts for (not to say I won't change that in the future maybe). They aren't strictly reasons to end discussions either.

More reasons to end discussions:

1. You are out of your depth
Sometimes we talk about things we know little about. It's a normal human response to think about stuff even if we have incomplete information. If we don't understand something well it may be a good reason to stop talking about it. When you encounter your own ignorance on a subject it might be time to step out of a discussion and go and do more reading and learning on it.

2. You are sick of it.
This is really a valid reason to end a discussion. You might just not be that interested in the topic or interested in the debate surrounding it. That's okay. Some people say this when they have being shown that they are wrong, saying they don't care as an exit strategy, but asking yourself from time to time whether the time you are investing in a topic really reflects the amount of interest you have in it can help you to end discussions on topics that interest you less so you can focus more on things you like.

3. You don't really have the time
The worst interactions are rushed ones. It may be better to end a discussion than to fire off a rushed response. I've made some really poor responses before because I didn't take enough time to read and respond. I often notice this when I reread interactions and see how I misunderstood someone.

Some general observations

Don't feel obligated to carry on a discussion for any reason. We don't owe others our time, and if they don't deserve it we should withhold that time for others who may be more deserving, and even for ourselves, because our time is precious to us.

I am not an authority on this topic. I am sure there are people who are, and maybe I am all wrong about this stuff. The important thing I want to communicate is that there are valid reasons to end discussions and that we shouldn't be afraid to end discussions. What I mean is, don't just take my word for it!

Don't try and get the last word. I probably have more to say about this, but don't decide to end a discussion and then try and get the last word, especially not with someone who is behaving badly. They will just respond, and it will start a cycle where you effectively carry on with a discussion you wanted to end before.

Don't tell someone you are ending a discussion, give a good reason and then just carry on. If you do this you are showing that you have no resolve. There may be exceptions of course, for example if someone is behaving badly and you end the discussion and they ask you to continue with a promise of better behaviour. In general however, do what you said you were going to do.

Unless someone is harassing you or insisting on carrying on when you have asked them to stop, blocking someone is not a good way to end a discussion. People interpret blocking in so many ways and often their interpretation seeks to serve themselves.

Try to end discussions on good terms. Door slamming might give a quick feeling of relief but some people, especially trolls, get a lot of joy out of your emotional exit. You can leave a discussion on good terms even if the other person is hostile, as long as you don't fight fire with fire and clearly and calmly tell them why you are ending your discussion with them.

Experiment and figure out when you feel it would be best to end discussions. Find ways that fit your personal style of interaction and decide how much of each transgression to rational discussion you want to take before ending it. I lean toward a no nonsense approach, but it might seem unreasonable to some people.

So there you have it. I've exhausted the topic of when to end discussions. Just kidding. I hope my series on ending discussions have offered at least one thing, and that is the idea of ending discussions. We should maximise the effectiveness of our interactions with people, not only in order to get our ideas communicated but to learn and understand others better. Wasting our time on the kinds of interactions that have a low probability of having any good outcome in the long term undermines the entire project of interacting with people to exchange ideas and learn. People who display the poor behaviours I mentioned in some of the previous posts sometimes use these mechanisms to compensate for their lack of expertise in the subjects they discuss. Anger, disrespect, prejudice and closed mindedness are all ways to ignore opposing ideas.

I hope this series has helped you to think about times and ways to end discussions and to improve your interactions with others. I hope you can be happier by focusing on better interactions, as I am. And remember to have fun!

Pt4. When To End Discussions: Unproductive

Someone might point out that this entire series is about unproductive discussions, that the reason to end a discussion because of aggressive behaviour or prejudice is just ending and unproductive exchange, and that is true. Supposing though that you have gotten into a discussion where the participants are respectful and everything goes well, but the discussion starts to feel like a marathon after a while. If it is someone you know in person you keep bringing it up and if it is written or online you keep coming back for more comments and it spans multiple days, even weeks. We've all seen these types of discussions happening usually between two people with other people falling in but losing interest after a while. 

+Pristine S. aptly describes these kinds of discussions as wars of attrition. It seems like nobody is getting anywhere. It seems like ending the discussion will leave the topic unresolved but carrying on will get you nowhere. Well... I have come to free you from your suffering. You may end this discussion. It doesn't mean you are conceding anything. It doesn't mean that the issue will never be resolved. How do you know when to stop though? 

There are signs of discussions that are stuck. If you keep explaining something to someone but they just can't understand it, or if they keep explaining something to you and you can't quite get it, that is a sign that you should stop. If the other person seems like they are with you and then circle straight back to something they said earlier, or they keep getting back to the initial point it might be a time to stop. If you fail to explain something to someone twice it is quite safe to assume that the third attempt probably won't do the trick. There are ways to get a discussion unstuck, and I don't advocate for jumping ship at every possible opportunity. If you and the other person feel that there is a lot to be gained by carrying on then there is reason to salvage it. If that fails then ending it can be a good idea. 

Ending a discussion is not about ending the interaction with a person. It is about improving communication by not ruining it. If you don't end discussions like these you may find yourself getting frustrated and becoming mean. If you've ever had to teach somebody something you know well and they were new at, you know the feeling. The best way to end these kinds of discussions is to make the problem clear. Personally I tell the other person that progress is too slow and it might make sense to stop. Give them an opportunity to give you a resource, like a book,video, article or wikipedia page and in turn they can do the same. Be honest about your time, so if you ask for something like that honestly go and consume the resource they provide. If you don't have time or enough interest to put into their resource then let them know. Maybe there is a more convenient resource they can offer. In turn give a resource to them. 

Besides pointing to outside resources participants need time to think. Some ideas are genuinely hard to understand and need time to sink in. Expecting someone to immediately grasp your point of view in a single discussion is unrealistic. You are not the only person who reflects on things people say, and people will generally think about what happened in a discussion. If you met them somewhere random it may be a good idea to establish a method of contact and to make yourself available for questions and ask the same of them. Additionally, when we spend a lot of time in a discussion, we often think of ways to respond instead of trying to understand the concepts offered by the other person. Some ideas are like pudding, they need to set in the fridge overnight. Some ideas are like seedlings that need to grow over a period of time. We need to be accepting of how slow the transfer of an idea can be, and not rush our discussions as if they are the sum total of discourse.