I debated for my hall in medical school and we won the University of Ibadan inter-hall debate trophy. Dr Leroy Edozien was our chief speaker. Dr. Tony Ndukwe, Dr Edward Egesi, and Dr. Kingsley Ojie were members of the team. I was drafted into the University of Ibadan debating team even though I was in medical school; that’s where I met retired Venerable Igri of Anglican Communion Oleh Diocese. This was between 1981 to 1984.
I have been monitoring comments on social media since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have seen great suggestions, analysis, approaches, and comments. I noticed a significant difference between how people from the developed world debated and disagreed over issues. It was quite different from the way Nigerians comment on issues. Besides Donald Trump, who will fall rightly towards the Nigerian side, I found out that very intelligent and knowledgeable people are more tolerant of different opinions.
Even in the Nigerian responses, there was a difference between the way journalists, professionals, and top managers responded to issues.
We can reflect on the argumentative woman at the well in John 4:1-42, who had a long argument with Jesus, but later ran to invite the city of Sychar to come meet Jesus.
1. Argumentative people have issues with self-worth
They always want to be heard or noticed. They are attention-seeking people. They can’t afford to be quiet. They talk or comment even when it is not necessary.
In one of Parkinson’s laws, the law of triviality, it was found that the person who has the main and technical understanding hardly talks until his/her opinion is asked for.
I hardly talk in public. I hardly make comments on the few WhatsApp groups I belong to. I am only sharing with you here because of my transgenerational responsibility to mentor people and to share my life with others. In real life, even if you say something about medical issues, and you are wrong, I will probably not correct you. Time is an impartial judge.
I get paid to talk, so if I talk every time, everywhere, on every issue, to every person, every which way, I will lose value. Even if a fool keeps quiet, the Bible says that people will assume he is wise, but that a foolish person talks anyhow. I earn up to 250,000 Naira or more than 600 US Dollars for an hour lecture, excluding hotel bills, meals, entertainment, and other things. I might leave with more than a thousand dollars.
Do you know what over availability does? It makes you become like air. As important as air is, nobody pays for air because it is too available and easily accessible.
George Floyd died after being deprived of air after 9 minutes. He could have stayed alive without water and food for several days. People buy water and food instead of air, because air is over available.
When you comment on every subject, then you suffer from over dilution. You are like salt that has lost its saltiness. Donald Trump has lost the saltiness of the presidency because of his over availability on Twitter.
A person of value does not comment on every issue; he/she is a specialist in a field (or few). Specialists hardly comment on issues outside their areas of expertise, experience, and knowledge.
I usually study the social media profiles of argumentative people, and a careful scrutiny will reveal lack of value for self.
As a man, you can’t respond to everything your wife says, even if some are annoying; if you do, you will lose value in her sight. As a woman, you can’t respond to everything that your husband does that provokes you. When you start introducing yourself to your wife, you have lost value in her sight. When you tell your wife, “Don’t you know I am your husband?”, boy, you have lost it somewhere.
God does not argue with humanity. He keeps a distance from our discussions, if not, He will lose value. Presidential broadcasts don’t come everyday. They are anticipated.
2. Most people who argue anyhow have internal turbulence
It is the turbulence in them that overflows.
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
The Samaritan woman had a fundamental turbulence; that’s why husbands couldn’t stay long with her.
An argumentative person, in craving importance, is very irritating, and people stay away from him or her. The Bible says, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than to reside in the same house with an argumentative wife”. It says that, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than to dwell with a boisterous woman”. I will liken it to a boiling pressure kettle. We had one a long time ago that whistles when the water starts to boil.
3. The refuse truck mentality
Any time a refuse truck opens its cover or tail-end, it spews out rubbish or odour. I have looked at most media aides to politicians in Delta State, and even to the presidential media aides; they mostly spew out offensive statements.
When a young person is very rude and insulting in public and on social media, if you study the person’s activities on social media, you will see a lot of filth. They are spewing out their content.
You will notice that where motorbikes are used for transport in Nigeria, they are very reckless, aggressive, and abusive fellows. They are worse off when they see a beautiful woman driving a nice car. If a young man is driving a nice car, the so-called State Anti-robbery Squad are usually very aggressive towards them. If you look at their cars, they are usually very battered and tattered. They are angry that, at that age, such a person is living in luxury, and they are poor. If you drive a nice car close to an angry poor person in Nigeria, he/she will tell you to please go away with this vehicle that you bought with a loan, blood money, or stolen government money, as if he/she knows you.
4. Argumentative people have issues of presumptuous accusation and they commit a fallacy of hasty generalisations
They will say all pastors are thieves or womanizers, and that they are pastoring or preaching because of money. They believe that all men must have side chicks, even in the church. They believe that every successful young girl is a harlot. Because of their failure and jealousy, they accuse people to justify their failures in life.
5. Many argumentative people have calcified, concrete, shut and frozen brains
They are very unappreciative of other people. It’s difficult for them to grasp relative truths: alternative—and even contrary—but parallel truths.
God is love but God is also a consuming fire. The God that said thou shalt not kill also said there is a time for everything: a time to heal and a time to kill.
6. Very many argumentative people have half-baked and dangerous knowledge
Even if they have academic degrees, they have hardly read outside their confined space. They can quote scriptures and condemn every other knowledge. They condemn scientific evidence, social sciences, and anything outside their little speck of knowledge, and they think that what they know is the absolute truth.
They are the people who will say women who dress in a certain way are sinners. They’ll say women are not supposed to wear male clothing. They fail to realise why women wear trousers nowadays. It was not so in the Victorian era when gowns were long and with many folds. Today, women are surveyors, fighter pilots, mechanics, bricklayers, etc. Do you want a female panel beater to tie a wrapper to work? The person may not understand that Scottish men wear skirts as their national dress.
7. Several argumentative people have hardly travelled outside their areas of comfort and influence
They are core tribalists—intolerant local or tribal bigots—whose sense of relevance is in being local champions.
8. Religious bigotry
The personality defect in an argumentative person and someone who always wants to win an argument is lack of appreciation of people and their differences. They want to intellectually box every person in their narrow intellectual prism and prison.
9. Their impulsivity and non-sequential thought process is a sign of a more serious brain issue
They can’t follow instructions and processes. They don’t understand the purposes of instructions and institutions. They don’t recognise organisation structures, and they don’t understand the consequences of their actions.
10. They are impatient and non-analytical poor learners
They always get into trouble without learning from their mistakes.
They wouldn’t finish reading a post, an article, or a book before spewing out rubbish, anger, false accusations, or curses. I’m so shocked that any time a religious person is criticized, or his fixed beliefs are questioned, they pronounce curses and threats, without bothering to do a proper ruminative evaluation of what has been said.
11. A lot of them suffer from psychiatric illnesses you might not know of
They might have chronic anxiety, hypomania, and schizophrenia. Their world view is distorted.
When a man says, “I see men like trees”, and you don’t have the grace to open his eyes with a second prayer like Jesus, how are you going to help him? If he was born blind, who told him what trees look like? Even if he was not born blind, how can you change his perceptions? He sees men like trees, and you don’t. If you can’t heal or improve his sight, it’s best to leave such a person alone with his/her defective perceptions.
12. They fail to realise that you can’t agree with every person
Every person cannot see the same picture from different angles.
Most argumentative people are very arrogant, and authoritative in their ignorance. Most people from your tribe, your family, or your colleagues are the ones who argue with you most. They can’t understand why you are not like them. They have an entitlement mentality over your life, your style, and your future.
One of the most effective ways of handling such people, that Jesus used, is to remove the mask or remove the face garment and reveal something about them that they thought you did not know; they will be deflated and make peace, or be humbled. Jesus told the woman what she assumed a stranger does not know.
Remember, most chronic argumentators are not ready to learn or change; it is just a show of ‘notice me or I die’. They are like a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
These 12 insights into the argumentative mind will help you avoid them, or have your peace by ignoring their rantings and attention-seeking schemes.
In my language, Urhobo, Ekwetafia, is an Urhobo name that means, “Let’s throw away strife”. Even the Bible says we should not get involved in endless and frivolous arguments.