Tactics Chapter 11: Steamroller
by David Stoecker*
Are you ready to learn more ways to deal with people who hold different beliefs than you do? If so, then this has been a great series for you. We have been looking at ways to help explain to others our opinion when we disagree. Sometimes, no matter how reasonable our points are people will not listen. They have their minds made up and nothing you can tell them is going to change their minds today, not matter how rational your argument it.
Believe it or not, rational reasons keep people from seeing the truth. A rational reason can bring up more questions, and until those question are answered, you are at an impasse. So what are those reasons?
- Emotional reasons – They have had bad experiences with the church, or with Christians, or because if they accept Christ that means that _________ (Fill in blank with name of deceased loved one) died without forgiveness and they may be in suffering for all of eternity.
- Prejudice – As soon as they see you or find out you are a Christian, they have already made value judgments against you and are shut down. They are only interested in their position, not yours.
- Rebellion – Some people fight against Christ and Christianity because they are stubborn. They will fight that fight until the day they die
Those reasons may all be going on with the person you are talking to. Every once in a while you will run into someone who uses one of the above reasons. They will try to verbally overpower you. It is not facts or even arguments that they throw at you, but the force of their own will. This is the person known as the steamroller. So, how do we know a steamroller?
A steamroller always interrupts. A lot like the interrupting cow, they will constantly throw questions at you, not allowing you to answer the original question that they asked. They will change subjects, fire question after question, interrupt and never allow you to be on the offensive. Nothing you say will matter to them, because they generally aren’t listening anyway. After all, they are not interested in learning or even getting their questions answered. The steamroller is only interested in winning.
Because they are aggressive, you have to be aggressive with them. There are several steps to being aggressive enough to have a conversation with the steamroller:
- STOP HIM
- SHAME HIM
- LEAVE HIM
You have to stop the steamroller if you can. Once he knows that you are intimidated, he has already won. Because of this, you need to act quickly. One way to stop the intrusion is to nicely ask for courtesy. You might hold up your hand or a finger, and when they pause say, "I’m not quite finished answering your question yet. You asked a good question and I would like to give you a good answer. If you have another question or comment I will give you the chance as soon as I am done to respond. Will that work?"
If they break their agreement to wait until you are done, or if they will not give you an opportunity to talk you move to step 2. Shaming is a little more aggressive. You will shame them for their bad behavior. This is done by getting their attention, looking them in the eye and calmly talking to them. You could say something like, "Can I ask a quick question? So you really want a response from me? I thought that you did at first, now I get the impression from your continuing to interrupt me that all you really want is an audience. If that is true, I can just listen to you. If you want an answer, you’ll need to give me time to respond. Tell me what you want. I need to know before I go on."
Hopefully that will work. They will see that you are their equal and they cannot steamroll you, or they continue to be rude and interrupt. Never lose your calm. Remember the saying, "Never get into an argument with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level then beat you with experience." If you cannot get them to stop, you leave. Plain and simple. When the first two methods have failed you need to just walk away. They can have the satisfaction of having the last word. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone deserves an answer.
The Bible talks about this very thing in Mark 4. You are told that some of the seeds you plant will fall by the thorns and not grow, some will sprout fast but wither and die and still others will be gobbled up by birds. All you can do is plant the seeds. Then your job is done. Remember, if it falls on deaf ears you should not take it personally. This is not about you, this is about Christ!
[*Written for TPE by David Stoecker of Spiritual Spackle.]
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