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Lost another 2 pounds this week, which might have been more had I not succumbed to limited, controlled but admittedly self-undermining temptation with desserts of an evening. After telling my loving spouse NOT to buy ice-creams, she forgot she’d listened. Still, I could have said, ‘No’, couldn’t I?

I also ran a faster 2 miles, which is progress even if I am a long way of a 10 miler target. and I was nicely productive most of the time.

Don’t Argue for Generals.

The psychologist Dr Leonard Orr postulated that in all of us there are two people – a ‘thinker’ and a ‘prover’. The Thinker within you is the part that thinks up ideas and generates possibilities while the Prover looks for the evidence that supports those ideas. Orr’s Law states, “Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves’.

Consequently, if you believe something to be true based on any number of factors in including upbringing, peer pressures, experience and environment, then your Prover will seek out and identify any evidence that supports that belief – while dismissing anything which counters that belief.

This is a problem. Referencing Covey’s first Habit, we have the ability if we are aware of and wish to use it to overcome that closed thinking. We can choose to look at what we believe, and to question those beliefs. We also have the ability to elect to make those beliefs conditional – that, to accept that our beliefs are not facts, or that they may apply a lot of the time but aren’t necessarily universal.

This came to mind this week because a Facebook acquaintance had circulated a pic supporting of equality in gay marriage, but with an additional barb at the bottom about ‘the church’ being anti-gay. I questioned why a positive message about equality had to end with an attack. Off we went.

The point I wanted to convey (and maybe failed because of the medium or because the other party declined to accept Orr’s Law, I don’t know) was that generalising attacks on any organisation/culture/body/group, undermines the intellectual accuracy of the argument. In fact, it merely demonstrates the stereotyping of whole strata of society. And that stereotyping is often done by those who demand we do not stereotype!

I read about ‘the police did X at Hillsborough’ or ‘the army did that’ in Afghanistan, or ‘all politicians something else’ wherever, and I get miffed.

I get miffed because ‘the police’ is made up of thousands of people who had nothing to do with Hillsborough – I was 180 miles away; ‘the army’ is all over the world and not just in Afghanistan; ‘politicians’ represent society so some are dishonest, some are self-absorbed, and many are trying their best in a warped system (while also being subject to Orr’s Law!). But many ‘police’, ‘army’ and ‘politicians’ are none of those things. Many – no, most – are trying to uphold high personal and professional standards in a system designed (for some reason) to be adversarial. But most can leave the adversity in the workplace. Some, on the other hand, insist on taking it to Facebook.

You can usually tell the ideology of the arguer – their language about the other side will be dismissive, often insulting – but always general, as in ‘all X are Y’. Their language rarely takes into account the nature and size of exemptions that make the original generalisation ineffective.

Try arguing for an idea without attacking, insulting or stereotyping those who hold an opposing viewpoint. It’ll make you clever – er.

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