Push Back Part 2


This is a continuation of Part 1. The following excerpts were taken from the Intermediate Course (Loose Logic) from the book “Push Back” written by B.K. Eakman

All of us at work always find ourselves needing to make a proposal, make a recommendation and provide feedback. The pointers below help us with communication hurdles that we faces.

About the Book

The book focuses on avoiding being duped or conditioned into doing things or accepting things against our principles and values in order to achieve the motives or agenda of others, even if it is something detrimental to ourselves. We have to fight the battle for our minds and stand up for what we believe.

Push Back Approach to Adopt

Step 1: Know when you are under attack

  • If you cannot spot verbal aggression, you will become a perfect target.
  • Do not assume that you are “oversensitive,” ”paranoid,” ”reactionary,” ”narrow” or that you “just do not get it.” If something does not sound right, there is probably a reason.

Step 2: Know what kind of attack is being employed.

  • Learn to identify the basic structures of fallacious reasoning.
  • Learn to gauge the skill of your adversary and participants.

Step 3: Make your defense appropriate to the attack.

  • Remember that a stock response is not always the right one to use.
  • Frequently the best defense is a good defense.

Step 4: When targeted, always question the opponent’s assumption(s) rather than taking the bait.

Step 5: Follow through and play to win. Do not feel guilty about fighting back.

  • This appears to be difficult for women than men.
  • More husbands and fathers need to get into the fray instead of leaving it all to the women.

Fallacies in Logic

Our minds draw conclusions and make decisions based on patterns of logic that had become habits.

Incorrect mental habits can result in loose reasoning that is fallacious logic.The author described fallacy as “A deceptive maneuver intended to bolster an argument for which there is insufficient evidence.”

Disruptions in thinking can make one unable to sustain a line of reasoning from beginning to conclusion. These disruptions can be caused by interruptions, noise and other distractions.

Deviations (reasoning mis-fires) include:

  • Misaligned cause-effect.
  • Circular reasoning.
  • Dubious evidence.
  • Contradictory arguments.
  • Lack of qualifier terms.
  • Ill-defined terms.

It is possible that our reasoning capabilities can be hijacked. Some of the hijacking techniques are:

  • Misquoting or incompletely quoting
  • Dismissing alternatives
  • Changing the subject or from it
  • Exaggerating facts
  • Insulting opponents

Loose Logic

  • Oversimplification – Using catch phrases to oversimplify complex facts.
  • Smear (Masked Insults) – The format of the statement is insult + subject proper. The insult can be direct of implied.
  • Hasty generalization – These are generalizations made without basis, so it is flawed.
  • False hypothesis and analogies – A hypothesis is an unproven theory, conjecture, opinion, perception, assumption or educated guess. It cannot be used to draw a conclusion. They are a “therefore”-type argument.
  • False analogy
  • Irrelevancy
  • Straw-man argument
  • Circular reasoning
  • False appeals to fear, expertise, popularity, common practice.
  • Questionable definitions

Attack Strategies (Counter Measures)


  • Go in with 1 or more supporters, but sit yourselves differently so that you all will not appear choreographed.
  • Pose counter-arguments in the form of questions so as to plant seeds of doubt among fence-sitters.

The Smear

Do not feel intimidated. Do not take up a defensive position because you were insulted because you know that all the opposition wanted to do is to divert the audience away from the real subject maybe to a related or a different topic. Avoid contradicting the opposition’s insult. Do not deny the opposition’s accusation. The correct approach is to treat it as a distraction. The important to get everybody to return to the subject matter or get on with making your point on the subject matter. The format of the reply will be (Yes or Go ahead or What is your point or Stereotyping) + Make your point on the subject matter.

Hasty Generalization

Attack the facilitator’s flawed basis of argument (use this opportunity to create doubts). The format Say the argument is flawed or that it is a hasty generalization + Point out where the Flaw is + (maybe) challenge to give evidence to support the generalization.

The False Hypothesis

The major discrepancies that grow from a false hypothesis may include:

  • False assumptions
  • Cause misaligned with effect (out of sync, lacking in correlation, rely on coincidental results)
  • Failure to qualify the argument
  • Dubious evidence
  • Contradictory data

Learn to keep track of the assumptions, avoid being sidetracked by irrelevancies and distractions and before the facilitator can draw their conclusion, put up your hands and point out the wrong assumptions. You can gain control of the debate this way.

In the case of misaligned cause-effect, the solution is to suggest a different but reasonable alternative.

Use a qualifier term when you raise a counter point so as give yourself room for exceptions and mistakes in what you say. Using qualifier words and or promising to get back with specifics later, tends to shut down hostile opponents who are determined to stick to their agenda, and who may be challenging you on accuracy of information.

Examples of qualifiers are:

  • significant numbers of
  • seems to be
  • tends to
  • can be
  • perhaps some

The False Analogy

The entire debate could be lost because an irrelevant analogy is used. This is “comparing apples to oranges.”

The Straw-Man Argument

A straw-man argument is one in which a position is attacked when there is no one there to defend it. An example is criticizing a government program.

Subjects like this require some sort of expertise and experience about it. Professional manipulators make use of college students, wannabe activists to advocate and participate in petition drives on subjects that require some sort of expertise and experience.

When faced with a straw-man argument, one way to deal with it is to say ”You know, I have not actually heard the pros and cons on this. Before, I decide, I will like to hear from the parties mentioned in the argument.”

Circular Reasoning

This is sometimes known as “begging the question” where you are asked why you said what you had said.  Unless the givens or assumptions are true, your statement would be challenged. You will be asked to give evidence to justify your thesis (what you said).

This is usually an indication that the other person is not going to buy your argument. Your position becomes a “circular reasoning.”

Rather than having the conversation bounds back to you, the way to handle this situation is to redirect the conversation to another subject but try to relate it with the subject at hand.

If the other person reply, taking a neutral position instead of arguing back, you can make a “gotcha” statement by agreeing to the position (for example “Exactly”) and then restate your point or position.

The Appeals

Appeals are based on the power of suggestion. The appeals refer to appeals to fear, to expertise, to popularity, to common practice. Most people fear appearing ignorant.

Here are phrases that helps the different types of appears:

1             Appeals to popularity (herd approval or appeal for people to conform). All trends and fads derive their legitimacy from popularity.

  • “Everyone knows….”
  • “It is common knowledge that…..”
  • “We are all aware of……”

2             Appeals to expertise. It is easy to be misled because of the respect accorded to the term   “expert”. When this is used, the person is trying to build support or justify. Sometimes, a celebrity     is used for what she or he thinks despite that he or she does not have any background, have               done no research, have taken little or no coursework.

  • “Child experts say……”

3              Appeals to common practice. It is finding excuses to do things that do not follow a moral benchmark.

  • “Everybody does it….”
  • “Everyone lies about….”

Questionable Definitions (ill Defined Terms)

The author said: frequently the reason provocateurs get the upper hand at the outset