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what's your smooth comeback?

paul wheaton

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20972

So I was trying to write a little something to expand the fallacy page and I came up with a comment where I'm having a hard time coming up with a good "high road" response.

Here is what I have so far:


Jones: �I thought I read somewhere that the transaction handling on that database was weak.�

Smith: �Jones, I think you're a bit junior to be throwing stumbling blocks in on this decision. I think you'll learn a lot more by simply listening.�

Tricky one! This fallacy is actually a double whammy. We have an Ad Hominem Fallacy and a Pseudo Boss Fallacy.

If you can grab the insult and not throw an insult back, you win the white hat. But grabbing something like that at the spur of the moment can be tricky. If you cannot grab it, the best thing to do would be to just steer the conversation back on track.

High Road #1: �Stumbling blocks? I thought that was the purpose of this meeting. To find stumbling blocks.� Passed on the white hat. Ignored the �shut up� directive and moved the conversation back on track.

High Road #2: �I'm junior? You would think somebody would have sent me a memo or something. Oh well, I'm happy to call myself junior if that makes you comfortable. Now where were we.... Oh yeah, I was talking about transactions and you were talking about stumbling. If you really think this is a stumbling block, maybe this vendor is not a good candidate for us.�

Not so High Road: �If the point is causing a senior engineer to stumble, perhaps I'm not so junior. Would you like me to research the point further?� There's a small stinger here in asserting �I'm not so junior�, but the second part is damage control.

Low Road #1: �If you find you're stumbling on these concepts I can try to use smaller words.�

Low Road #2: �Listening to you stumble over concepts like 'database' hardly sounds like an education.�

Low Road #3: �If you're stumbling and I'm not, wouldn't that mean that you are junior and should be quiet?�


Anybody wanna take a shot at a comeback? Preferably a high road?

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Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 33124

I would probably reply with something like:

"I think we can all learn a lot by having you, as the senior person, explain why we don't have to worry about the transaction handling."

That only works if you aren't really very junior though. At the beginning, one doesn't have enough experience to realize that a comment like Smith's isn't true.

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Nick White
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 09, 2006
Posts: 94
I think I would try:

"You're right. A person in my position can only do one thing at a time. In this case you are correct - I will listen and not throw, even if I am only expected to listen simply - at least then we will understand each other "
marc weber

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

Originally posted by Paul Wheaton:
...Jones: �I thought I read somewhere that the transaction handling on that database was weak.�

Smith: �Jones, I think you're a bit junior to be throwing stumbling blocks in on this decision. I think you'll learn a lot more by simply listening.�

Tricky one! This fallacy is actually a double whammy...

It's a double whammy because Smith is correct!

"We're kind of on the level of crossword puzzle writers... And no one ever goes to them and gives them an award." ~Joe Strummer
Max Habibi
town drunk
( and author)

Joined: Jun 27, 2002
Posts: 4118
Option three: refuse to hear the insult, and act as if he's just kindlyasked you to name, is specific, technical detail, exactly what you're concerned about. Also, pick up a pencil and start taking notes on the conversation.

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jeff baker

Joined: Oct 22, 2006
Posts: 3
"Care for a coffee?"

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A. Levi
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 26, 2003
Posts: 97
serenity now.

seriously, in office bullying tactics are the only choice left sometimes. If the jones guy knows what he is talking about or knows how to back his stuff up he better be a bully if its his a$$ on the line. my 2 cents.
[ October 22, 2006: Message edited by: A. Levi ]
Marilyn de Queiroz

Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Posts: 9059
"Perhaps. But even someone more junior can have valid input sometimes."

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that's why they call it the present." Eleanor Roosevelt
Bert Bates

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8898
Wow - that stings!

I feel like the answer would be different based on a lot of different criteria...

- who's actually right
- who's in the meeting
- history
- actual experience levels
- any meeting ground rules

For instance, depending on the situation it might be better to let such a stinger slide by, whereas in a different situation it would be bad for everyone if such a comment was allowed to stand.

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Maureen Augustus
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 18, 2006
Posts: 72
Although Smith may be wrong to insult our hero Jones, Jones could have avoided the whole situation by phrasing his comment differently...

"I thought I read somewhere..."?

If Jones wants to be taken seriously and not have his comments increase the noise-to-signal ratio, he should be more specific. He should have come in with something more like:

"I read an article on slashdot that said the transaction handling on the database was weak because it handled updates poorly. What do you think, Smith?"

In that way, Jones is deferring to Smith as a senior member of the team and is also not immediately putting Smith on the defensive.
[ October 24, 2006: Message edited by: Maureen Augustus ]

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Mark Fletcher
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 08, 2001
Posts: 897
I usually comeback with "It might not touch the bottom of a tuna can, but it sure as hell bangs the sides out of it".

Then I make my excuses to the lady and beat a hasty retreat.

Wait, you're talking about the Office? Well... ermm..

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