When to Exit a Discussion


The other day I got some Facebook feedback on my post, “Maybe Men’s Problem with Christianity Is Masculinity.” One man grasped my point and thanked me for it. Another man rather sarcastically and bluntly questioned me, eventually mocking me and mansplaining how ignorant I was of the basic issues and church history. As a Christian studies major, I LOLed, ended the conversation with a cheerful, “Well, okay then. (smiley),” and went on with my day.

It’s always a gamble, starting an internet conversation. Sometimes, even an originally hostile conversation can turn into something productive, with both parties walking away enlightened. And sometimes, things go south really, really fast.

I learned a little trick to discover if a conversation, even with a slightly hostile tone, is worth continuing: If he starts explaining or questioning your motives, leave now.

It’s called manipulation, and it’s not productive.

“You’re just saying that because you’re ignorant.”

“If you really understood the historical context of this….”

“You clearly don’t have the Spirit of God in you.”

“You’re just bitter.”

Everyone, on all sides of all issues, has probably done this at one time or another — especially on the internet.

The situation often goes like this. The manipulator will ask you a question or make a statement, inviting your response. Your conversation will seem fairly normal, he asking clarifying questions, you explaining your position, maybe even reaching some sort of civil understanding or disagreement, and then bam, he hits you with a load of you-statements and opinions about your character, intelligence, spirituality — your motives, basically.

He doesn’t want to talk about the gender crisis in the church or offer true help and guidance for your doubts. He just wants you to know why you’re really feeling, thinking, and believing the way you do. He wants to enlighten you of your own ungodly or bigoted motives. You clearly have no self-awareness, but fortunately, he can read you like a book.

For what end? I’m not sure. I just know, personally, it’s easier to tear someone down than engage in conversation with them. It’s easier to believe that everyone who holds differing viewpoints is stupid and immoral and rude and misguided than to hear and understand what those people have to say.

But whatever his true motive, it’s prudent to just walk away from someone accosting your motives. That conversation won’t go anywhere. Don’t defend yourself or throw a zinging insult in retreat. Just close the conversation and move on with your life. The only way to beat manipulators at their own game is walking away, completely unscathed by their assessment of you.

Have you run into these manipulators? How did you handle them?

// More advice on dealing with obnoxious people

2 thoughts on “When to Exit a Discussion

  1. Bethany

    Oh yay! Internet trolls. ;) I’m thankful people are more apt to be mean via the internet than in real life. Because exciting the browser is so much easier than trying not to cry and/or bite off your opponents head.
    I do not write could-be-controversial posts, so I can’t really share my two cents on how I deal with such people. I’ll be the on the side lines to hear the latest installment of anonymous jerks. Bravo for having the guts to respond. :)


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