I realized some time ago that most arguments (esp. bad ones) can be deflated with a few well-placed words. If they’re really good words, they can also deflate the person’s ego and get a laugh from nearby bystanders.
I found a way to do this all with one word. The titular “Really?”
However, you can’t just say “Really?” in any old way. You have to say it in the particular proportions I’ve discovered. Like any recipe, you can modify it slightly to suite your own needs, but don’t try to work off book unless you know what you’re doing. Okay?
How to make a Really?:
- Tone of voice with 60 percent inquisitiveness, 10 percent condescension, 5 percent bewilderment, and 25 percent curiosity.
- A stare that is simultaneously blank and mock ‘caught-off-guard’
- A working neck
- Facial expression with 40 percent grimace in embarrassment and 60 percent sympathetic questioning. Imagine you’re a lawyer desperately trying to defend an innocent person who keeps saying stupid things.
- Wait until the appropriate moment. Usually this will be shortly after a bad argument escapes the lips of the person you’re debating. For instance, “Buildings can’t fall like that, Bush must have planned 9/11.”
- Look at him blankly for precisely one moment. It is important for the silence to stretch for one full moment while you seem like you’re momentarily caught off guard by the argument.
- Tilt your head to the right while simultaneously grimace and scrunch your eyebrows together while raising them.
- Say “Really?” as if they just embarrassed themselves.
- If needed, say “Seriously?” Or “you really believe that?” Each time make your grimace more pained.
While I generally hate rhetoric or sophistry, sometimes its the most effective tool in your arsenal. Try saying this sometime today. It’s surprising how well it works.