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February 27, 2018

The Myth of the Slippery Slope

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
(George Bernard Shaw)


We all do a lot of arguing these days. New media platforms have profited on polarization, and our multimedia megaphones have turned us all into pundits. It’s gotten ridiculous. What’s especially concerning is the way we argue. Without having formal debate rules, and without having to actually face a conversational opponent in person, we tend to become reactive blame-throwers, name-callers, and fear-mongers.


Here’s one particular argument tactic we’ve all used to protect ourselves from adapting and growing: the so-called “slippery slope” argument.


For instance, Obamacare activists employ the slippery slope argument against any kind of new changes anywhere. “If we lose the mandate portion, we’ll lose the whole thing soon enough!”


Gun rights activists do the same thing: “If we up the age requirement to 21, or ban AR-15s altogether, then it’s just a slippery slope toward the government taking all our guns away!”


We do this in our relationships as well: “If I give in one inch on the idea of going to her family’s Christmas this year, even though we went there last year, I may as well kiss my family Christmas’s goodbye.” Or, like this: “If I do this new sexual act with my spouse, it won’t be long before I’m doing God knows what!”


We do this in our parenting, too: “Well, if we allow this video game, won’t we just end up allowing all video games?”


While understandable, this mode of thinking is, frankly, not helpful. It actually keeps parties from ever discussing new, negotiated agreements. It also prevents the discovery and introduction of new information, which might alter everyone’s position. The result is simply more and more stubborn intractability.


Creative solutions, to even our most polarized issues, exist in abundance. All we need first is the courage to entertain slight shifts in our thinking, without automatically assuming this will lead to losing our whole core interest.


We can do this.


Peace begins with pause,



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