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 Splitting hairs

 

Techniques > Resisting persuasion > Splitting hairs

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Method

When you are given something that is difficult to question, divide in into smaller parts. You will be able to question many of these new things.

Ask 'what is it made of' to find the sub-elements.

Ask 'how many' to find individual parts.

Ask 'why' to find out the many reasons.

If being offered new financial terms, question timing and rates. If being offered insurance, question the fine print. And so on.

Example

That is an interesting plan. When will it happen? What about this part? What are the sub-elements? Who will do those? When will the first part be completed? What will happen in the first week?

Discussion

Splitting hairs (also known as casuistry) uses the principle of decomposition to break things down into smaller and smaller parts. With more parts there are more things to question. Some of these may well be actually very good things to question. Questioning other things is a way of distracting the other person, using up time, deflecting their comments and so on.

Decomposition also has the benefit of turning what was once a simple thing into a confusing, complex, compound set of parts.

This method has the advantage that it appears rational, which gives it an air of legitimacy and hence is rather difficult to question.

See also

Decompositional reasoning

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