To avoid circular conversations, don't JADE - Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain.
Many Non-PD's are, by nature, consensus-builders. They can be notorious for having an over-developed need to explain themselves. They will talk and debate and rationalize until they are exhausted.
This trait is useful in many situations. A healthy debate between two individuals often helps to get all the issues on the table and can go a long way to avoiding misunderstandings. However, in order for this kind of dialogue to be productive, there has to be an underlying assumption that both parties can ultimately agree on what the facts are. This is often not the case.
A number of psychological studies have been conducted to demonstrate that eyewitness accounts in legal cases are often inaccurate. Everyone's memory is subject to biases of which they are not always aware and studies have shown that each time a person retells a story, their memory of the story will be rewritten slightly to better match the way they told it. The stronger the bias, the more the memory will be distorted each time it is recalled and rewritten. This helps to explain why some people's recollection of the facts can gradually skew further from the facts each time they repeat them.
This memory dynamic is at work in many situations, including:
- When a person "talks themselves into" or "out-of" a difficult decision, and then iteratively reinforces the wisdom of that decision afterwards.
- Romantic partners, who often selectively remember only good, (or bad) memories about each other.
- Victims of abuse, who develop amnesia to events they do not wish to remember.
- Political groups, who sometimes become systemically entrenched in a set of assumptions and become insensitive to alternative viewpoints.
- Religious cults and groups - where mantras and creeds are used to reinforce doctrine.
Many people who suffer from personality disorders have heightened emotional drivers, or biases, which make them particularly susceptible to developing this kind of progressive memory distortion. This is sometimes referred to as Dissociation.
Given this understanding, the practice of having a debate with someone who has strong biases can actually have the counter-productive effect of reinforcing their biases, as they repetitively remember and state the facts from their own point of view. This is what makes the idea of JADE - Justifying, Arguing, Defending or Explaining - such a bad idea.
Instead, it is recommended that on any given issue, state your point of view once and once only. Provide any clarifications that are asked for. Anything more than this is likely to be counter productive.
This is not to suggest that you should say nothing at all or back down in an argument. It is critical to take whatever action is necessary so that you, and any children under your care, can live in a safe, happy, healthy and productive environment. It's just not that necessary to talk very much about it.
The JADE acronym is attributed to the Al-Anon group.