Rational Conflict Resolution

This is a basic summary of how my brother and I solve arguments. It works well for us almost all of the time.


Both people need to:

1. Make an objective observation of facts, and resolve any differences in that assessment until you get as close to the truth as possible.

2. Determine who has the burden of proof. Usually one person is trying to modify the other person’s beliefs or behavior in some way, and that person has the burden of proof. The other person doesn’t have to justify themselves in any way, because they have autonomy over their own life. However, if consent has been violated, then the person violating consent has the burden of proof.

3. Recognition that both parties have rational reasons for doing what they do. Examine what goals each person is trying to attain, the one by doing what they do, and the other by trying to convince the other to do something different. Goals should be basic things that apply to virtually all people, like freedom, truth, usefulness and purpose, health, play, learning and development, companionship and meaningful relationships, well-being of you and yours, cleanliness, safety, etc. etc.


The person with the burden of proof must then:

1. Provide evidence to the contrary if they think some of the other person’s beliefs about reality are inaccurate, or that their philosophy is irrational or immoral. Or argue reverse burden of proof if the person is making an unprovable positive claim.

2. Examine the costliness and effectiveness of the person’s current strategy for meeting their goals.

3. Provide at least one alternative strategy for meeting that goal, and argue its greater effectiveness and/or lower cost with either evidence or believably reasonable projections about outcomes.

4. Hope the other person is convinced by your reasoning and evidence and consents to change their beliefs or behavior. Otherwise you’re out of luck, and had better come up with better arguments.

5. If successful, do a victory dance to “She Blinded Me with Science.”


Coercive practices, like shouting, slamming doors or hitting the table, insults, subjective judgment calls and labeling, cussing, appeals to feelings,  confounding the issue with another issue, shaming or guilt-tripping, threats, bribes, direct orders, and emotional stonewalling are not allowed. The goal is always to believe in what is true, not to win.

“Do it for me?” type arguments are only allowed when truly desperate.

In partnered relationships, in our view, consent may be violated in life-or-death situations, in which case the situation surpasses moral restraints, or when you have concrete evidence that the person is not in their right mind, e.g. if they are on medication, engaged in an addictive process, or in extreme emotional distress. Just thinking the other person is being irrational or vehemently disagreeing with them is no basis for violating consent. In that case, the only option is to convince them.


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