Conflict is like a high-strung game of hot potato in which what you're shoving back and forth at each other is self-doubt.
In conflict, we don't agree about something and, whether by necessity or sheer doggedness, we can't simply agree to disagree. Something has got to give, preferably our opponent's insistence, and so we go at each other trying to erode each other's confidence, questioning each other's plans, interpretations, motives, character, and intelligence-anything to get that stinging doubt out of our hands and into our opponent's. It's a vicious cycle, a doubting-match, as we and our opponents pass the doubt potato ever more aggressively.
Naturally there are some standard doubt-deflecting rhetorical moves we can make. I've started to catalog them and list eighteen of them below. By rhetorical I mean they're generic, or content-independent. One can apply them to deflect self-doubt no matter what topic is on the table or what position you take on that topic.
Many are meta-moves, ways to act as though you're above the fight, even while continuing to fight. They're the equivalent of saying "I'm done playing," just as you shove the potato into your opponent's hand. They tend have a moral tone, like saying "One shouldn't try to win at hot potato," just as you pass the self-doubt to your opponent, the double-down, doubt-inflicting equivalent of "only losers like you care about winning and losing and, oh, by the way, haha, you lose."
Though you might think I don't have a lot of respect for these techniques, in two ways I actually do. First, they are quite formidable. I respect them in that if I were to name the one aspect of human nature most likely to cause our failure as a species (taking down a great many other species with us) it would be our alacrity and fluency at employing these and other techniques for deflecting self-doubt, setting off self-certainty wars. And the second way I respect them I'll save for after the list. Here it is with links to related articles:
I said I respect these doubt-deflection techniques in two ways and here's the second. They're effective because they look just like authentic and honorable moves. That's the problem with decoys and cons of all sorts. For them to be effective, they have to be indistinguishable or at least easily confused with the genuine article. Lies sidle right up to truths so they won't be noticed. Moral subterfuge hides right next to true morality.
For every move I described I can think of instances when deploying it wouldn't be a cheap doubt-deflection trick, but would a heartfelt and honorable expression of something worth heeding in the name of true morality.
And besides, even as doubt-deflection tricks, I can imagine situations in which using them is justified, even though they're tricks. Imagine that your community was being taken over by a drug-lord--someone intent on wringing out its vitality for private benefit. Imagine that you had a chance to debate this drug lord in front of the community. Imagine that he shoved the doubt-potato at you, challenging your motives, interpretations and intelligence. Would you want your hands tied by a rule preventing you from using these doubt-deflection techniques?
I wouldn't, so, much as I'd like a world in which everyone felt a sharp pain of conscience, or better yet something akin to appendicitis when they used these cheap challenge-shunning tricks to impose self-doubt on the undeserving rather than experience it, I don't think such world would be possible or safe.
I once knew a couple. The wife was quite intense and restless. The husband was devoted and patient. They had a one year old. She went off and had an affair and when she was found out, she turned it into a referendum on her husband and the ways in which he wasn't exciting enough for her. Now of course, I can't claim to know all the details and factors that would go into such an interpretation. But knowing them as I did, I can imagine that imposing insult to injury on her husband--doubt on top of infidelity--was irresistibly preferable to taking the heat for the mess she made. My sense is that she all-too-readily pulled out the heavy artillery to defend herself.
If shuns are outlawed only outlaws will have shuns. I'd want her husband to have techniques for fighting back, just as I'm glad that in the US where guns are plentiful, our police are well armed. Still, since I think that the shuns we have are as bad, if not worse than the guns (guns don't kill people, self-certain people do), I wish we could devise better shun control laws.