A reader over at Lifehacker asks, "How Do I Get Out of an Argument with an Irrational Person?" The advice boils down to this:
In the real world, the best way to win when someone gets irrational is to keep your calm, exit the conversation skillfully while leaving the option open to future discussion—because after all, you're the one with the evidence to back you up and the willingness to discuss it, and leave the other person blowing steam while you keep your cool. When you know for sure you're not getting anywhere, exit the conversation quickly, making clear that you could continue to prove your point, but see that there's no reason to continue.
Keep calm, maintain your position, and postpone the conversation. Makes sense in the interpersonal context. (The full piece is available here.)
I don't think this advice translates easily to faculty politics. (Of course, I do not imply that any colleage of mine might hold an intractable position about faculty parking, the brand of turkey on offer in the school cafeteria, or...anything....ever!) "Keep calm, maintain one's position and postpone the conversation" would lead to institutional gridlock. Sure, sometimes it's good to table a motion, but what about the cases in which postponement isn't a viable alternative.
So how to deal with an irrational faculty colleague? A friend once described the importance of squirt guns to her business school working group. Each member had a squirt gun and was meant to deploy it against anyone who did not observe group norms during brainstorming sessions. The person who repeated himself, interrupted another, or otherwise failed to observe group norms was likely to be hit with water from the rest of the group.
Super Soaker, anyone? Backpack water-storage option available.
image source: here