A common view has it that we have a moral duty to talk with everyone – that unless we are constantly in dialogue, we are both unreasonable and uncharitable. On the contrary, sometimes both charity and reason require breaking off conversation. Or even refusing to enter it.
Recently a woman wrote because – she said – she had questions about the Church. I answered them. She then became personally insulting and claimed that I was lying. I said that I thought she was too angry for a continuation of the exchange to be helpful, and that it grieved me to see her deceive herself about wanting to engage in dialogue.
On another occasion a young man approached me because – he said -- he wanted to learn to debate sexual hedonism better against people like me. I told him that if his mind was open, I would be glad to discuss whether his philosophy was true, but I was not interested in helping him sharpen his debating technique.
Just what motive is operating in a given conversation may be difficult to discern. To someone who rattles off a great many questions without listening to the answers, I sometimes put the question, “Would it make any difference to you what the answers were?” You may be surprised by how many people reply “No.”
At least that’s honest. Here is one way to respond: “Then let’s not waste time with all that. Can you think of something you really want to know?”