The Subtle Art of Psychological Combat
Often times I'm asked what practical value studying weapons based combat has. Quite honestly, in physical confrontation terms, very little. However the things that become ingrained in your mind have nearly infinite applications, just as Miyamoto Musashi said:
"The spirit of defeating a man is the same for ten million men... The principle of strategy is having one thing, to know ten thousand things."
Here are a few rough outlines on applying the philosophy, the values and decision making process, of combat to the issue of interpersonal conflict.
With the application of the mental aspects of this you get a series of actions that affect the mind of your opponent rather than their body, yet still retain the same goal: "Avoid death, eliminate the threat", or "strike without being stricken", and we can begin to see why dealing with things like our ego and identity are fundamental to becoming competent as warriors.
The most simple concept is to attack the opponent when they are unprepared and keep them on the defensive with a series of planned actions. The idea is to force them to act in one of several predictable ways which do not threaten us and simply ward off our initial probing actions. These are easy to put together. In the simplest format, find something that you know they hold dear, and attack that in such a way that you control their out. "You aren't a real man unless you pay for the date". "You will suffer eternal damnation unless you believe in Steve, the great and mighty penguin." Essentially you attack a form of their identity, or stoke some sort of fear unless they follow whatever action you prescribe. "Only fascists eat pickles." You can get really creative with this one. Essentially you're selling snake oil by creating some problem that doesn't exist outside of someone's mind and then offering them the one solution, which just happens to come with several other stipulations (more attacks) designed to constrain and control them.
This is why it's essential not to cling to an identity blindly. Normally accepting alabel due to one aspect of it, say being a vegetarian, which is stipulated by the choice not to eat meat, will have several other attributes associated with it that you may not believe in. You can try to defend the label, but really that's a waste of time and energy, and something that your opponents will wear you out with. Or you can simply take the actions you would anyways and ignore the label. This is essentially the way that a voodoo doll works. You create something that the person identifies with such as a doll (or label), then you attack that thing, which is not them, and yet because they are identifying with that thing (idea, ideology, object etc.) they will feel pain.
In the Kunst des fechtens the most iconic type of action is the single time counter with opposition, that is a counter attack that simultaneously defends and attacks by displacing the attack of an opponent. This is an effective way to deal with an opponent who relies on the previous method of attack. Simply deflect their attack as you attack them. "Only a sexist would say something so outdated." "Vague immaterial threats are the tools of irrational religious zealots." You get the idea. This amounts to a type of advancing front under the cover of a counter attack.
It's really more important to recognize that at this stage you are not aiming to convince your opponent directly by confronting them, often this will actually double their resolve, however that isn't the goal. The goal is to come off better to anyone listening. You need to seem more composed, reasonable or untouchable than your opponent. You are appealing to whatever values your audience has, those are the avenues of maneuver that you must control to be successful in the long term. Normally the people you are dealing with are simply repeating the thoughts of others, usually the most popular, so the only way to alter their behavior is by changing what the popular social opinion is, and the best way to do that is to appeal to them as you appear to be debating with one of the mouth pieces.
Then when you are confronted with someone using the strategy of the counterattack your best option is to either bait them out, or to out read their actions. Baiting them out is usually the most straightforward in most circumstances. Simply use hypothetical questions to draw them into a position where they make themselves bad. In other words, become an agent provocateur. If you create a smokescreen of possible beliefs or possible circumstances which you do not hold (ideally they are absurd, and the audience will understand this) and construct them in such a way as to cause the counter attacker to drastically overuse force on a seemingly innocuous problem. It is never popular to see someone abuse their power. "How do you think we should deal with religious zealots?" ... "you think we should burn simple peaceful penguin lovers at the steak simply because they hold a different viewpoint?"
If you can out read your opponents actions, that is you know what they will use as their counter attack, what areas they will target, then you can make this even more devastating by leading them into an even bigger trap. "How would you punish a sexist?" ... "No criminal trial? that's pretty harsh, but maybe they deserve it"... (let them go as far as possible without committing yourself to any position) ... "So what you're saying is that if a guy pays for a date he should be sent to a unlisted prison without a criminal hearing indefinitely without any notice?" and then if they backtrack simply attack them as changing their story, or being inconsistent.
The whole point is to force the opponent to make bad choices and attack the openings. If someone is too diplomatic and they don't create openings with their statements, then create situations where their diplomacy begins to work against them. While using this the point is to use this mental technology effectively, so it's up to the user to apply it in an intelligent and responsible manner.