On Monday I was a guest on the Jesse Lee Peterson show, a Conservative radio program that is syndicated across the nation. I was asked to discuss an article I wrote for CLUTCH asking readers, “Is Racism Really Waning?

While I’d been on the show before, and ended up aggravated and upset, when the show’s booker called to ask if I’d appear again, I agreed.

Am I a glutton for punishment? Perhaps. But she was nice and I have a bit of an issue saying no to nice folks. Besides, I reasoned that appearing on the radio would introduce my work to a wider audience. So what’s a half hour of aggravation if it meant increased visibility and more exposure, right?

Wrong.

As I tweeted on Monday, I should have listened to my intuition and canceled my appearance, because as soon as I was introduced, things went bad. Really, really bad.

(Listen for yourself. Skip to the 02hr, 03sec mark)

Video streaming by Ustream

Aside from repeatedly calling me “Brenda” when the convo got heated, Peterson personally attacked me, saying that I was “brainwashed” and a prime example of how inadequate the American public education system truly is.

After informing him that I never attended public schools (well, at least not until grad school), I told him that just because we disagreed on everything from who was to blame for the Sandy Hook massacre (he blamed Adam Lanza’s mother, not Adam himself), to whether or not felons should have the right to vote when they are released from prison (I say they should), does not make me wrong; it means we have different views.

But that’s not why I was asked to be on the show.

After our on-air spat, it became clear to me that I was asked to appear on the show for the sole purpose of having someone to arguing against, not to engage in a constructive debate.

You see, once someone starts attacking your morals and intelligence instead of your argument, it’s time to back away. Nothing good will come of it.

These days, arguing is en vogue. From angry blog commenters and Twitter users, to radio shows and cable TV news outlets, it seems like folks are more interested in seeing a fight than finding common ground.

While Peterson and I might have agreed on something (and I’m being overly optimistic here), we couldn’t find even the smallest point to agree on because he was so intent on converting me to his absolutely nutty hardline Conservative views or labeling me a god-less Liberal, that he never even opened his mind to the possibility that we might see eye-to-eye.

So I learned a few valuable lessons on Monday. Aside from never, ever going on Peterson’s show again, I realized:

#1: Always listen to your intuition. Before going on the show I had doubts and felt like canceling my appearance, but because I had already committed, I went on anyway. However, I should have listened to myself. I would have not only saved myself some aggravation, I would have sidestepped being insulted as well.

#2: All media appearances aren’t worth your time. This year I decided to pursue media opportunities that allowed me to increase my “brand” recognition. So far I’ve been a guest on a handful of radio shows, and have been a featured blogger on the Huffington Post Live talking about everything from how the mainstream media overlooks missing black folks to the benefits of online shopping. While the majority of my appearances have been completely positive, appearing on Peterson’s show was not. Just like all money isn’t “good money” if you have to do something that makes you uncomfortable to get it, all media appearances aren’t good either. Arguing with a Tea Partier for a half hour was both annoying and unproductive. Did my name reach a new audience? Sure, but are they an audience I want to continue to interact with? Probably not.

#3: Don’t argue with idiots. I’m sure Peterson would label me an idiot, and that’s his prerogative, but I’d probably call him the same. Because of this, I should have never have gone on the show in the first place. While I have no problem dialoguing with people with differing views, I have zero interest in getting into verbal smackdowns with ideologues who only want to talk for the sole purpose of arguing.

So what should you do when you find yourself locking wits with an idiot?

Don’t insult them, instead take Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton advice: “A fool flatters himself, a wise man flatters the fool” (go ahead, tweet that one out).

Then end the conversation and walk away.

You will not enlighten them, you will not change their mind, and you’ll only end up spent and angry, wondering why you even bothered in the first place.

Let my mistake be your guide. Save yourself.

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Have you ever found yourself in a dead-end conversation? How did you handle it? 

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