How to Know if You're Dealing With an Ideologue

Simply put, an ideologue is someone who is dedicated to a certain way of thinking, whether it is political, philosophical or religious in nature in a nearly fanatical way. One may be very difficult to deal with. This simple guide will help you figure out whether a person is an ideologue.


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    Pay attention to your conversations with this individual. See whether there is always an effort to talk about a certain topic, even if you have either hinted or have told them outright that you don't want to talk about it. Try using the tactics in How to Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations About Religion (whether the topic is religion or not) and see the response. Also, remember that religion and faith are NOT the only issues that create ideologues.
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    Analyze the relationship as it has developed over time. Think back and remember how your relationship with this person came into existence. An ideologue will at first seem genuinely interested in your opinions and might truly understand them, but over time will become impatient with you once realizing that you are not going to convert from yours without serious consideration. An ideologue often has what could be called a missionary complex-- they seem determined to convert others to their viewpoint regardless of the cost.
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    Check attitudes on opposing viewpoints. There is no such thing as compromise with an ideologue. Generally, an ideologue doesn't understand the concept of agree to disagree. To use a cliché, an ideologue sees everything in a black and white contrast with few if any shades of gray.
    • Deliberately bring up a known opponent of the person's views, and see what is the thinking about them. If what one tells you sounds hard to believe, then conduct a fact check and see whether it's true. If it isn't, there is resorting to personal smears and not actual facts. This is an excellent sign of being an ideologue, since it shows being more committed to converting others to ones viewpoint than to having a fair and fact-based discussion of the issue at hand.
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    Reflect on his/her communication habits. An ideologue will seem well versed in whatever belief system this person is committed to, and will often quote facts and statistics as if they are rehearsed. Even if you do have information to back your ideas, an ideologue will present ideas in a manner that prevents you from presenting yours: they will cut off your side of the conversation, for example.
    • Sometimes an ideologue will start a discussion in a deliberately provocative manner to get you upset. This is because they know that it will be much more difficult for you to respond calmly once they have upset you, and this will limit your chances of looking fair-minded. Ideologues never fight fairly, and this is because of valuing winning the argument over having a fair exchange of ideas.
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    Think about how ideas are presented. An ideologue will often present their ideas and opinions as material facts, regardless whether there is evidence to the contrary. They also will start with discussions gently, but as time goes on, they may become more and more aggressive.
    • Ask them where they get the information on current events in the field of what you are discussing. If it's exclusively from sources that you now know for their consistent (hidden or explicit) bias, then there simply is not much respect for media and others who do not explicitly agree with their viewpoint.


  • There is nothing wrong with being devoted or passionate about your beliefs. The difference is that a passionate person can understand objections to ones ideas, and can resist the temptation to bring up the issue knowing that you are likely to disagree. An ideologue won't do either of these things.
  • Ideologues can be extremely inconsistent. They will play the ends justify the means card, if it justifies their position -- but will deplore it when opponents use it, for example.
  • Ideologues usually do not discuss a hot topic positively: instead of building one's own principles, the ideologue will attack yours. It can be easier to know what an ideologue doesn't believe than what one does believe.
  • There are many ways to end a relationship with an ideologue: simply fade out from the other's life, write a letter, or verbally explain that the relationship is over, and leave immediately.
  • Some ideologues rely on logical fallacies, a list of which can be found in Wikipedia's "List of fallacies" at
  • You won't win the argument. If you don't want to slam the door and end the relationship, the easy path is to play dumb when a hot topic is brought up. Regardless of how many facts you give, this person will always be convinced of being right, and that you're either misguided (if there is hope that you might give in) or wrong (if the sense is that you've rejected the ideas). As one ideologue said, "Always remember, you're smart, but I'm right."
    • You might try the therapist path with the techniques of nonviolent communication,[1] repeating back points patiently, trying to make them feel heard.
    • The cat-with-a-mouse path is to take their position and pull them further than they want to go: "Did Jesus give up possessions; can you talk about what He said about poverty?" (Keep in mind that a possible problem with this approach is that there will be efforts to pull it back his or her way, and often simply tossing your question aside as if it is not even worth considering.)


  • It can be hard to pick up on an ideologue at first, but it will be obvious once irritated by your rejection of this ideology.
  • Be very careful, if the ideologue wants to restart the relationship after you have ended it. If this person did not cause many problems in your life, then make an exception, so give another chance, and see whether the approach to ideas has changed. Otherwise, err on the side of caution.

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