Is it a good strategy to be avoid confrontation in arguing for Objectivist ideas, so as not to set off your discussant’s defenses?
You can’t answer that question as stated. First, make this crucial distinction: ideas vs. people.
In criticizing ideas, such as altruism, you need to be forceful and call a spade a spade. This includes being clear and objective: defining altruism in terms of self-sacrifice, duty, etc., and giving reasons for your conclusion.
In other words, you would not in conversation or to an audience or in writing say something like, “Altruism’s not my cup of tea.” No, you would make such points that altruism means the surrender of your values for the benefit of anyone who is non-you, that altruism has been the justification for every modern dictatorship, that full sacrifice of your values means your death. You would point out that there has been no argument ever given as to why we should sacrifice.
That’s being “confrontational” in regard to the idea of altruism. But it would be wrong to attack the person you are talking to: “You are an altruist and therefore are on the death premise.”
If you regard the person or people that you are talking to as evaders, as seriously immoral, then you should not be talking to them.
Conversely, if you are talking to them, it has to be on the premise that they respect rational arguments and that you share some starting point with them.
It’s neither practical nor morally proper to discuss ideas with those who reject reason.
So, it’s a mistake to think you have to be “non-confrontational” in discussing your ideas. That’s coming at it from the wrong perspective. You should give reasons for true, positive ideas and condemn and invalidate the wrong ideas. But your discussant or your audience has to be taken as open to reason and sharing with you some rational values if you are going to have or continue a discussion of ideas with them.
Confront the ideas not your audience.