16 October 2007

Some observations on the nature of heated arguments

Those who dish out can never take it. Some can dish out, some can take it, some want nothing to do with either side. But there's no such thing as a person who can do both.

A person who accuses another of being selfish or ungrateful is almost always trying to get something specific from the other that they don't want to give.

The label of stubbornness really means "refuses to do or be what I want them to do or be." This label tends to follow statements that start with "you should" or "you shouldn't."

Cries of "I don't understand!" means that the person wants to rant at length in vehement disagreement against whatever they don't understand. They don't want to actually understand.

Cries of "I get it!" means that the person doesn't get it at all, and is probably so far from actual understanding that they never will. Especially if the followup starts with "but you have to understand..."

Accusations of any character flaw means that the accuser has that flaw. These can be very revealing about the weaknesses of the accuser.


Shawn Powers said...

I very rarely have heated arguments. I think I can dish it out, but usually don't like to.

I also don't take it well. Not that I get all stupid about it, but I can't seem to let it go. I hold grudges for a very, very long time. It's not healthy, so I try to avoid grudge-causing situations.

Anne C. said...

I was once accused of being argumentative and defensive. Well, you can't argue a defense for that, so my only resource was to prove it wrong. I listened to the feedback and did my best to think about the real core of the complaint (the complaint itself was ridiculous, but there was a core issue related to it that I COULD work on). I came out smelling like a rose.
Granted, this was a work situation for a boss who had few preconceptions, he could see who was the more mature individual.

Having a real communication when emotions are elevated is extremely difficult. Eventually, I'm able to separate out what is my emotion from what is fact, but it takes a while.

Sounds like you're talked at, rather than talked to. My sympathies!

(BTW, you can also learn about a person's weaknesses by listening to them complain about others. People who think others "backstab" them are frequently backstabbers themselves, for example. You can learn a lot by listening. Too bad so few people know this.)

MWT said...

Yeah, I'm prone to grudges too. Seems to run in the family.

Anne, that's a rare talent you've got there, being able to separate someone's ranting from what they're really upset about. I wish more people knew how to do that.

Jim Wright said...

MWT, the only advice I can offer from my years of conflict resolution in the military is: resort to violence as the first option! I prefer one of those giant "super-soaker" 2 gallon squirt guns (more like a fire hose, which works too, in a pinch). Every time somebody says, "Look what you've got to understand here is..." I just hose 'em down. I almost always win, except for this one time - didn't notice the guy was wearing a wetsuit, snorkel, and diving mask. Odd...

Seriously (sort of), one time I saw two guys get into a heated argument on a pier in Maine, all of a sudden one guys picks up a giant rotten fish from a bin (seriously, this was like a ten pound long dead mackerel) and smacked the other right up side the head with it. Fish guts everywhere. It ended the argument right there. The guy dripping fish guts apologized, they shook hands, and everybody walked away. As a Marine Scientist, this may be an option for you. And from what I could tell, it's deeply satisfying - providing you're the one swinging the fish.

Anne C. said...

Jim, I thought fish slapping was only something done on Monty Python.
Interesting to know it happens in real life.

MWT, it's very hard to do when my own emotions are elevated, but when I have a chance to think about things, I can deal with it better. I really wish it was a more common skill as well. Everyone deserves to be listened to, at least once.
Reminds me of the time I decided I had been too harsh in judging a schoolmate's innane personality and decided to give him a second chance. Halfway through the semester, I decided it would just be better if I never had to hear his idiotic comments ever again. One of the few people I actually hope to never see again. Most I don't care one way or the other, but him and one other guy, I would cross the street if I saw him coming my way. [shudders at the thought]

So even though I don't hold many grudges (even against those who have acted against me), I do have a couple lasting hatreds.