arguing

The last word isn't valuable

So, I’ve seen this play out in a lot of blogs:

  • Someone says something controversial
  • Someone gets angry, and trashes their post
  • This goes back and forth for a long time
  • Neither side actually wants to talk to the other
  • (And they may both repeatedly tell one another to stop replying)
  • But both sides keep replying, because they want to get the last word
  • And they feel like if they let something go without a response, they’ve lost somehow

Thing is, the last word isn’t actually valuable. It doesn’t matter who replies last. It matters what’s true. If you’re right, you’re right whether or not you respond to what people say to you. If you’re wrong, replying one more time won’t make you any less wrong.

Chasing the last word just fills up your blog with views you don’t want on it, and fills up your attention with people you don’t actually want to talk to.

You can have much better conversations on your blog if you focus on talking to people you want to talk to. When you talk to people you respect who respect you, and when you listen to one another seriously, you can have amazing conversations.

This doesn’t mean form an echo chamber. This doesn’t mean only reblog people who think exactly like you. You can have very worthwhile interactions with people who disagree with you, even on really important things. That’s only possible if you’re both listening to one another and considering the points seriously, though. 

Instead of chasing the last word, chase content.

sqbr:

realsocialskills:

I was conditioned from a really young age to be passive and go along with whatever was happening (mostly because of my dad’s temper. He was never abusive but he was very angry and it was never worth the battle to disagree with him), so now everytime i get into a disagreement or heated discussion with someone I end up crying and choking up to the point that I can’t get a sentence out. Do you have any advice for being able to argue inspite of this?
realsocialskills said:
A few suggestions:
It might help to communicate more slowly when things aren’t urgent. For instance:
  • Some conversations might be possible for you to have over email, but not in person
  • It’s ok to say “let’s move this conversation to email so I can figure out what I think without melting down”
  • It’s also ok to need to pause the conversation from time to time
  • Needing the conversation to be over for a while doesn’t mean you’ve conceded the point
  • Some things are urgent, but a lot of conversations can be slowed down

Learn to use the word “maybe”:

  • It’s ok not to know what you want
  • It’s ok not to know whether you’re ok with something
  • It’s ok to need time to figure it out
  • “Maybe” is an important word, you don’t always have to say yes or no immediately

It might help not to rely so much on your voice:

  • A lot of people who can’t get words out for various reasons can still type
  • You might find that typing is more reliable than speech for you when a conversation gets emotionally intense
  • An iPad can be really useful for this since it is very portable
  • You can use a text-to-speech app (Verbally is a free one, Proloquo4Text is a dramatically better but also more expensive one),
  • Or you can even type in Notes and show the screen to the person you’re talking to
  • Or sometimes typing the thing first can make it possible to say the thing with your voice.

It might help to make less eye contact:

  • If you’re intimidated, looking at someone’s face can make matters worse
  • If you aren’t looking at their face, it might be easier to think and speak
Do any of y’all have suggestions for things that help with this?

sqbr said:

My main problem is an anxiety disorder so it might be different, but aside from the stuff above: The most useful (but difficult!) thing long term has been finding someone I feel comfortable enough with that I can freak out and cry for a bit during an argument and they give me some space, then when I calm down enough we can get back to the argument. Similarly useful has been getting into (non real time) intense but good natured discussions online where noone knows I’m freaking out. In both cases this has helped me get over my “arguing leads to BADNESS” emotional block. Also I’ve been telling people I MIGHT freak out if we get into an argument, and seeing how they respond, and this gives me a pool of people I feel less tense about arguing with.

Also for topics where I am more likely to freak out I write locked journal posts etc working through my POV with trusted friends, so I have more momentum in real time face to face arguments. My brain doesn’t have time to realise I’m arguing and freak out.

billiestiletto:

realsocialskills:

I was conditioned from a really young age to be passive and go along with whatever was happening (mostly because of my dad’s temper. He was never abusive but he was very angry and it was never worth the battle to disagree with him), so now everytime i get into a disagreement or heated discussion with someone I end up crying and choking up to the point that I can’t get a sentence out. Do you have any advice for being able to argue inspite of this?
realsocialskills said:
A few suggestions:
It might help to communicate more slowly when things aren’t urgent. For instance:
  • Some conversations might be possible for you to have over email, but not in person
  • It’s ok to say “let’s move this conversation to email so I can figure out what I think without melting down”
  • It’s also ok to need to pause the conversation from time to time
  • Needing the conversation to be over for a while doesn’t mean you’ve conceded the point
  • Some things are urgent, but a lot of conversations can be slowed down

Learn to use the word “maybe”:

  • It’s ok not to know what you want
  • It’s ok not to know whether you’re ok with something
  • It’s ok to need time to figure it out
  • “Maybe” is an important word, you don’t always have to say yes or no immediately

It might help not to rely so much on your voice:

  • A lot of people who can’t get words out for various reasons can still type
  • You might find that typing is more reliable than speech for you when a conversation gets emotionally intense
  • An iPad can be really useful for this since it is very portable
  • You can use a text-to-speech app (Verbally is a free one, Proloquo4Text is a dramatically better but also more expensive one),
  • Or you can even type in Notes and show the screen to the person you’re talking to
  • Or sometimes typing the thing first can make it possible to say the thing with your voice.

It might help to make less eye contact:

  • If you’re intimidated, looking at someone’s face can make matters worse
  • If you aren’t looking at their face, it might be easier to think and speak
Do any of y’all have suggestions for things that help with this?

billiestiletto said:

I think a lot of this is good advice. As someone who experiences a very similar reaction to what Anon describes, I’d like to add the following:

  • Not making eye contact is a good point. Often I’ll look upward when I’m trying to think of what to say, down when I’m listening and trying to get my thoughts straight, or sometimes look at another part of the person’s body. It can also help to keep your eyes closed for a bit or use something to cover them that you can also wipe your tears with.
  • Typing can be extremely useful - I am much better at handling myself during a disagreement or heated conversation over text or email, sometimes even on the phone - but sometimes in immediate, face-to-face conversations you don’t have the ability to change the medium of the conversation, or it might make you too uncomfortable to ask to change the medium of the conversation.
  • In these situations, sometimes what you can do is excuse yourself for a few minutes to break up the conversation. You can leave and go into the bathroom to take a few minutes to get it out of your system, so to speak; regain your composure and think about how you feel and how you can phrase it when you return to the conversation. You also absolutely can leave, or ask the other person to leave, so that you can have some time to think.
  • Sometimes you can’t get it out of your system and you end up struggling through the conversation regardless, but that’s okay. Sometimes when I get upset it can take me a *long* time to be able to stop crying. It’s okay to have emotional reactions to things that some people think are disproportionate. I know how frustrating it is when you want to converse calmly and rationally but your body is overtaking you.
  • Sometimes half the reason I get emotional is because I am frustrated at myself for getting emotional. It’s a vicious cycle. If you experience this, I’d recommend trying to be gentle and understanding with yourself. Don’t be embarrassed that you’re crying.
  • Silence helps. If you’re too upset to say anything, you don’t have to say anything. You can tell someone if you’re being quiet during an argument, “I’m just trying to collect my thoughts,” or “Please give me a minute to think about what I’d like to say,” something along those lines. It’s possible that may give you enough time to regain your faculty of speech. Acknowledging that you’re upset can help, too. “I’m upset right now, but I’m trying to get my thoughts straight.”
  • Oftentimes, when I’m in a close enough relationship with the person, I’ll explain to them at some point that this is something that happens when I get upset. If they’re respectful, they might notice this when it happens and be a little more understanding and give you space. It also can help people understand that you’re not trying to be manipulative when you start to cry during an argument (I think this is an unfair assessment, by the way, but it happens).
  • I used to apologize when I started crying and try to justify myself with saying things like, “I’m still interested in a rational discussion, but I’m getting upset, so please give me a minute to speak.” You don’t owe them an apology, though. Everybody reacts differently to difficult conversations, and your reaction is OK.
  • People who might accuse you of being manipulative or too sensitive are being unfair. You don’t owe it to them to talk the way *they* want you to talk. I always find it harder to regain composure if I know that someone is getting frustrated with me or starting to become accusatory, so in these situations I find it most important to extract myself from the conversation for a while. If someone brings this up, maybe you can say something like, “If you feel this way, maybe we should finish this conversation later when I’m more together.” That gives you a chance to gracefully leave the conversation and approach it fresh at a later time.
  • In some situations, jokes help. I think it’s important to be kind to yourself, but a bit of self-deprecating humour can sometimes help break through the emotional wall that’s getting you too upset to speak. If you can find a way to laugh at yourself a little, it might not only easy the seriousness of the conversation enough to allow you to calm down, but also help the other person understand that you’re experiencing a reaction you can’t fully control. “Wow, look at me go! I’ve got so much snot coming out of my nose, let me go get a kleenex.” (Crying sucks.) Of course, this depends a lot on the person you’re arguing with, what you’re arguing about, and what their temperament is like.

I hope this helps a little. This post piqued my interest because it’s something I’ve struggled with for years.

Arguing isn't always ok

… If someone acts defensive and argues when you criticize them for touching you, and from then on is very careful not to touch you, then they’re just nervous and don’t like criticism. That’s fine. The problem would be if they really act as if they have a right to touch you after you’ve asked them not to. Or actually the problem would be if they keep doing it, for whatever reason.
realsocialskills said:
 
I don’t think it is at all ok to be that resistant to criticism.
 
Sometimes it’s ok and right to argue if you think someone is misjudging you, but it’s not ok to have that be your default response every time someone says no to you.
 
Especially when what they are saying is along the lines of “I don’t like being touched that way, please stop.”
        
It’s not ok to resist that kind of thing, and it’s especially not ok to try to get them to back down by arguing about it. People have the right not to want to be touched. People who don’t understand this and put pressure on others to accept touch from them are dangerous.
 
It’s definitely better to argue and then respect the boundary from then on than it is to not stop at all. But that doesn’t mean the arguing was ok to begin with. (Everyone makes mistakes, and if you find that you have argued in a boundary-violating way, the first step is to apologize.) 
 
It’s ok that sometimes things hurt to hear; it’s not ok to try to make that hurt go away by arguing or otherwise putting pressure on someone to let you do what you want to them. It’s ok to be nervous or uncomfortable about criticism; it’s not ok to pressure someone else into making you feel better by doing what you wanted.
 
It can be hard to learn to hear no when you really want someone to say yes, it can be hard to learn to respect that and not push someone into something they don’t want, but it’s really, really important.

You don't always have to argue

aura218:

realsocialskills:

Sometimes people want to convince you to do things that you don’t want to do, and which aren’t any of their business.

Sometimes people want to argue with you about politics, and aren’t willing to have the conversation end unless you convince them or they convince you.

It’s ok to decide you don’t want to have those arguments. It’s ok to unilaterally end that kind of conversation.

You don’t have to convince them you’re right. You don’t have to convince them that you’re right about the issue in question, and you don’t have to convince them that you’re right about not wanting to discuss it.

It’s ok to say no to conversations you don’t want to have about things that are entirely your business.

The tricky part is backing out of the conversation gracefully. 

You can say “I don’t think this is the right time to talk about that,” which works well if you’re in a very social situation with lots of people, or at work, in the middle of class, or another situation where an argument or a personal conversation isn’t appropriate. You can say “I don’t talk about that/politics/religion at work.” Or there’s simply “I’ll tell you later,” and then never do. Only a really rude person would press someone to follow up conversation they tried to get out of.

Sometimes you can head off a personal question by answering very vaugly. If someone asks why  you don’t go home for the holidays, you can say, “My family and I are estranged.” You don’t have to give details. If they press, the phrase “It’s complicated” should shut most people up. But no polite person would press a stranger or co-worker to divulge family details. If they are being rude, say, “That’s a personal subject” or “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

It’s a bit about your attitude, I think. If you’re nervous or giggly, they may think they can pry more info out of you. Don’t smile, try to immitate a grownup person you admire for their authoritative voice, and look the nosy person in the eye, or at least the forehead. Then, continue the conversation. Ask the nosy person a question (not a nosy one), or talk about something else.

Sometimes this works; sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t work on people who are willing to manipulate the rules of politeness to keep you in the conversation. People who are willing to do that can pretty much always arrange things such that there’s no way to leave the conversation without appearing rude. This is very common as a high-pressure sales tactic, but it can come up other places too.

When someone does that, you don’t owe it to them to keep following those rules of politeness.

(Also, people who can’t make or fake eye contact still have the right to decide not to have a particular conversation).

You don’t always have to argue

Sometimes people want to convince you to do things that you don’t want to do, and which aren’t any of their business.

Sometimes people want to argue with you about politics, and aren’t willing to have the conversation end unless you convince them or they convince you.

It’s ok to decide you don’t want to have those arguments. It’s ok to unilaterally end that kind of conversation.

You don’t have to convince them you’re right. You don’t have to convince them that you’re right about the issue in question, and you don’t have to convince them that you’re right about not wanting to discuss it.

It’s ok to say no to conversations you don’t want to have about things that are entirely your business.