At quite a young age, I realised I enjoyed arguments; a second to face up one’s opponent of the moment – a chance to put them down with cruel language – an opportunity to let go and lose one’s temper.
Of course, it was all about being on the winning side, and with those wins being few and far between, frequently I’d end up crying in someone’s arms.
As I grew older, I started to notice how the person who spoke quietest, seemed to keep the upper hand – speaking quieter appeared to make the other party shout even louder… a seemingly illogical and bizzarre state of affairs.
It seemed that after all those arguments about staying up “and extra half an hour”, raising my voice hadn’t been helping at all. I decided to embark upon a new strategy…
At the same time, at school, we were being taught dispute resolution procedures for use in the playground. It was a basic mediation process, colloquially called “My Turn, Your Turn” whereby one would be approached/approach others who were involved in a conflict and go through some simple, structured steps something along the lines of:
- Alice, please describe what’s wrong?
- Bob, please describe what’s wrong?
- Alice, how does what Bob is doing make you feel?
- Bob, how does what Alice is doing make you feel?
- Alice, how can we resolve this?
- Bob, how can we resolve this?
- Alice, Bob, does it work for each of you?
- Alice, Bob, resolve it how you explained and then go back to playing football.
Essentially in abstract terms, this getting each party to listen to each other, communicate clearly and come up with a resolution themselves. The “My Turn, Your Turn”, segment referring specifically to requiring each party to listen to the other person without butting in or interrupting them.
At an fundamental level, this is really quite an effective method of dispute resolution.
As I grew older, I started to realise outside school, that if I held back on getting involved in arguments I couldn’t win, I could make sure I had ‘extra ammunition’ with which ‘to hit’ the opponent of the minute with when a better opportunity arose. Several examples delivered without shouting were more effective still, but I realise that by combining that with “My turn, Your turn” tips, one could add one’s feeling into your response, eg.
“but you let $otherchildname [who is the same age as me] stay up until late o’clock, 3 times on identical occasions to this, so I feel disappointed that you aren’t applying your own rules consistently.”
Clearly, a well laid out, persuasive argument like this, is much more effective than trying to shout louder than someone, and is much more effective. Extra bonus points if you noticed how that argument also accuses them of breaking their own “due process”, and frames it within the other persons world.
Fast forward many years…
I was asked recently why I didn’t get more pissed off by car drivers who cut me up whilst I cycle round the city. The suggestion was, that being on a bike was an advantage, because it meant you could shout at idiotic drivers. This made me blink a bit… How was shouting at them going to make any useful difference?
It turns out, when I was a child, I missed out on a key point; to try to leave the conflict resolved, so it wouldn’t happen again. Whilst shouting at cars may be helpful for letting off steam, really all it does is reinforce to a few motorists that cyclists are arrogant and dangerous, whilst reaffirming to a few cyclists the perception that motorists are twits that drive away without caring, neither of which constructively addresses the situation in any way.
When friend’s of mine my lose their tempers, I feel sad.
To me, it seems incredibly rude (or immature) – I find that losing your temper seems to characterise poor judgement – and I do my best to avoid situations where people do.
However, when your friends lose their tempers, as much as you may not enjoy it, you’re in the best possible position to bring it to an amicable resolution. William Ury explains:
It does occur to me, that my perspective here must partly be influenced by arguing a point effectively as a child. When I read this article about “teaching your children to argue” – I did wonder what would have happened if actually, people were taught to effectively communicate their point, things would be a lot different today.
As Adora Svitak says:
“The goal is not to turn kids into your kind of adults, but rather better adults than you have been”