I’ve been thinking about the ways people fight* for a long time. It’s a “sticky” subject for me: something that draws my attention, over and over. And because I’m a classifier and a categorizer, I’ve been thinking about classes of arguer. In the end, I’ve come down to two: truth-shouters and cutlery-loaders. Both styles are perfectly valid ways of dealing with conflict, but they don’t work well together.
Truth-shouters look to arguments to bring out the things that they’re unable to express any other way. There are some truths that cannot be spoken (or even, sometimes, thought clearly). But the emotional singularity of an argument, when the rules of discourse change, means that these things are suddenly articulable. They can be shouted. (Note that “truth” in this context is “as factually understood by the shouter”. Sadly, anger does not turn truth-shouters into Thomas the Rhymer†‡)
Cutlery-loaders are completely different. For them, arguments are a chance to blow off steam, to express their emotions without spending as much attention on the words they use to do it as they would otherwise. They’re like the characters in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie who, running out of cannonballs, load the ship’s cutlery into the cannon and fire that off.
Needless to say, arguments between these two types do not go well. A truth-shouter will take the cutlery-loader seriously (because arguments are the place for difficult truths.) Meanwhile, a cutlery-loader will assume that a shouted truth is just some random fork and ignore it or, worse yet, counter it with something worse and less true. And it can drive cutlery-loaders nuts to be called on things they said for emotional effect rather than content.
(There are probably other ways that truth-shouters hurt cutlery-loaders in arguments. Being a truth-shouter, I don’t necessarily know them, and hope for instruction. Also, I’ve probably biased this discussion towards truth-shouters. I’d be happy to have a more cutlery-loading view as well.)
The most hideous fights I’ve suffered through or witnessed have been across argument-type lines, particularly when some piece of fired-off cutlery triggers a truth-shouter’s Goddamned Tapes.
I bring this up because a number of discussions in recent DF threads sound to me like truth-shouters trying to deal with cutlery-loaders. It’s worth asking yourself, when an argument goes particularly spectacularly badly, whether the other person is shooting forks while you’re shouting truths (or vice versa).
* In the sense of quarrel, not in the sense of box
† Besides, at least as Kushner wrote him, True Thomas was a cutlery-loader. Awkward.
‡ However neat a Thomas the Rhymer/Hulk crossover fic would be.
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Previous posts (note that comments are closed on them to keep the conversation in one place):