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A while back I read this post. Short version: When people get into verbal fights, their styles can be roughly split into truth-shouters, who say the truths that they would normally hold back or find themselves unable to express, versus cutlery-loaders, who say all kinds of things that may or may not be true in order to blow off steam and get a reaction out of the other person* - in effect they just load whatever's handy into their cannons and then fire that off, hence the term. I think there might be a more useful way to reframe the concepts: Truth-shouters are aiming to make people know/believe the same things as them. Which is why when things get stressful, the uncomfortable facts start coming out. Cutlery-loaders on the other hand are aiming to make people feel the same things as them. Which is why when they're angry/upset, they'll say whatever they think will cause the other person to feel a similar emotion and often get even more upset if the other person doesn't take the bait, because it makes them feel like their emotions are being treated as invalid or overreaction.**

I can't help wondering whether these are more general interaction styles and are just a lot more obvious during arguments because those tendencies get blown up to several times their usual size.


* Obviously this is a bit of a simplification. Lots of people are not purely one or the other, there are probably styles that don't allow neat categorisations, etc. But I think it's still a useful abstraction

** It's probably obvious from my explanations that I'm a truth-shouter, hence my less-than-charitable description of cutlery-loaders.


The insight for this post came from a Facebook argument where I ended up being accused of acting as if the other person wasn't entitled to their emotions (which was my own fault really - I didn't share their outrage and instead jumped to objecting to part of the factual content of their post). During the ensuing exchange they then expressed a view that can be summarised as '[bad thing] happened to me, and I hope it starts happening to others so that the situation will be addressed before [worse thing] happens to me". After applying the principle of charity, this reads to me as "[bad thing] has caused me to worry about [worse thing], and I wish other people felt the same way as me because then they would take action to help avert the chances of [worse thing] happening". But on first reading, boy did that sentiment get my hackles up.

erratio: (Default)
I was thinking about nerds and social skills. Specifically, the way that nerds (and other classes of socially inept people) tend to have poor social skills because there are two sets of rules on how to behave in social situations. The first is the conventional set, which everyone hears: just be yourself and people will like you, people value honesty and morality over expediency and selfishness, and so on. The second set isn't usually explicitly handed out, and mostly consists of caveats or outright contradictions to the conventional wisdom: being yourself actually means the parts of yourself which are generally pleasant for other people, people are hypocritical a lot of the time and will generally dislike you for pointing it out or acting in a way that makes them feel immoral by comparison, hinting about what you want is often more acceptable than asking for it outright, and so on.

The main difference between people who are socially skilled and those who are unskilled is that the skilled people implicitly learn the second set of rules by observing the people around them, while the unskilled people only have the first, and end up confused and frustrated that the rules they were taught don't work very well in most situations.

My theory out of this is that maybe the unskilled people just aren't visual learners. Learning the second, real set of social rules involves being sensitive to other people's expressions and body language, so that you can modify your own behaviour in response. If for whatever reason you just don't look at people's faces all that much or you're not sensitive to shifts in body language then the only extra information you'll have available is how people say things, which means you have to be at least twice as good at picking up that kind of information than someone who has both channels available to draw the same conclusions about what people are really communicating.
erratio: (Default)
From a site I was browsing:

"There's a pretty well-known joking-but-not-really theory out there that says normal people apply tact to everything they say. Nerds, as the theory goes, are the opposite. They're naturally more abrasive around each other, but don't take any of it personally because they apply tact to everything they hear. Two regular people or two nerds can communicate with each other just fine. But if you put a normal person and nerd together it breaks down. The nerd gets exasperated with the normal person for tiptoeing around what they want to say, and the regular person gets offended by the nerd's curt, direct manner of communicating."

This really struck me as being true. I get more frustrated the more 'social' someone acts around me because I can tell that they're not saying what they mean and it feels unfair that I'm supposed to guess at what they're trying to say. And I know people are taken aback at how blunt I am.
erratio: (Default)
Let's say Person A is doing something that is annoying/inconvenient to you. They do it often enough that it's not something you can easily ignore. It's not imperative that they stop this behaviour but it does grate on your nerves a bit and you would be happier if they didn't do it. How would you deal with it?

A. Say nothing to A. It's not that big a deal after all and not worth the trouble of a confrontation
B. Say nothing to A but complain about it to friends/acquaintances/LJ. It's not a huge deal but better to vent your feelings somewhere safe than make it into a bigger problem.
C. Say nothing to A then explode at them X amount of time down the road. You don't want to bitch about it behind their back because it's rude/your problem to deal with/it might get back to them/it seems like such a small thing to complain about but if A does it again while you're in the wrong mood or they just keep doing it and doing it and doing it then, well, you're only human after all, and you didn't really mean to yell at them.
D. Say something to someone else and get them to mediate between you and A. It'll be easier to talk about with a third party there who isn't involved in the behaviour.
E. Mention in to A but casually, lightly, or only in passing. Hopefully they'll pick up on it and address it without it turning into a confrontation.
F. Talk about it with A using polite, tactful language. They should realise that this is something they should address, but there's no need to throw it in their face and/or back them into a corner about it.
G. Be completely honest with A. If there's a problem there's no point trying to whitewash it. Better to confront it now than let it fester.
H. Something else not listed here

It's times like this I wish I had a paid account so I could post proper polls.

Anyway, I've tried to list all the methods I can think of and the rationale for using them. Obviously I agree with some more than others, and I'm almost 100% sure that no one ever intends to do C ;) And there are drawbacks to virtually all of them that I can think of that I haven't listed. But mostly I'm interested in a) what your own methods are, and b) what obvious stuff I've missed (and I'm sure I have since I'm fairly socially inept. This is an experiment to see how far I am in understanding other people's motivations)

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