Thursday, March 27, 2008

Speech 101

Communicating is hard to do. I’m not kidding; to do it right is an absolute art. To not say too much or too little, or to convey the proper message, can take a lot of tact and social awareness. And then you can say things exactly how you mean them and people will take it and make it mean something else, just because they can.

[16:29] Bellwether: augh i can't unpeel my banana
[16:29] Nightravyn: ...
[16:29] Fimlys: ahem.....
[16:29] Fimlys: can't comment on that
[16:29] Nightravyn: soooo many ways to take that Bell
[16:29] Bellwether: The banana won't unpeel T_T
[16:29] Nightravyn: again... sooooo many ways
[16:29] Annas: *ponders how to answer*
[16:29] Bellwether: there's so many ways to take YOUR MOM
[16:29] Matticus: i just use my bare hands
[16:29] Nightravyn: haha
[16:29] Fimlys: LOL
[16:29] Nightravyn: we know Matt /pat
[16:30] Fimlys: good timing matt
[16:30] Matticus: you have to apply lots of pressure sometimes
[16:30] Matticus: it depends on the size of the banana
[16:30] Matticus: but be careful
[16:30] Bellwether: really? i'm trying to rip off the stem.
[16:30] Matticus: too much pressure, and you might exert too much force.
[16:30] Fimlys: it could explode
[16:30] Matticus: ah but if you do, then the tension becomes loose and whats inside will explode out
[16:30] Bellwether: i think i'll go get a knife
[16:30] Fimlys: lol
[16:30] Nightravyn: /dies laughing and gets weird looks
[16:30] Bellwether: oh wait, i cut off part of it with scissors
[16:31] Fimlys: ouch
[16:31] Bellwether: all good now
[16:31] Annas: that's what I was going to suggest Bell

As I write this I am enjoying my banana, thank you very much, but the point of this is not to show you how everyone in the BA chat is a goof with a smutty mind, but rather because there has been a problem lately I wish to address. This problem is: people don’t want to talk to each other because they’re afraid they won’t know what to say or how to say it or maybe the other person will take it the wrong way or I don’t want to start a conflict augh fret fret worry worry stress.

Okay, stop right there, take a deep breath, and I will now demonstrate how to have a mature discussion of differing opinions without causing an argument. This is done by not accusing the other person of doing anything wrong. Please repeat that. You do not accuse other people of having done something wrong or hurtful. Why is this? Because it immediately puts people on the defensive, and they feel they must protect themselves from you. This leads to arguments and a distraction from the original purpose.

Let’s look at a situation. Let’s say Shaman A and Hunter B are doing Arena together. Throughout the course of their ten matches, B keeps up a running critique of A’s abilities. B also becomes frustrated and upset at a few points with matches they “should have won” and takes it badly if A challenges him on something he has said with offhand comments like “well, that’s how I know it, but if you think you know better…”

Now, many people will think “B is a jerk; A, go find another partner.” Well, let’s throw this variable in the mix: A and B have been good friends for a while, and A knows B doesn’t usually act like this. What he does notice is that it mainly happens while they are doing Arena. B has a few options: ignore it and hope it gets better, decide it’s not worth it and find or a new team, or talk to A about how he feels.

Assuming A values his friendship with B and is a mature, responsible adult, we’re going to assume he decides to talk to him. Let’s look at two ways to approach it.

A: Hey, I didn’t appreciate how you were talking to me before. That wasn’t just mean, it made arena suck (expletive). Why did you do that?! I know how to play a shaman, you don’t have to (expletive) tell me how to (expletive) play my (expletive) class!


A: Hey, what’s up? Are you okay? I’ve noticed lately you seem kind of stressed out and upset when we do Arena. I know you’re just trying to help, but it seems like you’re not enjoying it anymore. What’s going on?

While attempt one might seem more personally satisfying from the beginning, it isn’t likely to cause things to end well. But hey, you say, the second one doesn’t address the things that would really be bothering A! He didn’t mention the controlling nature of B or B trying to tell him how to play his class or how B is being overly critical!

That’s right, A didn’t. Because if you start out with everything that is “wrong” then you will automatically put the person on the defensive, as I said before. Whereas if you start by asking if everything is okay, if something is wrong, if they’re not having fun, B will realize “Hey, A is concerned about me. Let’s talk about it.”

Face it, people like to talk about themselves, but they either want to be “good people” or “hurt people.” Not many people like to see themselves as the “bad guy.” If you don’t make them the “bad guy” they are more likely to engage in conversation and discuss things with you reasonably. You can slowly work in something like “Hey, I know you’re just trying to help, but when you try to tell me how to play my class it makes me feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Do you think we could talk about what you think I’m doing wrong, and I can give you reasons for why I’m doing it? If your idea is better, I promise to give it a try.”

Now, if you say that, be aware. You have just made a promise to actually listen to the other person, and to concede the point if they understand it better than you, or give you a new facet of information you had never discovered before. That is part of a mature conversation. If you notice the other person is not giving you the same courtesy, gently point it out in a non-confrontational way, and continue on.

Something else to keep in mind is the fact that text does not always convey the proper tone, so if someone says “that’s not how I took it,” please believe them, and clarify how you meant your words to come across. Even over the phone or Vent etc., you’re missing out on a lot of non-verbal cues. So if misunderstandings arise, try not to think of it as you being “misquoted” and do your best not to become upset. Simply use this line, “I am sorry you took it that way, but that was not my intention. This is what I meant to come across to you.” Do not say it condescendingly or in a patronizing tone, and hope the other person is rational enough to realize you truly did not mean what they thought you had said.

If at any point the discussion breaks down into an argument, take a step back and decide to address the situation again when you’re both more cool-headed. And please, remember, a difference of opinion does not always equate an argument, and it takes both people in the conversation to allow it to escalate. Do not be a part of it.


Ratshag said...

Is some really good advices in here. All well said. I knows several bluppernuggers what really be helped if they read this.

That said, I thinks you'll have more luck with yer bananas if ya peel thems, rather than unpeel them. But maybe nelfettes has different banana tastes than me...

Leafshine said...

On the other hand, you can always put an axe in their face. :-)

Nick said...

Are you sure that conversation wasn't copied from trade chat? Because on my server I'm pretty sure that's what the trade channel looks like all night long!


Seriously, though, this is a great post. It's funny that you mention a shaman/hunter combination, as that's what my 2v2 team looks like. Of course we seem to have the opposite problem, which is to criticize ourselves solely for each loss!

Anonymous said...

I'll get to the banana in a minnit...

Bell, this is a superb article. I know I've been guilty, but I've also been in the position of saying, " sound like there may be something bugging you besides a bad pull...want to talk about it?"

Sometimes, people just want someone to recognize they are not at their best, acknowledge it, maybe offer to help, and to understand that it's temporary.

About the banana: Did you know it's actually easier to peel the banana from the end opposite the stem? A small pinch just behind the tip makes it a cinch.