liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
Tangentially to this Captain Awkward letter, where the answer mentions that the writer's half-sister may have a different conflict style from hers, I started thinking about classifying conflict styles. It feels something like the Ask / Offer distinction in styles of communication (sometimes called Ask / Guess). It's useful to know that there is more than one way of doing it, and people whose style is different from yours are not necessarily terrible awful people who can't communicate respectfully.

The problem is I'm not sure there are two distinct approaches to conflict, or even what elements should be considered in defining conflict style. Like, JenniferP distinguishes between people who stick to the point of what the argument is actually about from people who bring up every grievance and character flaw they have with the person they're arguing with. And put like that it just sounds foolish; why would any reasonable person bring up something they're resentful about from years ago instead of staying on topic? But sometimes it just isn't that obvious what the "topic" is. Take the stereotype of the married couple who argue about how to squeeze the toothpaste or the position of the toilet seat; most likely the core issue isn't that, it's people not feeling respected, and if you were to insist that the only correct way to argue is to keep to the initial subject of the toothpaste or the toilet, you would never be able to address that. Like Ask vs Offer, there are healthy and also dysfunctional ways of applying both the stick to the subject approach and the broader grievances approach.

There are other axes of difference brought up in the discussion, and that came into my mind thinking about it. I don't exactly have snappy names for the tendencies, but some examples might be: immediate and explosive conflict versus sulking and resentment; yelling and swearing versus trying to keep everything civil and non-emotional; arguing in person and when upset and angry, versus waiting until one is calmer and possibly preferring a less real-time medium such as writing. And all of those seem to line up roughly, I wouldn't be surprised if you could divide people into those who prefer to act out their emotions and those who want to minimize expressions of anger. I mean, in an ideal world there would never be any conflict, people would negotiate everything and always come to the most satisfactory solutions by consensus, but I think that's not a reasonable standard for most humans in most relationships, so I'm interested in how best to handle things when something has already gone wrong, when there is hurt and anger.

My family of origin tend to be quite shouty and quite open about expressing emotions, and also go back to being best of friends once the immediate fight has blown over. So I get really agitated when someone who is upset with me refuses to speak to me and doesn't directly tell me what's wrong. Though intellectually I can see that sometimes it really is better to put a discussion off until a better time, and hopefully skip the yelling at eachother part. Equally, when someone is angry at me, I'm often reasonably good, though not perfect, at not shouting back, and it's easy to pat myself on the back and feel like I'm a nice person who de-escalates conflicts, but many people feel like I'm not really taking their anger seriously if I remain relatively calm, and I may be denying them the catharsis of a proper argument. So in that sense I'm on the other side of the fence compared to when I feel rejected if someone cuts me off because they don't trust themselves to be kind while upset.

An extreme example is the whole non-violent communication thing. I generally find sense in the advice that it's more constructive to talk about people's behaviour rather than their personality, using I-statements like: when you do this thing that annoys me, I feel disrespected, instead of accusations like: you're so annoying and you don't respect me! But I've also seen serious arguments that NVC can hurt people, especially when power dynamics are taken into account. Just as yelling and verbal aggression can be used to intimidate and bully and even abuse, so can insisting that people must repress their emotions and refusing to listen to them unless they can demonstrate exactly the right words and the right affect.

So help me refine my ideas? What variations in conflict style have I not thought of? What approaches to conflict and argument do you find most productive? I mean, assuming that the arguers are already upset and you can't just magically all get along. Are there any ways of arguing that you think are just bad and should always be avoided?

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-09 05:56 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
This reminds me a bit of the Satir Modes -- these were described by Virginia Satir, an American family therapist, but I came across them in a book called "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" by Suzette Haden Elgin, a science fiction writer and linguist. Her old website has some links, and there a various extracts from the book at various pages around the internet (including this one).

Much of it is very American in focus, but some of the principles are
more universally applicable, I think.

For me, part of navigating disagreements and upset well is about knowing my own communication style/needs and being able to talk about that when I'm not too upset; trying to negotiate about argument style when I'm already upset and the other person may be too is not going to do anything to make me feel safe or cared for. Something that has helped me in discussions with my spouse has been identifying repeated patterns of disgruntlement and presenting them, not as something that are anyone's fault or anyone's sole responsibility to fix, but as sort of mutual problem-solving issues that we can try various strategies for.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-09 10:45 pm (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
I couldn't find a reference to a half-sister in the letter you linked to. Did you mean the previous one?

Conflict styles is an entire field of psychological study, with a lot of different models and theories. I think looking those up, and trying to understand some of the styles instead of just dismissing them as "foolish", would be helpful.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-09 11:28 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: Vuvuzela emitting sound waves in a black and yellow road sign style icon (vuvuzela)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
I think it helps to check assumptions and definitions, even though that's a lot of work and requires a good base level of trust.

Trust is one of the unspoken factors, perhaps. My approach in argument is often influenced by whether I trust the person (and how deeply), whether we're neutral, or whether (and how much) I distrust them. And trust isn't a global thing: there were friends of mine who I would never trust with my personal property, but I trusted their creative integrity.

When I'm operating from a place of distrust, my approach to argument is tactical, and geared towards a win condition for me.

When I'm operating from a place of unknown trust, my approach includes telltales to try and assess whether this person is worthy of my trust on this front.

When I'm operating from a place of unshakable trust, my assumption is that no matter how mad we may be right now, that I'm still going to want this person in my life, and the goal is harmony and understanding and preservation of that trust, and not hurting each other while we argue.


The argument style that I most want to avoid with a beloved and trusted friend is unfair and mean exploitation of their weaknesses. My own sweetheart has mentioned that there are certain things that send them into error states. I will therefore attempt to avoid those things when arguing with them.

I will *shamelessly* exploit my sweetheart's wish to protect and defend me, but only when I have also told them that I am fighting unfairly.

My dear friend Purple and I don't have the same exposure to feminist and social justice theory. Purple is a geek man of a certain age. I grew up on somewhat different parts of the internet. Therefore when he uses a word that I understand to be a term of art in a way that would absolutely be hostile if coming from a distrusted source, I try to compare definitions before assuming he meant it as the term of art and telling him that he's being an asshole again. (His goal is to not be *that* bad of an asshole, but he's a cheerful provocateur under many circumstances.)


I will commonly go and work through my anger with an unrelated third party (who agrees with me) before coming back to the other person and working through the argument. That way if I express my feelings loudly, it's less likely to affect my relationships.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-12 11:36 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
Yes, safety has been at the top of my mind recently for reasons perhaps similar to the concerns of others.

If, for example, I am in a disagreement about something relationship-related, and I am in a relationship with someone who has a history of having been emotionally abused within a relationship, I feel as though if my method of argument even slightly smacks of emotional manipulation then I need to be very clear that what I am doing is blatantly manipulative and perhaps unfair. That gives them more of an opportunity to usefully disagree with me, tell me that this form of argument crossed a line, or tell me that I should not do that in the future. So even though I consider them my equal in nearly all ways (and we're capable of comparing relative levels of expertise on various topics where we're not equal), in the very specific case of disagreement/argument/fighting within a relationship, they are operating with a substantial disability. So even though my goal is collaborative, I'm a jerk if I don't accommodate for that disability. So that means restrictions on methods of discussion that I might use with a partner without that background.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-15 02:40 am (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
(And, with a few more days of having thought about Various Things)

One of the tools in collaborative problem-solving that I just used was a check-in about emotional state. Because of reasons, my sweetie and I are developing a habit of checking in with each other when we are talking about Heavy Issues. (There are a lot of Heavy Issues to be talked about; some contexts of discussion remind us to check in more than others.) Even before we had an official relationship status, we'd use a 0-10 pain scale for communicating our state. Currently we're using traffic light colors.

There is a significant level of trust that tends to go along with a habit of traffic light color check-ins, and the understanding that if somebody says something that's not green, there are various levels of halt-and-de-escalate that go along with it. This may not be appropriate for all disagreements, especially if there isn't a mutual commitment to honor the signale.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-15 09:47 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
That's a really good idea (for you, but maybe also for me, if not for everyone).

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-10 01:39 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
I think I disagree with the fundamental premise of this post: I'm dubious about the utility, feasibility, and wisdom of proposing a typology of conflict styles, that identifies individuals with these styles, particularly to the moral purpose you put it.

Let me try to reductio ad absurdum the enterprise: imagine a system of two types of people wrt conflict. On the one hand there are people who express their differences in words, mostly calmly, and take turns; sometimes they get particularly upset and raise their voices or cry. On the other hand there are people who turn and walk away from conflict, go and get firearms, and return to shoot everyone involved.

Would you say that these two types – which I'll point out are reasonably substantiateable natural kinds – are equally good and valid? Or do we get to say that if your natural inclination in conflict is to resolve it with force, your natural inclination isn't good enough, and we expect you to act otherwise?

Ethics and morality matter nowhere so much as when two or more parties' interests are in conflict. Handling conflict is, like, pretty much what ethics and morality are for. And their whole purpose is to say, "Some ways of dealing with conflict are wrong. They are not to be employed."

It is not necessarily that there's only one right answer, but there are a great abundance of wrong answers.

Consider the example you refer to: Like, JenniferP distinguishes between people who stick to the point of what the argument is actually about from people who bring up every grievance and character flaw they have with the person they're arguing with.

The commonest reason that people "bring up every grievance and character flaw they have with the person they're arguing with" is for the purpose of causing as much suffering as they can. It is a tactic for maximizing psychological damage to one's opponent, either for revenge or to drive one's opponent to desist prosecuting their own case. Few people who employ it know it consciously; what the conscious experience is, is of feeling both fury and desperation, feeling that, "I must win at any cost". Well, and so. It is precisely "winning at any cost": a desperate attempt to subdue the other party, to resolve the conflict by making the other lose so conclusively they give up.

This is not okay. This is not an okay way to treat one's fellow humans in general, and it's most especially not an okay way to treat those people to whom one owes a debt of love or respect.

Worse, it's not effective. This very distinction is one that comes up all the time in my practice; I even have a cute little diagram and nicknames for these two ways of fighting. It comes up a lot because people who engage in this sort of no-holds-barred, total-war conflict are not happy with the results it gets them. Not only does it destroy the relationships they're in, it doesn't actually achieve their agendas in conflict. They engage in that sort of relational aggression in conflict because they quite literally haven't a clue how else to fight – possibly because it's what the learned in the home as children – and they believe the only alternative is total capitulation. When in conflict, they feel desperate because they know they tool they have doesn't work: they feel like someone trying to fend off a zombie horde with a staple gun. They lay about in such a frenzy because they are trying to make up for the fundamental inadequacy of their tool with pure vigor.

I teach people not that they shouldn't wage total emotional war because it's wrong. I teach people how to stick to one point at a time as a way to "win". They become very willing to relinquish the cause-maximum-suffering approach in favor of a pick-your-battle approach; they are only too happy to give up a relational practice that brings them shame and loneliness for no gain, in favor of one that both works and lets them feel good about themselves as moral agents.

These two "styles" are not equally legitimate, they are not equally effective, and they are not in any way equally "good".

I am at a loss to see how morally legitimizing it as a "type" and ascribing it to people not as a behavior but essential trait benefits anyone.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-10 09:31 am (UTC)
antisoppist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] antisoppist
This is not okay.
I spent 15 years saying to myself "we come from different cultures and have different communication styles". I think we were both ill-equipped to deal with conflict and in the end we both felt like we were desperately fending off a zombie horde with a staple gun and both used tactics that were less than ideal but mine weren't the ones that count as grounds for divorce.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-10 06:39 pm (UTC)
hairyears: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hairyears
Re-reading your reply, it seems that my own remarks are a shallow subset of of the answers you have given.

I can only hope that you have had less cause to apply that knowledge.

Also: I note that we both have the same gap in our thinking: we make no attempt at value judgements and see no value in the 'arguments' of an argument: the effects, and the potential effects of the argument, are the important matter.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-10 11:36 pm (UTC)
rysmiel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rysmiel
The commonest reason that people "bring up every grievance and character flaw they have with the person they're arguing with" is for the purpose of causing as much suffering as they can. It is a tactic for maximizing psychological damage to one's opponent, either for revenge or to drive one's opponent to desist prosecuting their own case.

This is one of those things where while I am entirely in agreement that this is a terrible thing, I am not entirely comfortable with it being presented without acknowledging the failure modes of striving too hard for the opposite. In that being treated as if one is doing this every single time one tries to identify (patterns that are worth working on containing any information beyond the context of the moment) can also be an extremely counter-productive modality and a way of avoiding engaging with significant issues.

(Parentheses added to remove ambiguity.)
Edited Date: 2016-09-10 11:39 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-10 02:30 am (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
I just went through a training at work about how to handle conflict situations. They have a couple of thoughts about what responses are good to what types of disruption, but they basically boil down to the idea that if what you are doing reduces tension, you are probably doing it right.

They do make a fundamental assumption that the people who are in the conflict are not in a relationship where one of them is being abused, exploited, or otherwise put in a position where they cannot argue as equals, or where one person is going to ignore the other or use it against them.

(It might be covered under the latter chapter that talks about violence reduction procedures, which basically say to get safe, assess, get assistance, and then do what you can to be safe.)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-10 07:02 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
And there's very different conflict styles depending who's in the conflict! Part of my job involves retail, which means that there are customers, which means that there are a certain kind of argumentative customer. No matter how ridiculously and obviously wrong they are, you can never, ever argue with that kind of person because the whole point is that they want attention and emotional recognition, and they don't really care about logic. But it can be very difficult maintaining calm and problem-solving when you are being screamed at and called a bitch. Even so, every customer who has said they will NEVER COME HERE AGAIN has come back, usually within a week. And yet none of the staff ever feel quite safe around them again.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-10 06:29 pm (UTC)
hairyears: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hairyears
Wow, there's some deep study in here, and in the comments!

I'm a bit shallower than that.

My first analysis of any argument is "What's the end point?" and "Are they trying to escalate the conflict?"

Note that it's the end point, the outcome that I look for: what will be lost, what damage will be done?

What are the worst-case outcomes?

After that, it's: "Can I apply the brakes?" and "Can I steer this into some kind of runoff or sand trap?"

I make no enquiry as to what people actually want, unless it's the dark endpoint of [personal profile] siderea's observation that some people argue to hurt - not just as a tactic, but as an objective.

Whatever else the agenda is, everything of value in it will probably be damaged by the argument itself.

So my own strategy is de-escalation. deferral, tactical observations to get at the underlying causes - arguments are rarely if ever about the ostensible subject matter - and everything I say and do is ALL about disengagement.

I'm not sure how you'd classify that, in terms of a conflict style.

I simply do not believe in such a thing as an argument that 'clears the air': my formative experiences are conflicts where damage was an objective, and of people seeking and escalating conflict as an opportunity for intimidation.

...And you'll notice that I've converged on the strategies and training of mental-health professionals working in secure institutions.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-15 05:47 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
unless it's the dark endpoint of [personal profile] siderea's observation that some people argue to hurt - not just as a tactic, but as an objective.

Er, that wasn't my point in my comment; I was addressing people who use hurting others with argument precisely as a tactic. But it's certainly a point I've made elsewhere! Some people do engage in "conflict" to use other people as punching bags, for their own emotional gratification. Some "difficult customers" are doing that.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-11 10:50 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
That's a really interesting topic and I vaguely have lots of thoughts but I'm not sure if they're really formed.

One is that, it took me ages to figure out what NVC was actually saying. I'm not sure, but as best I could tell, it seems to be that if you say "you're a slob", the other person feels attacked, but if you say "when you leave the dishes out, it feels like you always expect me to do them", that may actually carry more information, the other person may actually *not know* that, and *care* when they do realise it. Or maybe they DID expect you to do the dishes, but were doing a thousand tonnes of other labour you hadn't noticed. Or they hadn't really thought of it, but admit it's unfair when you raise it.

But it seems like, there's often an idea that NVC is a magic formula that does...something... when you don't really understand what you want it to do. And two serious failure modes, that someone uses it as a club, saying "you need to express yourself this way *or I won't listen*". Or that, if someone is deliberately (or instinctively) manipulating you, sharing more information is only giving them more ammunition, not helping.

I don't know enough about it, but it seems like, those failure modes are common to ANY technique. Maybe NVC has been pushed in those contexts a lot more? Was there something about it being forced on people in some forms of semi-involuntary therapy?

But it seems like, any healthy communication NEEDS a certain amount of people sharing what they actually want, or it's effectively impossible to form an ongoing relationship. But if someone is not making a good faith effort *at all*, the same thing, any show of vulnerability, is just giving ground, and the only thing that works is to stonewall and escape.

So the flowchart is always something like "is this something we are both committed to? if so, try to find common ground [details]. If not, try to survive, and if possible escape." But many people start at the "assuming both people are somewhat committed, but need help to make it work" phase which is often true, but trying to negotiate with someone who is only devoted to imposing their will on you, doesn't work.

I'm not sure if that's a good summary, but it seems to be part of what's going on with the very opposed experiences of NVC?

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 04:01 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I think the criticisms of NVC aren't totally about a straw man

I mean, the criticisms I've heard (I don't know if there are more I need to know of..?) are ABSOLUTELY valid, in that all those things DO happen. But they seem to apply equally much to, eg. "talking calmly about the problem". I think "talking calmly about the problem" is generally good relationship advice. But again, it's only good advice for communicating with people who are trying to get it, but failing. If someone is trying to browbeat you into just agreeing, or is stonewalling your urgent needs until you're more calm, then they're being abusive, and telling them calmly what you want won't help at all. But I don't think that that means "talking calmly about the problem" is a BAD thing, it's just not the ONLY thing, you ALSO need to learn "how to talk someone else down from anger" and "when to just give up on someone".

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-15 09:49 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
ETA: An in person conversation reminded me of the many ways NVC is used horribly (especially as a fake way to raise autistic children :( :( :( ). The basic idea still sounds reasonable, but I wish I hadn't referred to NVC without qualification, as to many people, it means the bad stuff a lot more than the supposed underlying technique.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-15 06:04 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
A few things about NVC. NVC is a very direct descendant of the school of psychotherapy that is the core of my practice. NVC is different from that in some key ways, but I basically have a graduate degree in the underlying theory of NVC.

One is that, it took me ages to figure out what NVC was actually saying. I'm not sure, but as best I could tell, it seems to be that if you say "you're a slob", the other person feels attacked, but if you say "when you leave the dishes out, it feels like you always expect me to do them", that may actually carry more information, the other person may actually *not know* that, and *care* when they do realise it. Or maybe they DID expect you to do the dishes, but were doing a thousand tonnes of other labour you hadn't noticed. Or they hadn't really thought of it, but admit it's unfair when you raise it.

Your understanding of the upshot of using the NVC approach is a very good one. I would only improve it by saying when one says "you're a slob", the recipient is likely to feel attacked because it is an attack.

However your example of an I-Statement is not in compliance with the NVC. It's bad NVC, sorry. In a properly formed I-Statement, there's the "when you did" clause and an "I felt" clause. In the "I felt" clause, one must express what one felt. In NVC one is not allowed to express one's feelings by recourse to referring to how someone else felt or thought, or what you thought they felt or thought. So saying "it feels like you [...] expect me to do them" is not a valid expression of feelings.

Also, that "always" in there is an out-of-bounds error. In NVC, one addresses specific examples, and doesn't generalize to "you always". Generalizing to "you always" is an attack. Moving the attack into the I-felt clause and couching it as "I felt like [attack]" is not licit.

Furthermore, it doesn't do the work of the I-Felt clause. The whole point, as you note, is to inform the other party. Saying "it felt like [a thing that's not a feeling but a circumstance]" just begs the question, "So what is that 'like'?"

Also, please note that "it feels" leaves out the very "I" of the I-message. I don't know if formal NVC requires it, but, knowing the underlying premises, I would disrecommend using "it feels" instead of either "it feels to me" or "I feel". Objectivizing language escalates, subjectivizing language (if in good faith) de-escalates.

A properly formed NVC I-Message for this circumstance is, "when you leave the dishes out, I feel very resentful".

While I have some criticisms of NVC per se, the biggest problem with NVC is people thinking what they're doing is NVC and being very mistaken.

P.S. I expect your reaction to my example replacement I-message to be a bit of frustration with it, and a sense that it's "not enough". It carries way less information than your example. As such it feels less expressive of your side's grievance. "Where do I get to say that I feel that I'm being pressured by this other person leaving the dishes?" That's the point of NVC: you don't get to do that. At all.

P.P.S. And that, I surmise, is why most people retreat from actual NVC.
Edited Date: 2016-09-15 06:09 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-16 04:10 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Thank you ever so much for jumping in with some actual information about nvc. I felt bad for writing based on very secondhand information, but I wanted to say *something*.

Do you mind if I go on to ask some questions about your response? You're pretty accurate with what you expected my response to be :)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-16 04:24 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Sure go for it. Only, again, I'm not expert in NVC per se, so if someone comes along who is actually an NVC expert, their expertise outranks mine.

ETA: Also, you can cut out the middleman if you want. My primary source of information about NVC is this three hour training video from the horse's mouth.
Edited Date: 2016-09-16 04:31 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-16 04:19 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
So, my mental model of the dishes conversation going well is something like:

A: When you leave the dishes out, I feel like you expect me to do them.[1]
B: Oh no, not at all! I will get to them, I just don't feel we need to finish washing up every day as long as it doesn't mount up.
A: Oh! OK. Well, if the pile doesn't get bigger than that, that's fine.

OR

A: Actually, undone dishes really really bother me. Would possibly mind helping me to get them down to zero every day? It's more efficient really, it's just annoying to learn the habit.

OR

B: Actually I did all the cooking, I think it would be fair if you did do all the washing up.
A: Oh! I hadn't really thought of it like that. Yes, I agree that's fair.

Obviously those are very idealised, it's not usually anywhere near that smooth :)

But that's not what I'm supposed to be imagining for nvc, is there a model of how (in theory) the conversation would go after "When you leave the dishes out, I feel very resentful"?

And yes, I am having a difficult time winding my brain back to think in those terms, to keep to "I resent" without explaining *what* I'd resent. But now I'm pondering that.

[1] I had a go at editing some of your suggestions for more-accurate nvc.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-16 05:20 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Obviously those are very idealised, it's not usually anywhere near that smooth :)

Right, because they have a variety of subtle problems.

A: When you leave the dishes out, I feel like you expect me to do them.[1]
B: Oh no, not at all! I will get to them, I just don't feel we need to finish washing up every day as long as it doesn't mount up.


That's not going to happen – that's not the response you're going to get – because in saying that you feel like they expect you to wash the dishes, you're accusing them of having unfair expectations. So they're going to defend themselves against the accusation, and the argument will be about (possibly by proxy) whether or not they have unfair expectations or are trying to trick/manipulate/make you do something against your will, instead of about the dishes – and instead of about your feelings and your wish/need for prompter dish washing.

Actually, undone dishes really really bother me. Would [you] possibly mind helping me to get them down to zero every day? It's more efficient really, it's just annoying to learn the habit

Okay, this was perfectly fine for the first two sentences, then went off the rails into what my branch of the family calls a "sales job". The first sentence is a reformulated I-statement in good form: when the dishes aren't done, it bothers me. Awesome. The second sentence is a direct request. Awesome. The third sentence is telling the other party what they should think/feel, and will get their back up. Rephrased and in a different stage of the discussion, and if solicited, it can be okay, but the other party hasn't asked you why you think doing it your way would be better for them, and it's presumptuous to tell them.

B: Actually I did all the cooking, I think it would be fair if you did do all the washing up.
A: Oh! I hadn't really thought of it like that. Yes, I agree that's fair.


Okay, this isn't just a problem of how the idea is expressed. Are you really charging somebody for something you did unsolicited? If you want to strike a cleaning-for-cooking deal, the time to do that is before the first pot goes on the fire. You don't do a bunch of cooking and then announce you expect the other to clean for you. Good god: what if they can't? What if they're in pain or having some other medical situation you don't know about that makes doing that cleaning hard or dangerous for them?

"Oh, well if they tell me that, I would of course understanding." But you just preemptively accused that person of being unfair if they don't go along with your unilaterally chosen division of labor. How do you think that makes someone feel when they can't? Way to stress what a "burden" the disabled person is.

Allow me to paraphrase:
B: The fair thing to do is X.
A: I... can't do the fair thing.
B: Oh. I don't mind then.
A: I guess my condition is unfair to others. :(

One of the key things about NVC is that it requires a certain intellectual humility: the person committing to using it accepts the precepts that they don't know everything. In particular, they approach conflict with the assumption that the other party may have perfectly good – or even excellent – reasons for doing as they do, or not doing what one wants, about which one knows nothing. It allows for the other party to have their own thoughts, feelings, experiences, and meanings, and requires that the NVCer not assume their their own thoughts, feelings, experiences, and meanings are the only ones, or the ones the other should have.

Here's the crux: the way most people attempt to get their way is by trying to argue that their own thoughts, feelings, experiences, and meanings are the right ones for both parties to have. This is, through the lens of NVC, "violence": it is an attempt to impose one's thoughts, feelings, experiences, and meanings on the other, in flagrant disregard of the fact that the other has their own, and quite likes them, and in flagrant disregard of the other's right to have their own.

NVC is entirely down with sharing thoughts, feelings, experiences, and meanings, in a way which is informational, so that mutual problem solving can happen. The problem is that 99% of the ways that people express themselves when they think they're "sharing" are actually covert digs and other power plays; they're attempts to "convince" the other party that their own way of seeing the situation is right, predicated on the notion that if only the other person saw the situation rightly, they're capitulate.

NVC is predicated on the idea that people can best get their way by simply asking for it, because in most circumstances, other people will give you what you want, if they can, just out of human decency. This is especially true in relationships of any kind. ETA: That was badly put. NVC is not a gimmick to get what you want. Let me try again: NVC is an approach to assertion in conflict predicated on the commitment not to try to get one's way by coercion, including emotional coercion. It works – and often works better than coercive communications – because people automatically resist coercion. But the NVC precept of forgoing coercion is based on an a priori commitment not to be coercive, and necessarily allows that, therefore, one might not get one's way.

Most people attempt to assert themselves in ways which implicitly make the other person the bad guy if they don't capitulate, or that equate capitulation with agreeing one is wrong. Both of those tend to provoke resistance not capitulation; in fact, they can provoke resistance so strongly, that it overrides otherwise adequate inclinations to capitulate.

Need to stop for now. I hope to come back with more.
Edited Date: 2016-09-16 05:29 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-16 05:30 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
In NVC, you do get to explain what you resent.

But you don't get to make it the other person's problem.

Elaboration, hopefully, later.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-11 10:57 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I need to come back to an actual discussion of conflict styles. But I saw you linked to cutlery-shooter/truth-shouter, and that also seemed very relevant. I realise, I fail at not displaying negative emotions :( :( :( But I always default to assuming that a respectful raising of issues in an objective way is an ideal model people strive towards and fall short. Whereas, maybe a more shouty approach may actually be just normal for most people. And cutler-shooter/truth-shouter are both subsets of how people behave once they're *already* in a fairly heated discussion.

And if anything, I may tend too much towards "let it fester", because it always seems (even if not true) that it's unfair/impossible to bring up an issue I don't already have a specific request for. Like, shouting more would definitely not be good. But maybe expressing SOME frustration would be an acceptable compromise. I have sometimes over the last couple of years, let myself sometimes snap something, when I know I could have held on longer, but wasn't sure if I could have held off indefinitely, and I don't think that's ok, but it may also have been not-ridiculous to consider it as an alternative.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-12 10:55 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Or, like in the letter, if you want to say "when you insulted my about my brother's death it was so painful I don't know if I can talk to you more, can you apologise and not do it again", it seems so obvious that you shouldn't need to say that, it can be hard to say it without getting emotional. But if I interpret "don't raise voice" as a maximum imperative, it would lead me to think "ok, I can just never make that request". Whereas if I didn't, maybe I'd think of alternatives, "maybe I could send a written message" or "maybe I could rehearse it".

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 04:11 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I don't think not displaying negative emotions is a good goal

Yeah. I'm sorry, I was splurging ideas down as fast and some less-good ones came through. I don't think that is an apt approach.

But I do think I have a problem of not always being able to tell when something MIGHT come across as threatening or scary (or spontaneously escalate into something I know is likely to be seen that way), and it's hard to triage in the middle of an emotionally heavy discussion, so I'm scared to let anything show.

Neither is ideal communication, but they are both things people might do in extremity and it's helpful to know that not everybody reacts in the same way.

Yeah.

here are some techniques you can learn to use to improve communication, not, you're not allowed to speak unless you've already mastered all these techniques.

Yeah.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 04:15 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
not necessarily objectively, if objectively means without taking account of emotions)

Sigh. I really need to stop saying "objectively", because it does seem like so much of the time it means "I'm going to make up bullshit pseudo-logical reasons why my opinion is right, and assume your anger is meaningless because you didn't". Whereas I usually mean about the opposite of that -- of understanding WHY angry, or what has gone into the anger.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-15 06:17 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
That's part of the criticism of NVC and similar communication advice. It's putting an unfair expectation on somebody to say they're only allowed to raise issues if they can do so in the most effective and kindest possible way. It's supposed to be more like, here are some techniques you can learn to use to improve communication, not, you're not allowed to speak unless you've already mastered all these techniques.

I'm not sure that's a fair criticism of NVC, because, precisely as you say, NVC is not a standard to which other people must adhere before they're allowed to express themselves, it's an approach to moderate one's own expressions, for maximal effectiveness. It's not an ethical system, it's a technique.
Edited Date: 2016-09-15 06:17 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-12 11:01 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
My family of origin tend to be quite shouty and quite open about expressing emotions, and also go back to being best of friends once the immediate fight has blown over.

I think I had some idea of that, but I hadn't actually really thought about it. I tend to assume that if someone shouts or snaps, it must be serious and/or they're just so stressed they can't help themselves.

But also, there's an obvious benefit in being able to tell when someone is SOMEWHAT stressed (either about everything else today, and now's a good time to not challenge them on stuff, or about this particular thing), before waiting until they can't help but erupt.

So I get really agitated when someone who is upset with me refuses to speak to me and doesn't directly tell me what's wrong.

And I think I may end up doing this by accident. Like, I'd never INTEND to do that, I don't think it's helpful. But if something upsets me, I'm likely to think "maybe I'm just oversensitive, it's all in my head, I shouldn't splurge that out over everyone else" until I can audit it, and come across as "weirdly upset but not explaining" when I can't hide it :( I'm not sure how to fix that.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-12 11:49 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: Teddybear that contains ethernet switch.  (teddyborg)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
"I'm too upset to talk about this right now" is a useful diagnostic message to me. It says:

* There's a problem
* The other party wants to get the problem fixed
* The other party does not want to get things that may be their brainweasels all over me without need
* We're probably going to talk about it later
* The talk later is probably going to be less yelly than I feared, because they don't want to talk while upset and likely to go off in weird directions

This is where the upset person might usefully talk to an uninvolved party who doesn't have emotional investment in the thing that's gone wrong, to give perspective about whether it's more likely to be a calibration error or whether there's a deeper problem. And calibration errors are still worth sorting out within a long-term relationship!

It doesn't necessarily make me much less freaked out in the interim, but it's better than nothing at all.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 04:22 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
"I'm too upset to talk about this right now" is a useful diagnostic message to me.

Good point. In fact, I'm not usually THAT out of it, I can probably manage something like "nothing serious is wrong, but I'm having some difficulty processing some stuff and I'm not sure I can talk it through right now, can I talk about it later"? Hopefully conveying something like (1) don't expect a big doomthing (2) don't try to talk right now. But obv a lot of people have much bigger can't-talk-about things.

give perspective about whether it's more likely to be a calibration error or whether there's a deeper problem. And calibration errors are still worth sorting out within a long-term relationship!

Very well put.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 06:15 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic

I like calibration errors when they get caught early. Then they don't accidentally introduce structural unsoundness.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 04:27 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I don't think of you as a sulker, not in the way that I find hard to deal with

*hugs* Thank you. I didn't think so, but I'm glad I'm not.

Have you had problems with that before?

I think, I'm not-great and intuiting what someone's problem is if it's not obvious (as in, I can often guess, but not always and not with certainty), so I default to expecting to need to SAY what my problem is. Or at least, that there IS a problem and can you help me work out what it actually is.

Although, I guess, there are things like, "if you've repeatedly told someone and they studiously ignore it", where you feel like asking again isn't helpful. Which doesn't usually happen to me. But if someone's had a lot of that sort of problem before, it would make sense they don't have the habit of asking, because they don't emotionally/naturally expect people to listen.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 04:35 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
is that shouting shouldn't be a deal-breaker either way

That sounds like a good description.

I think I have two problems. If someone is wildly upset at something else, I can be supportive. But if they're upset *at me* my brain instantly jumps to the conclusion that I must be really, really wrong and I can't ask for an explanation, I just need to accept everything they say. Which can be helpful, but may not usually be helpful.

And, I really really don't want to come across as threatening, but I know if I let my voice get loud at all, that's possible.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 04:37 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
The other thing with shouting is that I know, when other people use an "increased volume, sound angry/stressed, but not what I would literally call shouting", it sounds to me, like shouting, even if when I was calmer, I would use a different word. But to me (and I think some other people) even if they're equally undesirable, those feel quite different from the inside.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 06:35 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
"Angry outbursts" are very much on my radar at the moment.

I am acquainted with someone who had been in an emotionally abusive relationship who had been told that they were prone to angry outbursts which frightened everyone around them. They reported this to me as a red flag about their interactions that I should be cautious about, because of my own history of being intimidated by angry family members.

Then I had the opportunity to witness one. It was a brief raised voice and sharp tone to address some cats who had started a brawl. I went "...Wait, was that...?!" about simultaneously with my acquaintance guiltily apologizing for subjecting me to their uncontrolled anger.

At that point we had a very different conversation about reasonable expectations for anger control and why their then-partner was a gaslighting, emotionally abusive PUA creep.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 04:38 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
One thing I realise is, I've muddled through *some* communication difficulties, but I've been incredibly lucky in not usually needing to deal with many of the situations other people have often had to deal with.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-13 04:38 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Were there any particular examples you were thinking of when this came up?

(Thomas-)Kilman conflict management styles

Date: 2016-09-18 04:28 pm (UTC)
bens_dad: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bens_dad
http://www.typesofconflict.org/conflict-management-styles/ discusses five styles of conflict management, but then goes on to say:
Given the different conflict management styles, you might be thinking of the one style that would suit you the most. It is important to note that the strategy involved in coming up with a resolution is relative to the kind of the problem.

(When I was on a conflict-management course these were known as Kilman conflict management/resolution styles, and there may only have been three; maybe Thomas added two more ? :-)

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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