Friday, June 27, 2008

The Art of Shutting Up



I think the urge to argue comes to me via my family, a rowdy bunch of Jewish intellectuals who loved (and still occasionally dip into) a serious, heated argument.

Not talking here about conversations or even discussions in which opinions differ. What I'm referring to are exchanges in which both parties get hot under the collar. Communicating a different point of view can be the objective in a conversation or discussion, but from the moment an exchange turns into an argument, it's all about winning and/or being "right."

I'm talking about verbal battles, something I've engaged in all my life. These battles served their purpose in a sense, allowed me to vent my spleen (such a funny expression, isn't it?) and also brought up adrenal based energy when I was depleted.

Of course I didn't think about it that way when I was really into arguing, though I couldn't help but notice that the process never helped me cultivate lovely, trusting friendships. Oh no.

In an effort to unhinge this habit, I've been practicing the art of shutting up. That includes letting go of having the last word, which is really so powerful! Astonishing how well it works. I'm also trying hard to recognize when a discussion is escalating into an argument. As soon as I see it coming, I just stop. Stop talking, stop emailing, stop exchanging voicemails. Next step: Let go of the whole episode. Move on.

My campaign of peace is working very well, though to be completely honest I should admit that I'm not spending a lot of time communicating with people who love a good fight like I used to. It helps to spend my time with like minded people, in so many ways it helps! Fury begets fury. Rage begets rage. Life is short, I'd rather beget peace by being peaceful. If you have another opinion, by all means, let me know. You can have the last word - I promise!

Have a peaceful weekend, ya'll. Stay cool.

18 comments:

deborah said...

Bravo

much love and peace
cooler weather headed your way

lacochran said...

"Happiness begins when the need to be happy outweighs the need to be right."

Barbara said...

Having the lines of communication cut is a far worse punishment that being yelled at. I come from a family where silence was the way disagreements were resolved. It hurts mightily!

Steve said...

I'm a conflict avoider, so the minute an argument arises I remove myself from the situation. Not sure that's healthy, but it's my approach.

Love the bottom photo of Jakey!

dennis said...

Dennis loves you.

Lee's River said...

you'd be miserable in France, Reya. Arguments are considered one of the higher forms of socializing here - but they're relabelled intellectual discussions so that makes a big difference :-)

Reya Mellicker said...

Hey, Lee - I'm a Jew. Hello? Arguments are our way of life for God's sake.

Barbara I'm not talking about giving the cold shoulder to anyone. Twice in the last week I've felt the storm approaching (with two different people). Instead of engaging and fighting it out, I've PAUSED to give things time to cool off. Later on I'm sure I'll be in contact with these two people, just not now.

Also I plan to yell at whoever I want to, when it's warranted. Neither event this week was worth the adrenalin.

peace & love

Reya Mellicker said...

Oops. Not letting you have the last word! Oh well ...

The pic of Jake is a reflection off the shiny back bumper of a Saturn. Painterly, isn't it?

Gary said...

Funny how dropping the argument by not responding in any of the ways you detail successfully puts an end to it. The next time you see/speak to whomever the issue becomes a nonissue. I find anyway.

Sometimes I find myself wanting to start an argument, usually with those I love the most and feel safest with for some reason, but my way back from that is to say 'Oops, I am in a bad mood and taking it out on you. Sorry." And then talk about what is really bothering me instead of trying to mask it.

Good heating discussions vs hateful arguments. So different aren't they?!

Ulysses said...

Nobody wants peace at the price of your silence (well, okay, some people do, but,... uh, wait, I'll come in again...)

I don't want peace at the price of your silence. I want the opportunity to learn from your perspective. I want the hope that we can find the ways in which we are both right, both wrong.

cyndy said...

I'm not sure how I ended up being like this, but I when I end up in an argumentative situation I always seem to find myself asking questions like "why do you think that?" and "do you also think this?" much more often than I actually express my own point of view. And then I feel bad when people get annoyed because I've sort of asked them to analyze their own logic for me as part of the discussion. I mostly do it so that I can understand their point of view better and so that I won't be forced to make assumptions. Inaccurate assumptions are what fuel most non-productive arguments. Mostly I try to avoid conflict though, especially the unnecessary kind. I had my fill of that growing up.

Reya Mellicker said...

don't want peace at the price of your silence. I want the opportunity to learn from your perspective. I want the hope that we can find the ways in which we are both right, both wrong.

This describes a conversation or a discussion in which both parties are trying to learn something. Cyndy what you're describing sounds like a conversation to me, too.

What I'm talking about is when the tone of the interaction changes, when the energy of the exchange gets sharp, when the two people stop listening to each other and get into an "I'll top you!" blowout. That's when I stop.

As for spirited discussions, I'm all for them. It's when it gets nasty that I'm learning to make peace.

dennis said...

Dennis used to yell at Ched whenever it was warranted--that is, whenever Ched did anything that didn't meet Dennis' approval--which was a lot of stuff! So Ched spent days meaning well, but getting hissed at and feeling confused and threatened. Dennis has entered a more mellow phase, lately. Dennis loved Ched when he was a tiny kitten, so Dennis thinks he needs to nurture and instruct! Dennis has these needs! So Dennis is looking to adopt another kitten. Pretty soon!

lettuce said...

i've too many thoughts about this to get them straight so rather than say something nonsensical, i'll just say that its a great picture of jake - yes, definately painterly!


love you reya

d. chedwick said...

Dennis has been awfully nice lately! But if his beds and little blankies are being washed he gets real mad until they are returned to him. I'm not allowed to sleep in any of his beds (he has 4 of them) he goes from one to another, but they are off limits to me. I think Dennis is nice when things are smooth.

Squirrel said...

I think steering clear of people who just want to fight, rather than friendly debate is key. when someone starts spouting racist remarks for example, I just leave them alone. when i was young I used to think I could enlighten them--but now I may say something kindly & truthful instead. sometimes people are looking for a fight--let them duke it out with someone else.

Reya Mellicker said...

Squirrel you are so smart. This is exactly what I'm talking about. Thank you for your squirrely articulation. Yeah!

Gary said...

LOL, I realized I just wrote 'good heating discussions'. Now that's funny.