Monday, January 14, 2019

Undies in a bunch

I wonder why so many people respond to arguments by assigning their opponent an unreasonable level of investment in the subject matter?

Or, in general terms: Sometimes I disagree with someone and their main response is "GOD, CALM DOWN" or "SOMEBODY HAS THEIR UNDIES IN A BUNCH."

Even when there's no indication that I'm emotional and even when my response is measured and succinct.

I had an interesting reversal of this over the weekend.

Someone on the fan site I like had written a trivia quiz and I thought it was well made EXCEPT that one question had what I THOUGHT must be a mistake. When a quiz is otherwise decent but has a small error, sometimes I take the liberty to tell the creator in case they want to improve their work. In this case I asked the quiz author "I thought X, so can you tell me where you got the information that it is actually Y?"

The person responded with a non-answer, "I don't know really, I just saw people saying it was Y so that's what I put."

Thinking it didn't make sense to offer a correction without proof, I sent them a screenshot that backed up my position and explained why "things people were saying" isn't trustworthy as an information source. And of course, the response from them was this:

"Jeesuus you don't have to get so heated it was just what I heard people calling her calm the f down."

To be honest, I wasn't even mad until I saw this. 

It makes me FURIOUS when people interpret normal conversations as "heated" just because they are disagreements. Mostly because implying someone's feelings are irrational and inappropriate is such a shitty derailment technique, and it pisses me off when people try to distract me from the actual issue (getting the correct information) by reframing it as me having a pointlessly emotional reaction to something that doesn't matter.

So instead of doing the WTF R U TALKIN ABOUT I AM CALM YOU @#$@#$!@ thing, I managed to turn the conversation around.

"It is very strange that you're reacting the way you are to getting feedback. There is nothing 'heated' about me telling you why I think you're wrong about something. Though I guess it's pretty common to accuse another person of not being calm if you are yourself upset."

See what I'm doing there? I'm suggesting they have a problem with me because they can't take criticism. 

Worked pretty well, too. They got a little defensive and gave me excuses about how the quiz is just for fun you're obsessing too much over a little mistake that I don't really care about and I'm like, well, what is the point of TRIVIA--a pastime that is deliberately about trivial things that don't really matter--if you're not going to have the integrity to correct things you know are wrong? I mean, it's one thing if you want to discuss with me why my information is wrong or yours is right. But it's another thing entirely if we're going to derail into your belief that expecting standards is not reasonable. If it's just for fun, what's fun about taking a quiz where the creator is testing someone's knowledge but knows less than the test-taker about the subject?

This has happened sometimes in other contentious conversations, and it's always so frustratingly transparent. They really think it's quite a zinger to suggest they touched a nerve or imply that I am UPSET and FLUSTERED if I speak at all. Projection is a thing, and I think I might need to point it out more because of how well it worked here. Tell them their reaction is weird, suggest they're blaming my temperament because they can't defend their argument, and imply they're feeling attacked because they can't take criticism. Their weapon in telling me my undies are in a bunch is implying I have an inappropriate emotional investment in a conversation. Taking that very same accusation and framing it as rooted in THEIR inappropriate emotional investment turns these around in a second. And I'm not out to shame people for getting emotional, of course; I just take issue with it when they use manipulative language to avoid the issue I engaged with in the first place.

Obviously that pisses me off! But it's very rare I was pissed off in the first place before they told me I was too pissed off to have the conversation. Furthermore, you can completely have an appropriate display of anger in a productive conversation if you need to. It's quite a myth they have there that anger (or emotion at all) immediately disqualifies you from having a rational discussion. I have many times made it clear that I am angry, and it does not detract from whatever my point is. We really need to kill the idea that emotions have no place in arguments. If you are irrational for any reason (including due to emotional influence), okay, but many times emotions come from a completely understandable place. On top of that, rage and grief and fury and emotional determination can make an influential person's point more effective. We do respond to human emotion even for issues we think are divorced from feelings. A speech is more authentic if it clearly grew from lived experience.

So I reject the notion that I DO have to be calm or display only cold logic if I am to be considered qualified to have a conversation, but I also occasionally get this response because my opponent thinks it is a silencing technique. They're offended, they want to "win," they want to feel that I had no business criticizing them and want me to believe I was out of line . . . but if I was behaving in a completely civil manner offering a correction on misinformation, the appropriate response isn't "act baffled that anyone would suggest this matters, and shame me into shutting up." The right thing to do is listen and logically address the point I made, not projections about how I must be feeling and whether it's right for me to feel that way while I disagree.

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