Ever prepare yourself for an argument with someone?
You have something to tell them that you think they won’t like. Or you already know they’re mad about something. Whatever the reason, you have some indication that they’re going to react a certain way.
Usually an unpleasant way.
And because you expect that reaction, you start playing out the conversation in your head. If they say this, I can come back with that. When you respond with something you don’t like, you start over. Ok, what if I say this instead?
Sometimes, you get so into imagining this conversation that you feel upset about things you imagined people saying. Yeah, read that again. They haven’t said it, but because your mind envisioned them saying it, you’re having an emotional response to that.
(This is a great foil for television shows where people actually get mad at other characters for imaginary arguments. I’ve never met anyone who does that in real life. It would be very disconcerting.)
By the time you’re done playing out the conversation, besides upsetting yourself, you’ve probably planned some strategies and best ways to say something. For me, it’s usually how to get a point across without offending or hurting someone. I practice staying reasonable and calm a lot, too – fat lot of good that does me – but it feels really good to imagine a fight where someone’s ranting at you rabidly and you stay very calm and reasonable. It’s got that I’m-a-better-person-than-you-because-I-don’t-fly-off-the-handle vibe.
It doesn’t work that way.
No, when you actually see that person you’ve prepared an argument for, he or she inevitably does something you never thought of. Like bringing up a point that wasn’t on your list. (Didn’t you get the outline for this debate? What are you thinking?) I didn’t practice that. How am I supposed to answer that? Sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with the subject of the debate. They just derail you by sending the conversation in a totally unrelated direction.
You never even get to bring up most of your really good points! The whole argument is ruined. You don’t know if you got your point across. You know you offended them in at least 3 different ways, and the more you think about it afterwards, the more you think of misunderstandings you could have prevented and fabulous things that you could have said.
More shocking still, sometimes the person reacts in a positive manner.
What? No, seriously. Sometimes you’ve scared yourself silly anticipating someone’s reaction, and then he/she shrugs and says, “cool.” Totally anticlimactic.
Why do we even bother prepping for the argument if no one’s going to follow the script? I could’ve winged it and flubbed my lines just as badly. I think. Probably.
Grrr. Now, I’m gonna have an argument with myself about prepping arguments. Great.