ozarque (ozarque) wrote,
ozarque
ozarque

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Linguistics; verbal self-defense; responses to VAPs -- then what?

Janet_Coburn commented:
"What about follow-up? After the VAPee has tried one of these three responses, are there scripts/suggestions for what comes next? I realize that you can't extend this chess game to infinity with all possible responses, but responses #2 and #3 especially [look/sound/feel?] as though they may lead to a second line of attack..."

Answering this properly would take a book -- I'm sorry about that. But maybe I can at least point in the right direction, with three examples.....

The attack in the previous post was:
"A MAN who really CARED about his family wouldn't SPEND his whole life playing VIDEOgames!"
The three suggested responses were:
1. "When did you start thinking I don't care about my family?"
2. "Of course I care about my family."
3. "I agree."

Example A:
Helen: "A MAN who really CARED about his family wouldn't SPEND his whole life playing VIDEOgames!"
Frank: "When did you start thinking I don't care about my family?"
Helen: "When you missed Tommy's Little League game because YOU were playing EVERquest, THAT'S when!"

This is one of the most likely outcomes. Frank's response changes the situation. It isn't what the attacker is expecting; it doesn't feed the attacker the expected lines for the standard script. It has the advantage of surprise. It gets Helen down off her lofty stance of talking about generics and hypotheticals; her complaint is now about a specific act -- Frank missing Tommy's game to play EverQuest -- and this is an improvement. Frank is now free to do various things. He can say, "That was a rotten thing for me to do, and you're right to call me on it. I'm sorry." He can say, "Look, I enjoy playing EverQuest and I hate Little League games. Whether I was playing EverQuest or not, I wouldn't have gone to Tommy's game." He can say, "I go to most of Tommy's games. I don't see anything wrong with missing one once in a while." He can say, "It's none of your business what I do, so don't try to boss me around." He can say, "I respect Tommy's Little League commitment; he respects my EverQuest commitment. We're cool." The possibilities are infinite, and the choice Frank makes will have consequences that he'll then have to deal with. What I try to teach people to do is to make a strategic choice, instead of just winging it.

Example B:
Helen: "A MAN who really CARED about his family wouldn't SPEND his whole life playing VIDEOgames!"
Frank: "Of course I care about my family?"
Helen: "Then WHY do you spend all your time playing those games??" [Notice that Helen has responded with an example of another VAP -- the one in which the heavily-stressed "why" means "No matter what your reason is, it's not good enough." This is a new attack.]
Frank: "I think it's because of something that happened to me at recess when I was just a little kid. We were living in Kansas City at the time, and I was going to Murple Elementary, and I remember that it was a really cold day, and... No, wait a minute, I think it happened in the summertime. Because... " [And so on. This strategy, called the "Boring Baroque Response," has been discussed in earlier posts in this journal.]

Example C:
Helen: "A MAN who really CARED about his family wouldn't SPEND his whole life playing VIDEOgames!"
Frank: "I agree."
Helen: "Then why DO you spend all your time playing those games?"
Frank: "Does it seem to you that that's all I do?"
Helen: "Yes, it does."
Frank: "Okay; let's talk about it."

In the system I teach, it's important to learn to consider each pair of utterances as a separate unit requiring a separate strategy. In Example A, "A MAN who really CARED..."/"When did you start thinking..." is one pair. "When did you start thinking..."/"When you missed Tommy's Little League game..." is one pair. "When you missed Tommy's Little League game" and whatever Frank says in response is another pair. And so on. The only pairs for which I teach suggested responses are those in which the first utterance is a VAP. My students and readers learn an array of techniques, not just the technique of dealing with VAPs, and they change and combine them as required by what happens in a particular disagreement. As with any other new skill, it's awkward and complicated at first; with practice, that problem goes away.

Finally, in examples B and C, as in A, the suggested response ignores the bait, refrains from providing the next line in the standard script, does not reward the attacker, and has the advantage of surprise.

Suzette
Tags: verbal self-defense
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