Arguments & Arguers
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 15:39:59 -0600 (MDT)
> We at Trillium Hollow in Portland are trying to a bunch of community =
> building things to increase camaraderie and good communication skills.  =
> MEANWHILE, what to do when people have loud angry yelling name calling =
> swearing arguments in front of all, and ignore requests to take it =
> inside?

As one who has been known to yell and argue, even in front of small
children, I share the following.

Warning--it is going in the opposite direction than you expected suggestions
to go. I'm playing devil's advocate.

1. My children consider me to be very manageable and predictable because
when I am angry I yell and it's done with. Others stew over it for days and
the tension drives them crazy. They top toe around and get stomach aches.
Children can understand that people have different ways of resolving issues.
Expressed anger can be viewed as more honest than "polite," "tense,"

(I'm assuming that the fights are the result of strong feelings and not
intentional bullying.)

2. My children once attended a free school (one lauded by Jonathan Kozol)
where fighting and arguing were not encouraged but not treated as if someone
had just done something unmentionable.

Whenever someone started fighting, verbally or physically, everyone in the
school would gather around and observe, coach, and question. They didn't
stop the argument or the physical fight but let it go until it was
resolved--even if it meant staying late after school or having a late lunch.
Both parties were supported emotionally until it was worked out.

3. When people yell, they are having strong feelings. People with strong
feelings make strong community members. You want these people around. It is
as much to your advantage to understand and resolve the issues as it is
theirs to understand how you feel when they yell at each other.


There are rules for fair fighting--name calling is not one of them. Learning
how to fight so the issue is resolved will be much more productive than
trying to exclude the people ("take it elsewhere") or telling them to be
nice. One person's nice is another person's pushing things under the rug.

Just posting or circulating or discussing the rules for fair fighting may be
helpful--sorry I don't have the list but I'm sure someone does.

People fight when they are over the top with something they consider to be a
gross injustice to themselves or to others. This is a good reaction--not a
bad one. Focus on the perceived injustice instead of the reaction to it, and
the reaction will go away on it's own.

Sharon Villines.

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