Re: public displays of anger
From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 14:25:54 -0600 (MDT)
You misunderstand what I was saying in the post you respond to.  I was saying
yelling as an expression of anger is destructive.  I don't believe groups
should foster a culture in which this is considered normal or acceptable.  I
believe that people who are prone to yell should work on finding ways to
express their anger that is more likely to get them what they want.  

However, I was *not* saying that telling a person who is yelling "Your
behaviour is inappropriate" is a good strategy for handling the situation
(see my long post from last night).  It's better than "You are emotionally
dysfunctional", but not nearly as useful as approaching the person with love
and understanding. 

And I agree with you that conflict is always an opportunity for learning and
growth if people are able to see it that way.  Ignoring it is not ideal at


Jennii Markley wrote:

>         In case you can't tell, I agree with Sharon, and disagree with
> Stuart. No matter how angry and offensive someone is, asking them what
> the problem is, and really trying to listen will calm them down in
> nanoseconds. Ignoring their problem and focusing on their response
> will often aggravate their anger, and will probably foster an emotional
> rift between involved members. Aguments are never fun, but, with a little
> effort, they can be solved to benefit all those involved. Avoiding
> arguments because you feel "acutely uncomfortable" signals the presence of
> that emotional rift, and the lack of true community. If necessary, find a
> third party, uninvolved with the argument to try and find the root of the
> negative emotions. After all, it behooves EVERYONE to have a truly
> harmonious community, without all the dirt piling up under the rug.
>         I come from a high-emotion family. We have learned these lessons
> the hard way, and I'm glad, because we have managed to turn a
> dysfunctional, hateful family into a very close, loving one.
> Jennii Larsen
> I can never think of a cute saying to end my email with, so I'm writing
> this instead.
>  Stuart wrote:
> > If I understand you correctly, you are asserting that yelling and swearing
> > may be [part of] a good and appropriate way of handling conflict, though you
> > draw the line at name calling.
> >
> > I strongly disagree.
> >
> > Clearly, there are wide cultural and class variations in how anger is
> > normally expressed.  I don't want to make any global judgement about other
> > cultures, but I'm interested in what is culturally appropriate amongst 
> > middle
> > class white North Americans and similar cultures (since that covers 99% of
> > the likely potential recruits for a cohousing community represented on this
> > list).  In this context, community members expressing their anger via 
> > yelling
> > and similar behaviours carries a number of very significant costs.
> >
> > Firstly, it makes other community members acutely uncomfortable.  Not only 
> > is
> > this bad per se, but a community where this behaviour is frequent is likely
> > to lose members and have difficulty attracting new members.
> >
> > Secondly, it creates serious power imbalances and distortions.  Many people
> > are instinctively and strongly fearful of someone who blows up regularly.
> > Group members are likely to avoid opposing them on decisions where the angry
> > one is known to feel strongly or avoid bringing up issues that might elicit
> > that kind of behaviour.  It has a strong chilling effect on the group's
> > ability to frankly and honestly discuss their problems.
> >
> > Thirdly, my experience is that, in relationships where people have some
> > option to hate and ignore each other, that is what open expressions of anger
> > and hostility will cause them to do.  It works very differently between two
> > neighbours than it might in a marriage, say.  In the latter case, yelling at
> > each other does seem to be cathartic and helpful for some couples.  But I
> > have yet to see a case where community members felt better about each other
> > and more prone to interact because they yelled at each other.  Instead they
> > avoid each other and think badly of each other.
> >
> > Finally, in many cases, it is explicitly against the group's agreements on
> > behaviour.
> >
> > Stuart.
> >
> > --
> > Stuart Staniford-Chen --- President --- Silicon Defense
> >                    stuart [at]
> > (707) 822-4588                     (707) 826-7571 (FAX)
> >
> > ------------------------------
> >
> > End of COHOUSING-L Digest 121
> > *****************************
> >

Stuart Staniford-Chen --- President --- Silicon Defense
                   stuart [at]
(707) 822-4588                     (707) 826-7571 (FAX)

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