Author Topic: Not interested in debating, just yelling  (Read 3261 times)

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AllTheThings

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Not interested in debating, just yelling
« on: December 12, 2012, 10:50:19 PM »
I'm wondering if I handled this okay, or if there was something else I could have done.

My college semester is ending, and for one of my classes we had to turn in a paper and have a class discussion instead of a traditional final exam. During the discussion, I said that while I wouldn't normally interfere with the rules parents make for their children, there is one situation where I would consider it. If a teen came to me for help with this situation, I would strongly encourage them to see their parents' point of view and listen to what they said. However, if it was clear that the teen had made up their mind I would help them with the problem. I wouldn't feel comfortable with it, and I would feel bad about going behind the parents' backs, but I would never forgive myself if I didn't help and something terrible happened to the teen.

Shortly after the class was over, I saw my classmate, Samantha. Samantha asked if I had really meant what I had said in the discussion, and asked me to explain. She didn't sound very accusatory, so I didn't think there was any harm in it. I explained that I did mean it, and that ultimately if a teen came to me for help and put that kind of trust in me, then my duty is to keep them safe, not to keep the parents happy. I would understand that the parent would get very angry at me if they found out, but I would think that I still did the right thing for the teen.

She said that while she agreed that any adult should have the right to do what it was we were talking about, she didn't think it was right to help someone else's child do this. She started asking me questions about the ethics of it. I'm thinking, "great an intellectual debate!" and I respond back with my own opinion.

Unfortunately, it seems that the entire topic of discussion hit some kind of a nerve with her, as it became clear that she was very upset. She's saying that she can't believe I would be okay with doing something like that, how terrible it was, how she wouldn't trust me around her daughter. Simple disagreement I would have been okay with, even welcomed, as nobody had responded in any meaningful way during class. But this, I couldn't deal with. She clearly wasn't interested in having any sort of debate or discussion, she just was mad.

Wanting her to stop, I said that clearly this was a sensitive subject, and that we should probably stop talking about it. She kept going, bringing up her daughter again, so I said, "Samantha, stop it. You really need to calm down!" This might have been a little harsh, but it did get her to stop talking. Naturally, I didn't want to talk to her anymore about this and I left.

I think that she kept thinking about her own daughter possibly being in that situation someday, and just freaked out, taking it way too personally. I didn't think it would be appropriate to attempt to apologize to her, since she was the one who brought it up again in the first place, plus I never insulted her beliefs. Do you think I did okay? Is there anything else I could have done?

Lynn2000

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2012, 11:21:16 PM »
I think you did fine. Speaking to her a bit sharply was probably the only thing that got through to her and ended the situation. (Like in old movies when someone is crying hysterically and someone slaps them and says "snap out of it!" Obviously I am not advocating slapping anyone here.)

I would not apologize to her. In fact I would try to avoid speaking to her again, at all. Maybe you're friends and you don't want to do that, of course, but I was thinking she was more-or-less a random classmate who kind of went off the deep end during what started as a routine class-related discussion. I'm sure it was a sensitive issue for her, but apparently you guys are taking a class where sensitive issues are discussed, and she needs to control herself better if she's going to be involved in those conservations.

That being said, my fear of conversational meltdowns like this are why I never took classes that debated sensitive issues, and never engage in "social" conversations about them either.  :P
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AliciaLynette

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2012, 04:37:25 AM »
Yeah, honestly it sounds like she took this all a little personally.  I'd say nothing, and treat it like there was no conversation unless she brings it up again.  Act like she's just another student in the class from now on.

Hope your course is going well!
Children are natural mimics; they act like their parents in spite of every effort to teach them good manners.
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RingTailedLemur

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2012, 05:22:32 AM »
I think she didn't conduct herself well at all.

The only thing you did wrong was to say "calm down" beacuse that is near-guaranteed to make an angry person go off like a rocket.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2012, 06:14:01 AM by RingTailedLemur »

cicero

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2012, 06:09:47 AM »
was she actually yelling or was she just upset?

while i agree in general with the PPs, i have to say that it would make a difference to me what the "thing" is.  I can think of a few issues where i would have a *major* problem with anyone who interfered with how i was raising my child, and i would find it extremely inappropriate if someone went behind my back and help my minor child to do something that i was opposed to or had a problem with.

being rude and yelling isn't OK, though.

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AllTheThings

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2012, 08:13:48 AM »
was she actually yelling or was she just upset?

while i agree in general with the PPs, i have to say that it would make a difference to me what the "thing" is.  I can think of a few issues where i would have a *major* problem with anyone who interfered with how i was raising my child, and i would find it extremely inappropriate if someone went behind my back and help my minor child to do something that i was opposed to or had a problem with.

being rude and yelling isn't OK, though.

She started off just upset, but it escalated from there, and by the end she was yelling at me. I can definitely understand why someone would find what I said inappropriate, and if she had just said it the way you did, that would have been fine. She actually did start off that way, which is why I didn't think we would have a problem. I guess she got mad because I didn't change my mind.

KarenK

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2012, 09:20:37 AM »
was she actually yelling or was she just upset?

while i agree in general with the PPs, i have to say that it would make a difference to me what the "thing" is.  I can think of a few issues where i would have a *major* problem with anyone who interfered with how i was raising my child, and i would find it extremely inappropriate if someone went behind my back and help my minor child to do something that i was opposed to or had a problem with.

being rude and yelling isn't OK, though.

I think I've deduced what the "thing" is, but it really doesn't matter. The point is, the OP and Samantha saw the issue differently. OP was ready to discuss their differences politely, but Samantha was not. She only wanted to berate the OP for what she considered to be a "wrong" point of view.

FWIW, your statement above is a polite, logical response to the OP's position from the position of a parent.

I do agree, however, that the last thing you should say to an upset person is "calm down," not necessarily because it's rude, but in most people it's counterproductive, i.e., it will just make them madder! ;D

jmarvellous

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2012, 09:57:22 AM »
I've had to have that same conversation before, and since it's over and others have told you that saying "calm down!" rarely works, I'll just add that it's really wise, as soon as someone talking about this gets frantic or starts speaking loudly, to redirect.

"I understand where you're coming from, I promise. And how do you think you did on the final essay, anyway?"

"I really respect your opinion (even if what you really mean is "I respect the force of your anger and don't want to touch it with a 10-foot pole") and passion on this subject. Speaking of passion, any classes you're excited about next semester?"

"Wow, it's too bad you didn't get to express all that during class! Hope I'll see you around next year. Got to go!"

Basically, when someone who you'll have to deal with in a professional capacity (as classmate or colleague), even the most fun or interesting debate is worth backing out of once one party gets away from debate and toward emotional outbursts.

Drawberry

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2012, 06:36:35 PM »
I think that she kept thinking about her own daughter possibly being in that situation someday, and just freaked out, taking it way too personally.

I am assuming that your topic was something possibly controversial  or something that is considered a major life choice (IE: Providing contraceptives to a child who is engaging in a sexual situation), in which case I can see and even understand why as a parent herself Samantha may become frantic and the mere suggestion of her own daughter being put in a controversial or life-changing situation without her there as a guide. At that point however Samantha needed to step back from the conversation and separate herself from it when she became overly involved and attached to the subject.

While 'calm down' rarely works and is often used condescendingly I don't think you where rude. By the sounds of things this woman was really 'going off the deep end' with the conversation and drawing unfair characterized conclusions about you as an individual. Assuming you where not discussing having sexual relationships with minors or other extreme situations her exclamation about not letting her child be around you sounds like displacement in that she's unloaded her worries and fears onto you.  That's a very serious accusation to claim and she sounds like she was getting extremely emotional over what you viewed as casual conversation.

When someone becomes so passionate in that way it's very hard to derail them and sometimes the best thing to do is just remove yourself from the situation.

peach2play

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2012, 08:09:53 PM »
You were ambushed, and it stopped being about debate, but a contest to see who would win.  She was bound and determined not to lose, for what ever reason.  The only way to get out of those situations is to remove yourself from the game.  Using the words calm down by themselves might make the yelling escalate but I think putting "Stop It!" before hand changes the situation.  I've often used "Enough!" in a very low, firm voice (almost like a deep bark of a dog).  This usually snaps the person out of it too.  I think you did fine.

Lynn2000

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2012, 08:51:08 PM »
I'm curious about the nature of the class. Was it entirely devoted to researching and discussing sensitive subjects of some kind? If so, I think Samantha was especially in the wrong--yes, her distress sounds genuine, but if she took a class titled "Sensitive Topics You May Disagree With 101" and made it all the way to the end of the semester, she should have better coping skills to separate her personal feelings and home life from the subjects she's learning in class. And by that point should have been exposed to enough alternate viewpoints, and how to express them properly, that she shouldn't default to insulting the OP.

I mean, of course she shouldn't, we all know that; but I have considerably less sympathy for her (having chosen to take a class on this topic and stayed to the end) than I would for, say, someone the OP was having a spontaneous social conversation with.
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wolfie

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2012, 01:55:10 PM »
I would probably have responded that it was a good thing then that I didn't know her daughter and walked away. Not sure if that is actually an appropriate answer but it would have been the first thing to come to mind once she started personalizing it.

Drawberry

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2012, 02:17:19 PM »
I would probably have responded that it was a good thing then that I didn't know her daughter and walked away. Not sure if that is actually an appropriate answer but it would have been the first thing to come to mind once she started personalizing it.

To be honest I am not sure there is a 'appropriate' answer to this sort of situation. When someone just becomes so intensely passionate and fired up they just sort of fireball out of left field and set fire to everything in their path.


Allyson

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Re: Not interested in debating, just yelling
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2012, 11:22:41 AM »
You didn't do anything wrong. You were debating in a class, and it had absolutely nothing to do with her child. I think it's pretty rude to confront someone in this way--she's basically screaming at you because of what you believe and using emotions to freak you out. I think it was kind of inappropriate for her to come after you *after* class anyway--there was a time and a place for her to disagree and she didn't do it.