Backing-Down from Flamebait - NLP How-To Article

Have you ever been baited into undesirable arguments?

I've had several prime opportunities to manage my state in the face of really tempting "bait" to continue an argument in too heated a fashion, and in doing so, likely giving away information I might not want to give away, or say something I might regret. Have any of you had a challenge in this area?

In 2 out of 3 of these specific cases recently, I came out on top. The third case (at the time this was written) is still ongoing, and so far, I'm pleased with my progress.

Which is not to say I haven't made these kinds of mistakes in the past or won't again in the future, because this isn't about perfection, it's just about what can we do better. I don't expect perfection; I'm pleased & happy with my results when I experience an overall sense of clear improvement in a problem area, and as long as I'm learning from my mistakes, it's all good!

I don't need to share the 'content' of what happened in each of these three occasions, but I will share elements about their 'process.'

To learn about this challenge at a "structural" or "process" level, I asked myself "what's similar about these cases?" In each of these cases, a disagreement on basic outcomes had taken place. And in each case, that disagreement led to an exchange (heated in a couple of cases, not heated but strained in another). Because both parties have or had an outcome in mind, and those outcomes disagree(d).

Furthermore, in each case, I recognized and found evidence to support that while *I* know I'm willing to find some common ground for a compromise, the other parties expressed evidence that they had no such interest in finding a common ground. They were interested in making me wrong. And we know that the most flexible element in any system -- wins. Always. Without exception.

Taking it further, in each case, I checked & reviewed my desired outcomes. And I asked myself in each case... "what's more important, my point? Or the relationship?"

Roughly this is where the cases began to stray from similarity into differences (and g'listen up, folks, we only recognize by what's the same, but we learn from what's different!).

In one case, I found, the relationship was more important. So I agreed to admit to being wrong, and being found wrong. From a different perspective, with the outcome of preserving the relationship, I knew it would be good to be wrong (& apologetic, too!). :)

In another case, I found, my point was more important, and the other party had already trashed the relationship, so I was going to maintain my integrity. They can always say they disagree with what I said, they can always say they disapprove of my position, but they'll also be unable to say I didn't act congruently in agreement with my values. Which means disagreement aside, I remain trustworthy -- I.e., they can always trust me to act according to my own values.

And in a third case, the jury's still out. I think in this third case, there's more shades of gray to the question of "point vs relationship." So I'm still considering my responses, and my actions, and their counter-point responses, and the implications of that with respect to still others. Kind of a chess match, so to speak. As long as that process of consideration makes progress, I'm happy with leaving things in an uncertain place. I don't have any need to force a timetable on it. So I'll sleep on it a few weeks & see where it goes.

I don't expect the above to be so profound it gives you a completely new life, but I do think that asking that 'perspective-shifting question' about "what's more important, your point, or the relationship," does help us to jump outside of what we often inaccurately think is critical-must-resolve-today kind of stuff. It helps us to shake ourselves open of the need to be right, and put us in a more reflective position to consider the results of various choices of how to act.

In other words, it's the kind of question that helps you use your frontal lobe to help stop you from putting your foot in your mouth!

Only people with significant frontal lobe brain damage don't have the ability to stop & consider the implications of their actions before acting. That said, we can become creatures of habit. But it's not a disease, it's just a habit! Just because you (or someone you know) is a shoot-from-the-hip kind of person doesn't mean that better & more reflective thinking & behavior can't be trained into our neurology using better questions & great learning techniques.

We are educable, and we can always improve!

I hope that gives you some useful insight & new perspectives! Keep looking inside & outside -- for more great questions!

[ Back to Top ] [ Back to Articles Index ]