Sunday, February 22, 2009

How To Disagree Without Being Disagreeable by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D.

How To Disagree Without Being Disagreeable Getting Your Point Across With The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D.

Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D. is a linguist. She is writing about how to diffuse potential conflicts and disagreements. The book mainly focuses on disagreements between close family and disagreements at the job. Her first point is that almost all physical violence is preceded by violent language. If we reduce violent language we will improve the general atmosphere which people live in.

I don't agree with some of her philosophy. I don't think people should avoid conflict at all costs. I think of conflict as a natural part of being human. I just think that aggression should be channeled into constructive acts like climbing mountains, sports, and racing cars.

However, her methodologies seem to be quite well done. They are easy to follow. She reminds us to actively listen. Most people don't pay enough attention. She also gives two simple methodologies to help eliminate the effects of bad language. Write it down or make I statements.

We use metaphors and ideas when we speak. Understanding presuppositions people make allows us to counter nasty statements in a non-hostile manner. We learn about common verbal attack patterns and how to counter them. There are several different ways suggested including being rational, addressing the subject not the insult, objecting to bad language, and bringing the argument to a common level.

The book seems to have a fairly strong feminist philosophy to it. There is quite a bit about how men and women talk to each other during verbal conflicts. She uses a lot of different examples in the book. Each chapter has a number of written out dialogues illustrating her points. She covers nine points in the book; staying detached, listening, choosing your metaphor, choosing your satir mode, controlling your presuppositions, avoiding and defusing verbal attack patterns, and reducing tension and building arpport.

The book is short, 170 pages, references and bibliography, and index. It is a fairly quick read. This book will have strong reactions for and against it.

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