De-escalation

De-escalation is one thing that I am not good at.  I criticize police officers for using maximum force when it's unnecessary, and offer my opinion that they should de-escalate rather than escalate.  But in doing so, I make myself a hypocrite.  When I am in a discussion with someone of a differing viewpoint, I escalate more readily than I de-escalate.

I write my blog posts with the delusion that I will change the world by the things that I say.  I do hope that some people have given pause to their own beliefs and have been affected by my words.  But it is most likely the case that the best way I can change the world is to change myself.  My sister posted a quote the other day that said "You can't change how people treat you or what they say about you.  All you can do is change how you react to it."  And when we were chatting the other day, a similar quote, something to the effect that it's easier to wear slippers than to carpet the whole world.  If I examine myself critically, I must admit that I often attempt to carpet the world.

Pointing out the faults of others is something that should be done delicately.  I often lack the delicacy necessary to make the criticism effective.  However, I can find, examine, and repair my own faults.  I have been deeply affected by multiple people who, in a heated debate, have de-escalated.  I find myself thrown off guard when this happens.  Typically it's when the argument turns from intellectual to emotional.  Feelings start getting hurt.  My reaction to hurt feelings is to be abrasive, insensitive, and increase the aggression.  When I am faced with an apology or similar de-escalating technique, I stop short in my tracks.  In a way, it hurts even more than the offensive words did.

I have acknowledged this fact many times throughout my life.  I know that I do not find it easy to apologize.  I do not find it easy to admit fault.  It is easy if the other person apologizes first.  But I find it nearly impossible to be the first person to apologize.  I find that, when I am angry, I would rather hurt the other person's feelings more deeply than admit that I am wrong.

I must learn how to de-escalate.  I must learn how to calm a bitter discussion down, how to keep blood from boiling over.  I don't know if that's possible.  I find it a daunting idea--frightening, even.  I find it difficult because I feel indignation at injustice and at falsehood.  If I believe something is wrong or immoral, I have a desire to correct it--even a controlling, micromanaging desire.  If someone implies or asserts that I'm wrong, I get defensive.  I feel a need to be justified.  I need to prove that I'm right.  Apologizing is a form of admitting that I'm wrong, which is a blow to my ego.

There are, however, logical reasons that I should learn how to de-escalate.  If I am capable of admitting my own faults on the fly then I will be able to learn more and grow and adapt better.  I will have more friends if my friends understand that my goal is to know truth, not just to be right.  Also, I believe that I will be better able to influence other people if I am more respectful of them.

One way I believe I will be better equipped to accomplish this is to distance my identity and my emotions from my beliefs and worldview.  If I am able to examine my beliefs objectively then I will be less likely to be offended when they are challenged.  If I take something at face value, rather than interpreting it as a personal attack, then I will be more likely to maintain calm during a discussion.

I often find that I expect more of other people than I am willing to give.  For example, I am offended if anyone says something condescending to me (and I am quick to assume something is condescending even if it wasn't intended as such) and yet I often condescend to other people and expect them not to be offended by it.  This is a double standard.  There are many others of a similar nature, where I hold other people to a higher standard than I hold myself.  I think it would help if I put myself in the shoes of the other person.  If ey told me the words that I said to em, how would I feel?

There is much progress that I could make along these lines.  I believe that being aware of it and thinking about it is a good step in the right direction.  Then, when instances arise, I just need to take a step back and examine my behavior and decide what would be the best way to react.