Sep 25, 2009

Article: Tips for Creative Disagreements

Sep 25, 2009
Anyone who knows me, knows I love a good Argument. Actually, who am I kidding - I love bad Arguments, I love irrelevant Arguments, and I love impractical, hypothetical Arguments that have no impact on life. I've played Devil's Advocate for so long that even Satan must be sick of it.

But regrettable and blasphemous rhetoric aside, I've jotted down a few tips that help me keep 'Argument' in it's proper, prominent and productive place.

Here I have compiled three blog posts, which I have placed in what I have taken to calling 'Randological Order,' on the topic of:

Tips for Creative Disagreements
Without spiralling into fisticuffs maybe!

In a creative partnership, such as the one Luke and I mutually tolerate, the butting of heads is both necessary and, in some controlled degree, encouraged. Which brings me to my first, and central point:

The Argumentative Mindset
A Code of Conduct for an Aggressive Arguer

No doubt, to the less quarrelsome of you, some of the following advice will seem insultingly obvious. I inscribe it here for my own sake, and for the sake of people like me - who will often mistake the means for the ends where Debate is concerned.

1) The Strength of Compromise
In the beginning when I would have one idea (pure gold, of course) and Luke would have his own, these ideas would be in competition like two snarling dogs in an arena. I naïvely thought it had to be one idea or the other, and that any compromise would produce nothing but an unhappy, diluted farrago; true to neither and helpful to no one. Compromises were, in my book a desperate lose-lose settlement - a last option reserved for sissies who couldn't stick to their guns long enough for the other side to give in.

Of course, in practice it turned out to be the complete reverse. The dogs would still stalk the arena, occasionally taking large chunks out of each other - but somehow at the end of it we would be the joint owner of a sleek, and powerful panther. Our compromised ideas, jokes, and characters are usually our strongest - and maybe if I had compromised on the 'dog/arena' metaphor, even that might have worked.

2) Its Real Purpose
What is Argument's real purpose? Well, for the longest time I stubbornly held to my definition of 'proving oneself righter than one's opposition,' simply because that was more enjoyable - and more satisfying. However, once I forced myself to treat Argument as a method for finding the best option regardless of who's option it is - a method of exploration rather than competition - I found it a much more rewarding experience. Obviously.

3) Never
Make It Personal
I've worked in lots of groups, and there's usually one guy, while we're planning our plans, who says to himself: "You know, I could win this disagreement by reminding everyone how the other person's last idea was terrible" or " So-And-So still wets himself." NO. Not cool. This information, while technically useful and occasionally hilarious, is irrelevant and could potentially discredit a superior idea.

On the reverse side - and this is always hard - when someone argues against your perfect, revolutionary and ingenious idea, don't take it personally. Be unbiased about your own ideas.

Argument Devices

It's All Fun and Games Till Someone Loses a Debate

I have here three 'devices' we employ from time to time to fix certain problems inherent in Argument - as you'll see, they're a little less obvious than the 'take a breath' or 'take a break' devices.

1) Ten Second Rule
This is one we employ quite a lot - very useful for putting an end to knee-jerk reactions. Sometimes you have an idea you just know the other person is going to be all like 'Say what?' But you also know it's going to be so great. Simply invoke the almighty Ten Second Rule, and say your idea. The other person is henceforth forbidden from making any comment either negative or positive for ten seconds, in which he is encouraged to try with all his might to see the idea's potential.

2) Shoes
You have probably seen this mentioned before, but swapping sides in arguments is really a great way to see it from someone else's point of view. I do this as often as I can remember. I wish I'd remember more often.

3) Music
Sometimes things will get too serious, and you may need an Arguing Medium other than mere talking (Read: Shouting).

Now this is going to sound ridiculous, so I'm going to invoke the Ten Second Rule here. Simply put on a piece of music with a strong melody that everyone knows (movie themes work well) and take turns Arguing to the Tune. Not for everyone, obviously - but the few times we've done it, it near instantly ruins any sour moods with it's sheer absurdity.

How's this for strangely specific, but the best piece of music we've found for this so far is 'Hinata vs Neji', from the Naruto - Season 2 OST. It's subdued but also melodious, with a strong and repetitious beat. Sorry, the best piece of music I've found - better not indict Luke in such nerdy madness without asking permission.

Sometimes You Just Can't Win
Three Options for 'Victory'

Now just to be a little more serious here for a moment - Personally I find it absolutely central to Arguing to remember the three reasonable circumstances in which I may convince someone of an idea they're unsure about:

1) Precedent
Find a movie, series, book or anything relevant where someone has done something similar (preferably from something they like). Movies are your evidence, and Critical Reception is your witness. I try and do this with all my ideas anyway, just so I know who's done it right and how.

2) Vision
Try your best to make them really feel it. Create for them the atmosphere, and really sell it with volume, actions, sound effects, music and pauses - the whole pitch. Or if you're so inclined, (and have the time) perhaps whip up a storyboard or two. Make them see what you see.

3) Trust
This is that last resort where you say 'Hey, I know it's never been done before, and I know you can't see it yet - but I know this can work.' Obviously you want to be pretty sure, cause if you get it wrong, you can probably never pull this move again.

It's useful to know which of these three angles you're going for - and if none of them are relevant.. well, then maybe the idea just wasn't meant to be.

Of course, you probably don't want to work with anyone easier to convince than that.

If All Else Fails...

1) Spiral into Fisticuffs
Cause after all, you're right and they're wrong.


  1. Man, that panther bit cracked me right up.

    And don't think I didn't notice you suggesting your own ideas were superior to mine... :P

  2. argueing to the melody of theme music, thats gold.
    i can see how that would lighten up a situation.

    this is why i cant work in groups, or partners on projects, im a control freak with ideas and how to execute them,
    i can rarely put my self in another persons shoes ( i wish i would though) and if they dont like my idea i see them as a wet blanket, who is dragging me down and they need to be fired.
    i rarely want to compromise because it's a lose- lose situation for me,

    But I really liked this post, and would like to learn how to work with people.

  3. Yeah, I've always been a bit of a control freak. Whenever I would come up with concepts I hated it when other people tried to put their grubby little creative fingers all over them.

    But as long as you find the right person, a partnership will almost always result it dramatically superior work.

  4. yes,i agree you would produce better work when there is more than one, it is hard to find the right person(ive been looking for ages, but its hard to trust anyone).you need someone that gets you, and is forgiving, but also has similar goals, and they have to like you.

  5. Yeah... yeah you're right! Why have I been settling for Mutt?!

    *steals all of his work and runs off*

  6. Just so you know guys, I don't hold any bad feelings about that last argument we had. I am however filled with ravenous rage at the wind, which decided to drop a tree on the powerlines just before I was about to post my counter argument, which led to give up out of lazeyness.

    I will say this though, Luke, try to avoid using Hitler in arguments, comparing Hitler to most things people argue about is like comparing the destructive power of nuclear weapons to a badly made cheesecake. (regardless of how strongly you might feel about the cheesecake)

    To more arguments! (and less power outages).

  7. Hear Hear! More arguments!

    Is it ironic that the above statement is in complete agreement with you?


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