The Argument Culture
In Deborah Tannen’s article “The Argument Culture,” she states that argument and debate “urge us to approach the world, and the people in it, in an adversarial frame of mine.” She calls this new norm of society “The argument culture”. The argument culture “rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get anything done”. Tannen uses the metaphor of an arguing spouse to convey the idea that society needs act more like a married couple to find a more constructive way to settle conflict rather than having a quarrel about every little disagreement it stumbles upon. Tannen believes that while sometimes it is necessary to defend yourself against offensive ideas, it is not morally correct to approach any issue or person in a hostile manner without reason. In the argument culture, society has only been taught to observe two sides of a story, which automatically sets up a debate where one side is pitted against the other. Tannen continues to declare how more and more communication is not face to face due to the Internet, which gives people a screen to protect their identity after saying whatever they please. She believes that the argument culture has a major impact on our lives and on our culture. Tannen states that the argument culture “makes us distort facts, waste valuable time, limits our thinking, and encourages us to lie.” Tannen asserts that “smashing heads does not open minds,” and that while conflict is not something we can avoid, it is something our culture needs to get under control. To avoid the automatic use of adversarial formats – the assumption that the best way to address a conflict is to fight about it – Tannen concludes that we as a culture should become more open to observing all sides of the argument (rather than just two), and to expand the world of debate in a more creative way rather than pervading it with negativity.
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