Before my wife and I walked down the aisle and exchanged I do’s, we took part in a marriage course. As members of the Catholic church, completing the course is a requirement. Though the thought of doing this weekend-long course sounded as fun as watching paint dry, it ended up being a really positive experience that taught us a lot.
One particular piece of advice that came out of it really hit home. Been trying to incorporate this into my day-to-day interactions with others ever since. Without realizing it, it’s also impacted my voice as a gaming content creator.
The one piece of sage advice that really hit home was this:
Avoid speak in absolutes
Using absolute statements such as “always” and “never” oftentimes creates problems when interacting with others. Part of that is a phenomenon known as “cognitive distortion”. This occurs when your mind puts a spin on the events you see and attaches a not-so-objective interpretation to it. How many things in life are truly and objectively “always” and “never”? Not much. Odds are, the moment you use those statements, they can be easily debated or debunked.
They also are statements that immediately cause someone to in a combative state. Let’s take the following two statements as an example.
Which statement would you respond better to?
1. You never wash the dishes.
2. I would appreciate it if you could help out by washing the dishes more often.
Personally, I’m immediately ready to argue by hearing #1, and much more likely to respond as intended by #2.
As I’ve started to incorporate this line of thinking into my day-to-day life, it’s also made light of why I avoid throwing myself into the greater gaming conversations that happen on message boards, Twitter, and other public venues. So much of the conversation revolves around absolute statements and “all or nothing thinking”. Some common discussion starter examples I see used a lot that immediately put me off read sort of like this:
“Game X is the best of all-time”
“You must play game X”
“Never pre-order anything”
“Console manufacturer X is always going to be better than console manufacturer Y”
“Reviewer X is wrong because they gave game Y an incorrect score”
Almost everything we talk about in the realm of video games is based on opinion. Opinions are great! Even the ones I don’t agree with! And there are tons of them! Let’s discuss them!
But as soon as someone tries to remove opinion out of the context and push the conversation to a place where right and wrong are involved when there clearly isn’t a right and wrong, then I’m probably not interested in what you have to say. The premise of the conversation is inherently flawed when others take it to that space, and I’m not interested in taking part in a flame war where people are trying to yell over one another in hopes of being on the winning end of an argument that should never have been as binary.
With some slight adjustments to the wording, you can have great discussions around those same topics without pushing the conversation towards a fight. How about these?
“Game X is my favourite”
“I highly recommend game X”
“There are many reasons to avoid pre-ordering games”
“I prefer console manufacturer X over console manufacturer Y”
“I disagree with reviewer X’s score of game Y”
Someone can/will find better ways of phrasing those, but the point is, those conversation starters can still let you convey your sentiment and open a conversation rather than immediately shutting it down or asking for a flame war.
There’s going to be a place and time for “always” and “never”. But I want to squash the all or nothing thinking out of my vernacular as a person and as a content creator. The world of gaming isn’t black and white, and I want to do my part to ensure that’s acknowledged in everything I say and do going forward.