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Summary and Response: The Argument Culture

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The excerpt of Deborah Tannen's, The Argument Culture is from The Prentice Hall: Guide for College Writers, by Stephen Reid describes problems in communication that each person faces day to day. The essay describes the dilemma of the “argument culture”. In the text, the reader gets to know that adversarial debates make problems in communication. The author points out that the war or a fight, which is always in debates between two contrast arguments, must be successfully substitute for a dialogue with, at least, three participants with different positions.

The essay consists of five parts. In each of them, the author describes the problem, shows possible variants of decision and explains everything in a very clear way.

In the first paragraph, the author introduces the noble American traditions to do something. The introduction goes as far as the line: “Balance. Debate. Listening to both sides.” (Deborah Tannen). The professor of linguistics considers these principles to have been distorted nowadays.

In the essay, it is explained that oppositions play a great role in doing things. Deborah Tannen uses examples to confirm that people cannot avoid conflicts, and nowadays we have an opportunity to outspeak these conflicts directly.  In order to keep away from real damage, we must find constitutive ways of resolving disagreements and divergences.

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In the “Sometimes You have to Fight” essay, the author states that when you have to defend your motherland or yourself, when you argue for your rights or against some disgusting, dangerous ideas and actions, it is even necessary to fight.

The word has a power to shape our perception. Psychologists found that the terms in which people are asked to recollect something affect what they recall in specially organised controlled experiment. 

In the text one can also read that the main point of the argument culture is critical thinking, this is the same as criticizing. In many classes it is even encouraged when students rip someone’s work to shreds. However, many people do not know what a self-criticism is. To pass judgment on someone we have to see our imperfections.

In the “How High-Tech Communication Pulls us apart” D. Tannen criticises not face to face communication. The author thinks that for purpose of defusing antagonism between two groups it is obvious to get to know each other better and personally.

In the chapter “The Argument Culture Shapes who we are” the author states that the argument culture has a great impact on our lives and culture.

  1. It makes us distort facts.
  2. It makes us waste valuable time.
  3. It limits our thinking.
  4. It encourages us to lie.

In the last essay, “End the Argument Culture by Looking at All Sides”, the scientist ask and answer the urgent question about how can people overcome such a habit of seeing issues in absolutes. The possible decision is to think in twos. That means we can, for example, have a class comparing not two but three cultures. In this way, we make the students think not about the opposites but about each culture on its own. In such areas as television, radio it is recommended to avoid the usual format of structuring public debates and discussions. This must be done if invite three guests or one, not two. In this case we will have more opinions and less fight.

The author suggests that we have to substitute war and fight with another way to seek the truth and gain knowledge.  One cannot disagree that smashing heads does not open minds. We are to use our intelligence, intellect and find the way to change the argument culture to a dialogue culture.

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As for me, I find many ideas of the author very specific but correct. For example, my opinion that it’s better to start discussing an idea in order to start a debate. Or I agree, that the best way to comprehend news is to find people who are eager to speak about this and to express their opposite view, the best way to resolve disputes is the legal organization of that pits where people with different ideas attack one another’s opinion. The narrator also believes that in order to write an essay, we have to think and criticise. And I agree with this remark.

People try to express their opinion and do not listen to the opponent. In the debate, it is necessary to find the truth instead of proving somebody’s personal outlook. In family relations, quarrels sometimes lead to a divorce because of this inability to hear one another. Men and women were born different, so it is natural that they think in a different way, and we are to learn how to live with people who have different life positions. I believe that opposites make our world better.

And as I consider, we always think and analyze things. We can like or dislike some ideas and it is very good, because different visions of one and the same problem generate evidence of an event and the truth.

The author noticed exactly that people even do not mention the fact that every metaphor in the argument culture permeates our talk and mode of thinking. People start thinking and acting as it is presented in different mass media recourses. Our point of view is somewhere in the middle between these battle and game. Having read this, I thought for a moment about my vision of the latest world events. To my greatest surprise, I found that if I was asked to describe the last news in some sentences, I would use the slogans from what I had watched on TV. So where are my thoughts? They had been lost somewhere between my own opinion and the vision of the events, how it was reported on TV.

As to the chapter about a fight, I consider that a battle between two sides means that everything in the world has two opposite parties. So, in the debates everything can be either proved or denied, and people even begin to think that there are no real facts at all, and doubt where the truth is. In any case, we have to avoid a fight, and always be intelligent. To prove something, we have to prove this to ourselves.

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I think that the author truly wrote about today’s preferences as to communication.  As in our days we more often use remote one, the first step to pull people out of this isolating bubble is to provide forums. It is also emphasized, that using Internet connections, we enhance our communication with family and friends but, at the same time, it also ratchets up the anonymity of sender and receiver, and results a stranger to stranger flaming. Technological aggression becomes a real danger today, but I think in another way.

Like all my friends, I also use Internet recourses, and think it is really convenient way of communication with people who live far from you.  But, it seems not natural when both neighbours instead of visiting one another and talking about their visions of something, talk in social recourses and isolate themselves from real life. Instead of organizing discussion club in real life, many people prefer to chat, but very often they do not hear what they are talking about.

To draw the conclusion, one can say that as we are Homo sapiens, thinking people, we must communicate in the way we have to. The main principles of a positive communication are to think, to hear, to tell. We have to hear one another, and be able to tell what our opinions are. We have not to follow somebody’s mercenary purpose, but to think and analyze. And if we do all this, the argument culture will become a dialogue one.

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