How to tell when MRK is angry

I like spirited discussions. I was on the debate team in high school and college, and enjoy getting into it with people who hold different opinions than I do. It helps me come to a better understanding of the world.

But.

Then there’s a difference between a spirited debate and an argument. Here’s how to tell when I’m crossing the line from debate to anger.

First, I stop using contractions. This is a retreat into formality, that reminds me that I need to be careful not to say something unforgivable. It’s not something I do consciously, but it is clearly a governing check on my temper. As such, it’s sometimes hard to spot, because I just get more and more polite. This means that I’m angry.

Second, I start cursing. If we move past the place where I’ve gone to contractions into cursing, then my temper is cracking. Usually, I try to leave or end the conversation when I catch myself doing this because nothing good comes after it.

Third, I yell. I am rarely, rarely, pushed to this point. The last time was when a neighbor called black people “savage animals” during a conversation about race. I’d already been heated before that, and had started to walk away. He followed me and I completely lost it and started shouting. I really don’t enjoy this. Although, being from a theater background, it’s surprisingly difficult to shout over me.

This is a public service announcement that I am issuing for no reason whatsoever. I am not, at all, in danger of losing my temper in any regard. See? I even went back and added contractions.

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10 Responses

  1. Sharon Browning

    Thanks for the head’s up, Mary Robinette! When I meet you in October at the NerdCom: Stories convention (I’m so psyched!!!) – that is, IF I get up the courage to actually talk to you – I’ll make sure to watch out for lack of contractions and cursing, first. I think the yelling part won’t be so hard to notice. (La!)

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Ha! It’s extremely unlikely that you would do anything to make me angry. I’m generally a very forgiving person with a good filter for people’s eccentricities. I have a temper, but triggering it involves being willfully awful.

      And DO come up to talk to me. I promise not to yell.

  2. Nicholas

    I had an ex who never used to yell, however they would start singing little bits of their sentences, I always thought If they ever broke into full song completely some would end up dead.

  3. Ritchie

    It’s been a hard few days. I sympathize. Yeah, people intentionally being terrible human beings to other human beings without bothering to learn or empathize drives me craziest, aside from pet peeves. I tend to start cursing first, and when I curse I end up using MORE contractions. Yelling comes soon after. Contraction usage goes down for me when I become condescending, rather than angry.

  4. Denise

    Ha! I discovered I have a similar structure when I worked customer service. My mother’s family is from upstate NY and my father’s is from coal country Ohio, so my anger level starts from taking my generic midwestern accent, more towards an Appalachian drawl. If that doesn’t work, it goes clipped formal east coast. After that… things just get ugly…

  5. Sara

    I cry when I get angry enough and that, in and of itself, is infuriating because it completely derails whatever legitimacy I might have had going.

  6. Jeff S.

    I have a temper and have been known to YELL. Especially when I was in the Navy and the direction given was not carried out in the proper manner.
    But…

    My daughters noticed that when I was angry at them, I would get quieter and enunciate very crisply and clearly. Not sure where that came from but my oldest told me it was the “Cold wind of Death” as far as she was concerned. It must have worked as they are both lovely adults.

    I was going to tie into the whole “puppy pals” anger but have decided to pass. It’s Friday and I’m chillin’

    Jeff S.

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