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.
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.