Quote, April 15 2013: The Public Fight vs. the Private Fight, some thoughts on fights in general, and the difficulty of finding people who balance feelings and consequences

“In all my years of watching (and participating) . . . I have never once seen a situation where “talk” accomplished a damn thing. In fact, idle talk often creates the opposite reaction to what was intended. . . .

. . . He probably thought he could talk, and markets would obey him. Some egg is going to hit Jack in the face. The “rule” in these matters is that you don’t pick a public fight that you can’t win”

– Bruce Krasting, “The Scariest 50 Hours”, Bruce Krasting, post dated April 13 2013 (last accessed April 15 2013 for this post)

I tend to refer to different types of disputes as different “Fights”. This comes from a seminar I attended years ago on the fighting systems of George Silver[1], where we discussed how Silver referred to various different conflicts as different Fights.

So, when I occasionally make comments in conversation about the public fight versus the private fight, both of those are capital-F specific types of Fights[2].

To actually resolve a disagreement where both sides think they are right, a number of steps that need to happen. I’ll use “you” and “I” as our hypothetical opponents. I do this both to avoid getting too bogged down with too many third-person pronouns, and also to make the examples a bit more visceral and real for you, the reader.

So, hypothetically, you and I have a disagreement and we both think we’re right. Before we can resolve this:

  1. You have to tell me your side of the story.
  2. I have to paraphrase your side of the story back to you so we can make sure we both have a similar idea about what your side of the story is.
  3. I have to tell you my side of the story.
  4. You have to paraphrase my side of the story back to me so we can make sure we both have a similar idea about what my side of story is.
  5. Only then, now both having an idea what both of us were so angry about (which usually will turn out to be slightly or even completely different things), can you and I find a solution which addresses both our concerns to at least some extent. And that solution will very likely need both of us to modify our positions at least a little bit.

This is difficult enough to do when it’s two people in a private discussion, both of us trying to master our own emotions, tamp down our own feelings of self-righteousness, and stop talking long enough to actually listen to the other person and actually consider events from their point of view.

Trying to have that discussion in public is often impossible.  As soon one of us bends that first little bit, extends that first little gesture of peace-making, there’s a whole audience lined up to comment on which of us was right or wring, whose side they’re on, their interpretations of What Is Really Going On, what each of us should have done if only we’d been smart enough to ask the audience for advice first, and then about half the audience will go off proclaiming that you and I are not really all that tough and can be walked on with impunity, they saw us back down from a fight.

Or, to summarize all that: two people strongly disagreeing in private have a chance of coming to a mutually acceptable resolution, but if they try to work out their differences in public it will almost always come down to a dominance contest, a series of ultimatums and Take It Or Leave It.

Which is why I make such a distinction between the Private Fight and the Public Fight. There can be the same two people disagreeing, same disagreements, but when you add in the audience of onlookers who come with the Public Fight, it is an entirely different Fight.

A while back my friend Rob commented that he enjoyed reading most of my posts but got a little bit bored with the finance stuff.

I’ve been trying to put into words ever since why I do occasionally post quotes about economic and financial happenings.

Although I removed most of the references in my quote, the article my opening quote came from was about finance and economics, and a fairly specialized corner of finance and economics at that.

Part of the reason I write about such stuff is it’s a place where there are real results, and many of the people writing about finance and economics are fairly hard-headed and not given to a lot of talking about how much they empathize and feel the pain of someone else, but at the same time what is happening will have real effects on real people, and many of the writers do look at that too.

It’s difficult to find that mix; too often commenters either completely suck all the emotion out of a topic, or they wallow in it, but rarely do they balance both emotion and consequences.

Person A gets a job which affects Process 1 and Process 2. Person A is familiar with Process 1 but not Process 2, and now Person B is watching all this.

  • There are people who will write incredible amounts of very emotive meanderings about the thought process and feelings of Person A, how harsh and cruel the world is to throw Person A into a job they’re not fully trained for[3], hopes that Person A will somehow pull through anyway like the underdog they are, blah blah blah.
  • And then there are people who will write incredibly amounts of dry and mind-numbing meanderings about the inner workings of Process 1 and Process 2, how anyone administering those Processes should be looking at them, how Process 1 and Process 2 interact with each other, relevant factors about short-term and long-term fluctuations in Process 1 and Process 2, blah blah blah.

But to find someone who can look at that and balance both the consequences and the feelings of those involved in and affected by the work at hand, balance the fact that there will never be a human being who is a perfect fit for any job with the fact that regardless of how that human being is or is not responsible for the consequences of their choices, those consequences still happen?

That’s tough.

The few fields I’ve come across where I can find writers who can strike that balance are finance/economics, military matters, and anywhere there’s a writer who’s a student of Classical thought and Classical history[4].

So Rob, that’s part of the reason I write about finance and economics so often.

[1] The seminar was taught by Stephen Hand, in Seattle Washington. It was an awesome seminar. I have reprints of Silver’s works, and also copies of Hand’s works that are based on his interpretations of Silver. One of my long-term goals is to find a workout partner and start working through some of Silver’s methods and techniques, and hopefully also some of Fiore dei Liberi‘s methods and techniques too.

[2] I wish it were possible for all of us to somehow emphasize in our spoken speech which words we are emphasizing as very particular terms (like ‘fight’ vs. ‘Fight’) and which we aren’t.

[3] Is it just me, or do the people who gush with emotion always seem to talk as though we’re all helpless pawns? In the example I gave of Person A being hired for a job they weren’t completely prepared for, Person A probably had the chance to turn down that job. Whoever hired Person A has to bear some responsibility too, either those hiring didn’t know what was fully entailed in the job they were hiring someone for, or they knowingly chose someone who wasn’t completely prepared for the job. So it’s not “[the cruel world / American society / capitalism / Western Society / modern life] forcing some powerless person against their will and now we must all wail and beat our breasts about the unfairness of it all”, there were lots of people involved who had other choices and who bear responsibility for those choices. But somehow that never gets mentioned amidst all the wailing and breast-beating.

[4] No, I don’t know why it is Classical scholars seem to be so much more clear-headed and open-eyed in their writings. And it kind of bugs me that I can’t figure out why, I’ve been pondering that for a few years now. Instead of finding any good answers, I’ve slowly started to read more of the Classical works and more about the Classical works and Classical scholars myself.

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