Two years ago I wrote about a movie clip that illustrates how we feel when we feel we’re right, the other person is wrong, and we have to convince them of it.
I wrote recently how
if you think you’re right and someone else is wrong, you’re probably pissing someone off.
We’ve all been on all sides of such situations — aggressor, defender, third-party observer.
- You see something you feel self-righteous about.
- You declare you’re right and the other person is wrong. They defend themselves.
- You feel powerless to achieve your goal so your emotions become intense and you escalate (represented by the gun in this clip).
- The other person digs their heels in too.
- You feel everybody else doesn’t get it and talks about irrelevant nonsense (represented by other people talking about how it’s not a big deal, and saying things like “HAS THE WORLD GONE CRAZY?”).
- You feel incredibly focused on what’s important (illustrated by Walter’s ignoring the dog and deftly handling the gun).
- You escalate until you win.
- After your emotions become less intense you start to open up to other perspectives.
- Everybody else thinks you’re an asshole. Nobody considers your win a win for you.
- Rather than face the shame in seeing the situation from everyone else’s perspective, you maintain that you’re still right and everyone else wrong. (Less often people admit they got carried away and apologize. More rarely still, people learn from the experience and do better next time).
Be aware if you’re Walter!
If you don’t want everyone to think you’re an asshole, don’t be Walter!
Other people have different values. If you try to impose yours on theirs they’ll resist. If you succeed in imposing yours on theirs by force they’ll resist more and resent you.
Here’s the script. As in my post two years ago, I call attention to the last three lines: you think it’s about right or wrong but it’s about pissing people off.
WALTER: Fucking dog has papers, Dude.–Over the line!
Smokey turns from his last roll to look at Walter.
WALTER: Smokey Huh?
WALTER: Over the line, Smokey! I’m sorry. That’s a foul.
SMOKEY: Bullshit. Eight, Dude.
WALTER: Excuse me! Mark it zero. Next frame.
SMOKEY: Bullshit. Walter!
WALTER: This is not Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.
DUDE: Come on Walter, it’s just–it’s Smokey. So his toe slipped over a little, it’s just a game.
WALTER: This is a league game. This determines who enters the next round-robin, am I wrong?
SMOKEY: Yeah, but–
WALTER: Am I wrong!?
SMOKEY: Yeah, but I wasn’t over. Gimme the marker, Dude, I’m marking it an eight.
Walter takes out a gun.
WALTER: Smokey my friend, you’re entering a world of pain.
DUDE: Hey Walter–
WALTER: Mark that frame an eight, you’re entering a world of pain.
SMOKEY: I’m not–
WALTER: A world of pain.
A manager in a bowling-shirt style uniform is running for a phone.
SMOKEY: Look Dude, I don’t hold with this. This guy is your partner, you should–
Walter primes the gun and points it at his head.
WALTER: HAS THE WHOLE WORLD GONE CRAZY? AM I THE ONLY ONE HERE WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THE RULES? MARK IT ZERO!
The Pomeranian is excitedly yapping at Walter’s elbow, making high body-twisting tail-wagging leaps.
DUDE: Walter, they’re calling the cops, put the piece away.
WALTER: MARK IT ZERO!
WALTER: YOU THINK I’M FUCKING AROUND HERE? MARK IT ZERO!!
SMOKEY: All right! There it is! It’s fucking zero!
He points frantically at the score projected above the lane.
SMOKEY: You happy, you crazy fuck?
WALTER: This is a league game, Smokey!
Walter and the Dude walk to the Dude’s car. The Pomeranian trots happily behind Walter who totes the empty carrier.
DUDE: Walter, you can’t do that. These guys’re like me, they’re pacificists. Smokey was a conscientious objector.
WALTER: You know Dude, I myself dabbled with pacifism at one point. Not in Nam, of course–
DUDE: And you know Smokey has emotional problems!
WALTER: You mean–beyond pacifism?
DUDE: He’s fragile, man! He’s very fragile!
As the two men get into the car:
WALTER: Huh. I did not know that. Well, it’s water under the bridge. And we do enter the next round-robin, am I wrong?
DUDE: No, you’re not wrong–
WALTER: Am I wrong!
DUDE: You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an asshole.