I come from a family of yellers. I call us “the hot-headed Hungarians.” We don’t yell at friends, co-workers, or anyone outside the immediate family. We reserve this activity for each other, usually when we’re angry, frustrated, annoyed, impatient, or offended. And we don’t do it in public. I suppose it’s a way of asserting ourselves, expressing ourselves, and unloading frustrations. I don’t know if it’s really a Hungarian thing or whether it’s more about our family dynamic. We’re actually fairly reasonable and well-mannered people, but once the trigger is pulled, there is no way to stop that bullet of anger.
For instance, my sister, my parents and I love playing the card game ‘bridge’ together. We talk, we discuss, we laugh, and we learn a lot about the game when we play. But things can also get a little heated and before you know it, the decibel has gone well above the pleasant conversation level.
“Why did you bid ‘two diamonds?’” my father asks.
“Because of my point count and my suit distribution,” I say.
“Well, that’s not right,” he says. “You should have bid ‘two no trump.’”
“That’s not what I learned at my lessons.”
“Your lessons have it all backwards,” he says.
“No, I think you have it all backwards!”
By now, the gloves are off and we’re having a flat-out argument about this particular convention. We are shouting (not quite screaming) and the others have to sit there and listen. Then my sister pipes in, “If you are going to waste all this time arguing then I’m going home.” Her voice is the loudest of all, because she practically has to scream to be heard. Then my mother chimes in and we are one happy hollering family.
At the end of it all, my son, who is working close-by at the computer, quietly asks, “Does bridge always bring out the worst in people?”
But by now we’re dealing out a new hand and talking about the H1N1 vaccine. “What do you mean?” we ask. “We’re having a very pleasant game.” The thing about my family is that we argue, we yell, we stomp our feet and then we move on.
In the New York Times article: For Some Parents, Shouting is the New Spanking (October 21, 2009) the question is raised as to whether yelling is damaging to children. “Psychologists and psychiatrists generally say yelling should be avoided. It’s at best ineffective (the more you do it the more the child tunes it out) and at worse damaging to a child’s sense of well-being and self-esteem,” the article states.
If that’s the case, then I am a damaged person because I was raised in a shouting household. No one likes to be yelled at, and most people don’t enjoy listening to raised voices, but sometimes it’s the best way to get attention or to work through an argument. Even Dr. Spock said that shouting is inevitable from time-to-time.
For instance, if you’ve asked little Johnny eight times to put the blocks back in the box and he doesn’t do it, is a raised voice unwarranted? You’ve asked nicely, you’ve spoken firmly, you’ve looked him in the eye to make sure he’s heard you, and still the blocks lay scattered on the floor; what else can you do? You can put the blocks away yourself (which is even worse than yelling, I believe), you can threaten the loss of a privilege, or you can get his attention with a raised voice.