Posted by: Jess Riley | March 26, 2009

Pet Peeves: Courtesy

By ‘courtesy’, I don’t mean that I really hate it when people act in a courteous fashion – I have my quirks, but I’m not that strange. My problem is more when it comes to matters of courtesy when there is a matter that perhaps, should be dealt with in a delicate manner, and people instead revert to being passive-aggressive, rude, or otherwise just unfriendly about the subject matter.

Pet Peeve: Katafray looks up at the sound of screaming.
Eme does not, because screaming like that is normal, and anyone should be used to it.

Why People Do It: Presumably, they think that someone else has acted inappropriately in a situation, and they want to make it clear that this is not something that they do as well. Maybe they don’t even realise that their emit is coming across as passive-aggressive – it’s just the way that their character behaves, and now that they’ve seen someone else respond that way, they want to make it all the clearer that their character has certain justifications for their own response.

Why It Bugs Me: However you spin it, this is passive-aggressive behaviour, and it just grinds my gears. By saying, “Eme does not do what Katafray just did, because this is how normal people should respond”, you are telling Katafray that they are wrong to be doing whatever it is that they just did, unless they have extenuating circumstances. Plus, you’re leading up to a whole page of passive-aggressive thought-poses – Eme does not, because people should be used to the sound of screams. Katafray acted that way because she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is triggered by screaming. Eme does not think that post-traumatic stress disorder is a sufficient justification for being exaggeratedly jumpy, but is of course, not playing Katafray. Katafray wishes Eme would go hang and stop passing judgment.

Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but the point still stands. It just invites a whole series of justifying emits – Katafray gets offended because of what Eme is implying, and so on, and so on.

How It Could Be Done: Well… I want to say that step one is not to pass judgment on the way that other characters behave. But, alright – if what you’re trying to do is make it clear why you’re reacting differently than the other character, the best answer is ‘relax’. Or, if you really think you need to justify your own character’s behaviour, then phrase it so it’s quite clearly a reflection on your character and not on anyone else. There’s a big difference between ‘Eme does not startle at the screaming, because screaming is normal and everyone should be used to it’ and ‘Eme just keeps on staring straight ahead, unmoved’ or ‘Eme does seem bothered, as though she has become accustomed to it’.

Pet Peeve: [Party] Eme: But Eme looks old and grizzled now! Katafray should be more startled by this and want to know what happened. I’ll wait for you to respond more appropriately.

Why People Do It: Presumably, they were planning on taking things a certain way, or feel that something that they have drawn attention to was overlooked, and so naturally, they want to draw attention to it, to make sure that the full effect of what they had planned is not lost.

Why It Bugs Me: You don’t get to decide how my character responds to something. Yes, occasionally, it could be that I really did overlook something that my character would have responded to, but a lot of the time, you drawing attention to it because you think that my response was incorrect isn’t actually going to change anything. As far as you know, I have every reason to have not commented on what ever it is that has changed, or I was working up to something. Now, in this case, maybe I could have been more clear, but as a rule – the way that my characters respond to events is up to me, and not up to you.

(And yes, Sean, I know I’ve done this before. It doesn’t count when it’s you, because I know your characters better than you do.)

(Hypocrite? What are you talking about?)

How It Could Be Done: It’s very hard to ever bring it up. After all, no matter how much you think that this event is big and important, the other person will always know their characters’ responses to something better than you will.

If it’s something genuinely big and shocking that they haven’t even flinched at – maybe you died at their feet and they’re still trying to have a chat with you and waiting for your response – it could very well be worth reiterating the important point once. However, basically any way you do it, it runs the risk of just being annoying and fishing for a certain reaction. Most of the time, the best response is just to shelve the way you wanted things to go, and play off the reaction that the other person really is showing , not just what you think they are showing.

Although, if the other player has a history of simply ignoring what you say altogether, and just playing things the way that they want to, then that’s just as inappropriate as repeating a point and fishing for a certain reaction from them. Keep that in mind, too.

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