Hashing it out like men in tights

My 9y-ole, over breakfast, with a pal of his, and myself in attendance :

— So, really, what’s the difference between a discussion and an argument ?

— That’s a broadside, and this here is only espresso N°1 of the day… care to contextualize ?

— Well, when we kids argue, we’re told to cool it, but you and your friends at times look like you’re fighting, but then say it’s just a discussion… So, what gives ?

— Good one. OK, there’s quite a bit to unpack in there, so we’re not going to cover every angle of it just now, and come back to that, agreed ?

— Hmm, sure.

— First, there’s double standards : you’re kids, and we frequently don’t care about the same things you do, right ? Thus, you having a lively debate over the comparative merits and likelihood of total domination among whichever set of videogames characters is currently en vogue in your circles tends to sound to our ears like a monkey shriekfest. If it sounds unfair, try the reverse and consider how much you care about who’s to blame for the 2004–2007 EU Lisbon Treaty episode.

— Come again ?

— We grownups believe we engage in serious matters, whilst you quibble and fight over mindless crap.

— Like salted vs unsalted butter matters more than Red Hots vs Guns’n’Roses ?

— Zactly. Double standards is where it’s at.

— I get it. But why ?

— Now we’re drifting, and that’s one of those bits we’re sure to revisit, but in a nutshell, because we can’t all care about everything at all times, so we do some triage, like when I go too long-winded and you tune me off to focus on something else and right now if I keep droning in monotones you’ll do just that… [wink]

— Eh… [laughs] OK, but you care about everything !

— Well, thanks, but keep in mind I’m seriously weird-wired, and even I don’t care about a number of things, it’s just you’re young and easily impressed.

— Did you just call your own son a idiot !? — chimes his pal, a mouthful of cereal barely kept in check against the chortle.

— No dear, an idiot is someone who’s strongly limited in his ability to learn, like one who couldn’t figure how to keep their mouth closed when chewing — you’ll get that one in a minute — and what I just pointed is it’s normal to feel like grownups know way more about everything at times, because they have a head start.

— Hey, did you just call *me* a idiot !?

— Well, you kinda forced my hand, there, wouldn’t you say ?

— How so ?

— Comedy is similar to chess like that : there are some obligatory moves, and with you asking who I call an idiot while spritzing your cereals… it would be a shame to let it go to waste, right ?

Some cackling later, and on empty cereal bowls, they come back for seconds as I mercifully fix myself a second espresso — shouting across the main room to the kitchen :

— So when grownups fight it’s a discussion, but when we argue we’re being idiots ?

— So close, and mad props for that, btw, but no, not necessarily.

— What then ?

— Let me circle back to the original question, and I’ll leave for you to figure which is which on a case by case basis : what’s the difference between discussion and argument ? If you boil it down to the essentials a discussion is supposed to be open ended, in that people share and exchange views more or less for the heck of it, and with any luck it gets somewhere interesting, when an argument is more like a fight, with all parties involved trying to win, or at least to be heard over their opposition. The distinction is both in intent and process.

— Say what you want, it sometimes looks exactly the same with you !

— Well, that’s the Latin way to do it, supposedly, and we frogs being the worst of both the north and the south of Europe, that’s to be expected.

— Latins are the Romans, right ?

— In one sense, yes.

— Well, in Asterix, it’s the Gauls who argue amongst themselves all the time, not the Romans !

— Damn, you’re making it friggin’ hard to stay on track, don’t you ? But yeah, we’re Gauls, we bitch, you got that one right.

— Ahh.

— Moving on, and back on topic. A discussion is about sharing views and hopefully learning something in the process. It can get loud because you can’t discuss things without stating your case, and it gets oppositional at times, but the end goal remains to understand each other. Does that make sense ?

— Like you can’t compare between Flash and Quicksilver if you don’t understand Quicksilver isn’t just fast, he stops time instead !?

— Well, technically, he seems to locally affect the flow of time, since…

— [yelling ]…otherwise he would turn people to pulp when he moves them around !

— Yep. And yep, discussions requires clarity, and clarity sometimes emerges from voicing loudly, although it’s not a very academic view.

— So a discussion is like a pretend fight, and an argument is like a real fight ?

— Yeah, that could work. In conclusion, the dishes are on you.

— Is that up for discussion ?

— Nor argument, nice try.