Conflict resolution

I was fighting in the top of one of the towers in the Bordermarch castle a few months ago, having a grand time when one of my opponents yelled across the battle line to call me a cheater, and that I didn't take an arrow shot that he saw.   I had felt an arrow strike my helmet, but I firmly believed that it struck the skull (not something you have to accept by the Gulf War rules we were playing by) and not the face plate (which would be fatal.)  My occular is pretty small so I generally see anything that blocks my view, even for a moment.  My memory of the details of what was said is pretty fuzzy since it made me so angry.  I don't think of myself as a cheater.  Not many people think of themselves that way, and I work pretty hard not to give other folks reason to think of me as one.  What he accused me of was so at odds with my self image that it wasn't information I could accept.  Reputation is like a sand castle we slowly construct over time, and he was very publicly kicking the crap out of mine.  It was easy for my hind brain to just conclude that the guy doing all this yelling was a colossal asshole.

I strode across no man's land, wading through bewildered spears and pole arms to give him a piece of my mind.  We hollered at each other for a bit, violently disagreeing on where the arrow struck and convincing ourselves that the other guy was a douche bag before I stormed off.

So, yeah, that went badly.  You know what though?  He may have been right.  There's a lot of chaos in a fight, and it's possible to miss something.  I do think I generally notice things hitting my face plate, but what does "generally" mean?  90% of the time?  I may have miss judged it as an honest mistake.  From inside the helmet it's tough to tell.  From outside, 20 feet away, it's also hard to tell.

What went really wrong was how he presented his view.  He backed me into a corner with his accusation of cheating.  He set us up on opposite sides of the issue when even in the middle of a battle, we didn't have to be opponents.  If he'd said, "Sir, from my vantage point it looked like that arrow hit your face plate" it's much easier for me to consider his perspective and I may come to agree with it.  "Hey, man, I think you missed a shot" feels very different than, "You cheated!"  The later gets almost anyone defensive.  The former gets us thinking about what mistakes we may have made.  We'll admit the occasional mistake to friends and folks on our team.  It's much harder to confess them to someone hell bent on attacking you.  Ever been in an argument when you realize you're wrong, and the other person won't stop badgering you?  It's really hard to save face and back out of your position.  Sun Tsu was explicit about giving your opponent a place to retreat to so he won't fight to the death.  It's important to do the same in interpersonal conflicts too.

This understanding is one of the ephemeral "peer-like qualities" we end up talking about in SCA circles.  It's important to be able to fix a disagreement without tons of collateral damage and creating enemies.  I didn't handle this conflict as well as I'd like, though I'm glad I had the spine to stand up for myself.  It's a learning experience.

The fellow in the tower approached me after the battle when we'd both simmered down some and we had a decent chat.  Neither of us turned out to be the jerks we seemed like in the heat of that moment, and as a result of the experience I think we both got a little better at resolving conflicts.


Spearweasel said…
If your first shot fails to produce the desired effect, you shoot them again until that effect is achieved.

It works in real life, and in game. Your opponent should have learned this before he strode onto the field the first time using arrows in the SCA.

In real life it feels like maybe you didn't sever a big enough artery. In a game like this it feels like a travesty of justice.
Anonymous said…
I think that the best thing that ever happened to me was at a 12th night a "million" years ago. I was pretty new to fighting and I was fighting another new fighter (who has since been our Principality Prince and is currently a Master at Arms). We were part of the Middle Kingdom at the time where there was a very deliberate strides to talk among the fighters to avoid this very situation. Well, we both stopped and asked each other about he shots to the head. I told my opponent that I thought that my shot on him landed nicely. Then he asked me about his shot on me... to which I went, "what?". The marshal happened to be a good friend of mine who actually got me fighting in the SCA. Well, I asked him if my opponent had hit me, his response was yes, right in the grill. I was shocked, I didn't feel it, see it, hear it, or even smell it. We laid on and after a few blows I left him my head and we finished the fight honorably.

To this day, I remember that early fight, knowing that it is very possible for an honorable fighter to completely miss a shot and not even realize it and always phrase my questions with an out. And if they don't take it I just hit them harder or more often. ;-)

Popular Posts