Shaun JohnstonBritish, now living in Hudson Valley NYEmail address
“Beg to differ” conversation game
This is a game, with counters and clocks, designed to help people appreciate each other’s opinions and beliefs. Players would be two people wishing to understand what lies behind their disagreement about something. Together, asking each other questions, they explore their disagreement. Periodically they redefine it to exclude whatever they find they agree about. Level by level, as they refine the nub of their disagreement, they carry it down to more fundamental roots of human behavior. The hope is that when they see the deeper roots of each other’s opinions they can come to respect them.Example: disagreement about embarking on a war could resolve to a difference in degree of patriotism. But this might resolve further into a difference in where one’s primary identification lies, for one person lying in loyalty to one’s “team,” for the other in an identification with mankind as a whole. And this in turn might resolve into a difference in how much each experiences and values competitiveness. For one it may be the primary measure of pleasure and virtue, while the other may seldom experience it at all. At this point each may see how this difference in their root experiences accounts for their initial disagreement.Other examples could be a disagreement on abortion availability resolving into different values each holds most dear with respect to their own daughters, a disagreement on capital punishment might resolve down to different childhood practices that led one to experience warmth with strangers, the other to experience fear and even disgust.Game rules include:A game divides into alternate periods of “play” and “work.” “Play” is the two players alternately asking questions about the other’s point of view and the other’s answers. When the players agree they’ve arrived at a deeper under-standing of what it is they disagree about “play” is interrupted for the “work” of trying to rephrase the disagreement in light of their new understanding. Once they agree on a new definition the current statement of the disagreement is posted in plain view, and play resumes.Players may sit at a table, with a moderator (”he”). There can be an audience. The moderator keeps the current definition of the disagreement in view of both players, and the audience. He awards points to the players as play proceeds and at the end of the session. He operates stop clocks to time how long each player talks. A suitable clock for playing this game is a chess clock, actually a pair of stop clocks that can be started and stopped as each player starts to talk and stops. The moderator may also mediate during “work” to help the players redefine their disagreement.Players are timed while they talk during play. At the end of the game the player who talked longest overal loses points.Penalties are awarded for:Interrupting while the other player’s clock is runningInvalidating the other player’s point of viewClaiming special knowledge or privilege the other player doesn’t have.Scoring is of course a formality merely to reinforce and train for good discourse technique. It is likely also to make the experience more entertaining for all parties involved.This game could be used by organizations wanting to resolve disagreements as needed, political party organizations for example, calling on the services of an experienced outside moderator. Or it could be made a regular entertainment by an organization with a cultural mission, with their own moderator.