I wanted to elaborate on a tangential topic to Bricu’s Post about the difference between a player being a bastard and a character being a bastard. He suggested OOC communication was the key to keeping the wires uncrossed, and I agree, but I wanted to expound upon GOOD methods of communication versus bad. Yes, there is such a thing as YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG when trying to make a point.
Healthy communication entails respect, candor, and flexibility.
Respect: If you do not respect the person on the other end of the rp, it’s going to show. You’ll be dismissive of their ideas, what they bring to the table. If you’re at that point, why are you rp’ing with them in the first place? You likely ought not to be. If it’s a group atmosphere and they’re present, you do in fact have control over how much you interact with someone. If you don’t like them, keep your distance. Otherwise? Respect that they have time and emotions invested in the RP as well, and even if they push your buttons, don’t be a dick about it.
Candor: If you tell me that you’re okay with an rp idea, an angle, and you’re NOT, who are you hurting? Yourself first, me second when I find out about it, because eventually it will manifest whether you want it to or not. If something truly upsets you, have the stones to say “No, I actually don’t care for this” so other avenues can be explored. If you don’t speak up and you end up dissatisfied with the rp, whose fault is it? Very easy to point the finger at the other person, but if they made the effort to approach you in the first place and ask and you weren’t forthright with your opinions? No, you’re wrong, it’s not on them. It’s on you.
Flexibility: This is an social past time, and sometimes, your idea is not going to be liked. You need to be willing to budge, and I’m not talking about character breaking moves, more really thinking to yourself “Okay the other player doesn’t care for this or wants to do this, am I saying ‘No’ because I want to win an argument or because it’s actually IC.” This is a two way street, always, and for as much bending as you do, the other person should be willing to do the same. Keep an open mind, try new things, and when someone airs a concern, be willing to work with them. It goes far.
Having now talked about the ways communication works, let’s talk about ways to absolutely bork a communication job.
Trumpeting dissatisfaction to everyone else and not the person you’re dissatisfied with. If you have a problem, and a simple conversation will fix it, why are you complaining to everyone else about it in channels, on ventrilo, on your blog? If you’re so intimidated by the person you’re rp’ing with that you can’t even approach them OOC with concerns, should you be rp’ing with them in the first place? Proooooobably not.
Lording lore and the ‘I’m Right’ card. The opposite of flexibility, this one. If someone approaches lore* differently than you do, don’t be That Guy. That Guy is so set in his WoW nerd universe (and his interpretations of the unspoken rules) that something completely original may register as aberrant, and That Guy goes into “Correction Mode”, wherein he believes he has to educate the other RP’er on how they’re doing it wrong. Don’t. Spare yourself and them, and don’t. No one likes to be preached at. Talk TO them, not AT them. Starting a healthy dialogue with “Hey, I always thought X, Y, Z, what do you think?” invites discussion. The other? Invites resentment.
(* No I do not expect you to stomach someone who rp’s Arthas’s long lost brother Hank the Dragon Toucher, but if it’s a slight variation on the precedent and not actually AGAINST established lore, what are you doing by pointing that out besides making someone feel dumb?)
The Blame Game. So RP didn’t work out, you couldn’t see eye to eye or a story didn’t end up as satisfying as you’d hoped, you have two choices: approach it like a learning experience and don’t repeat the same process next time so you avoid similar pitfalls, or blame the other person. The former? Likely a lot more healthy than the latter, especially if the latter is someone in your personal circle. If the RP really went wrong, take some time to cool off, and approach the other party and talk about it. You may find out that they just misinterpreted something, or they had a different take on something. Hashing this out even after the RP is over may remedy the whole problem, and you can try again with another story arc.
There are, of course, eight billion other approaches to the subject of communication, but really, after this post is said and done, it comes down to the first three ‘tenents’: respect, candor, and flexibility. Everything pretty much falls under those umbrellas. Of course I understand that sometimes people need to vent about their problems, and getting something off the chest feels really damned good, but there are ways to do it that ensure you won’t be making your problem into everyone else’s eventual problem. Make yourself feel better, yes, but also be fair to yourself and your rp partner by keeping them abreast of how they can improve going forward, too.
Thoughts, points, make ‘em.