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Buster Benson’s “WHY ARE WE YELLING?”: The Good Life and Work Book Review

Julie’s Verdict 8/10 | Must Read

Available in paperback from Amazon for £7.26

Book Review why are we yelling
Julie's review: Why are we yelling?

Disagreements in life and work can be distracting, drain our energy and make us less productive. Have you ever thought about why you should have more productive disagreements? According to Buster Benson, in his first book, Why Are We Yelling:

When you learn to disagree productively in different roles, the effects combine and are magnified, making you a better friend, a more competent co-worker, a more loving spouse, a more active family member, and a more effective citizen of the world’ (p. 32).

Who should read WHY ARE WE YELLING?

Book Review: Why are we yelling?
Julie's Book Review: Why are we yelling?

Benson writes in a very accessible way, making use of examples most of us can understand, though they do tend to be US centric.

You should read this book if you are:

interested in improving your critical thinking.managing teams that are apt to get into conflict (i.e. anyone managing teams).looking for strategies to help you deal with conflict more effectively.seeking strategies to build better relationships with people.still arguing with friends and family about Brexit.


Overview of “WHY ARE WE YELLING?”

Benson describes the art of productive disagreement as a superpower. If you can master it disagreements stop being frustrating balls of anxiety and your world becomes bigger as you embrace curiosity and possibilities, rather than aggressively defending your position.

Each of the 8 chapters of the book provide practical guidelines for productive disagreements we can all apply to life and work.

  1. Watch how anxiety sparks. Arguments are triggered by anxiety about what is true, what is meaningful and what is useful – Benson calls these the realms of the head, heart and hands. Different strategies are required to resolve arguments in each of the realms. For example, you cannot solve an argument about whether mustard or red sauce is best on a hot dog (the heart realm) with data and evidence (the head realm).

  2. Talk to your internal voices. You have 4 internal voices: power, reason, avoidance and possibility. When you listen to the voice of possibility conflict becomes productive.

  3. Develop honest bias. Accept you have biases, which inevitably place limitations on your perspective. Invite others to share their perspective and listen generously. Don’t get angry, get curious – it’s a big world and it’s OK for some people to like mustard on their hot dog.

  4. Speak for yourself. Don’t project your feelings onto others – speak only for yourself.

  5. Ask questions that invite surprising answers. If you approach an argument with a view to only securing your own position – I win/you lose – then you will miss out on the fruits of growth, connection and enjoyment. Ask ‘What has led you to that belief?’ instead of dismissing another’s point of you. The answer might surprise you and it brings you closer to understanding the other person even if you don’t agree with them.

  6. Build arguments together. Reframe the disagreement as a problem to be solved together – listen to the voice of possibility rather than the voice of security.

  7. Cultivate neutral spaces. Be more like Socrates – embrace aporia and the possibility of being wrong.

  8. Accept reality, then participate in it. Wishful thinking and wilful blindness will not lead to change. Invite the people you disagree with the most to the table as this is the only way to work through your differences.


Top 3 things I love about Buster Benson's "WHY ARE WE YELLING?"

  1. The book is written for the lay person so does not use overly technical language, making it an easy and engaging read.

  2. There are lots of examples and practical tips for things to try to make your arguments more productive.

  3. It made me think about arguments in a completely different way – not as something to be avoided but as an opportunity to learn something.

You might also want to take a look at Benson’s Cognitive Bias Codex.

What could be better about Buster Benson's "WHY ARE WE YELLING?"

This is an excellent book that has already had an impact on how I deal with situations which could end in conflict.

I gave this book an 8/10 because the topics of the disagreements used as examples are quite general and tended to be US centric. I would like to have seen some of the concepts applied to workplace conflict situations, this would have given the book further utility, especially as workplace conflict is such a common occurrence.

Nevertheless, this in an excellent read and highly recommended.


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