A Geezer’s Thoughts About How to Defuse and Diffuse

I was browsing the news on line, a habit I probably ought to try to break, when a story’s title caught my eye: “This Is The One Word You Should Use To Diffuse Any Argument With Your Partner.” I’m not a grammarian but I thought something was wrong with the choice of the word “diffuse” in this context. Is “defuse” the right word? Of course, it is and it’s too bad the writer’s grammar distracts readers from the story itself.

As a matter of fact, most of the story was poorly written, but the idea that expressing your vulnerability during a heated argument or debate, maybe by simply saying “Ouch” is probably as good a way as any to negotiate a path to a healthy resolution to at least some conflicts.

The “Ouch” approach can defuse a potentially explosive argument and maybe even inject a little humor into a difficult conversation. I think it can work well at work, at home, in politics (maybe), and at the first meeting of a Home Owner’s Association (HOA). I learned a lot of new things about what an HOA is, including that it’s a non-profit organization and that it’s a pretty good way to promote a sense of community in a neighborhood. In fact, the HOA meeting was sort of a wake up call to me as I head into phased retirement. Unlike some doctors, for whom retiring can be threatening, a few navigate it pretty well.

Incidentally, I got my usual invitation in the mail to join AARP, another non-profit organization with a more complicated set of mandates, goals, and political agendas. I poke a little good-natured fun at them on my blog. They always send starter membership cards, like the ones below:

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You can retire from work. You don’t necessarily retire from everything, including certain responsibilities in your family, community, state, nation, and global society. In fact, some of the members of our HOA graciously volunteered to be directors and officers, for which we are very grateful. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a diffuse sense of anxiety about the whole affair. It can be a little like embarking on a new career, one that could be well-suited to a retiree in some ways. You can learn something new, like Robert’s Rules of Order.

I make a motion we have cookies at our next meeting. The odor of chocolate chips diffusing throughout the conference room may help defuse any potentially controversial discussions about snow removal from the mailbox cluster.

By the way, despite the snow issues, have you ever noticed that Iowa often turns up near the top of lists of states that are pretty good places to retire?

Top Ten Best States to Retire
1. New Hampshire
2. Colorado
3. Maine
4. Iowa
5. Minnesota
6. Virginia
7. Massachusetts
8. South Dakota
9. Wisconsin
10. Idaho



  1. Dr. Johnson, your comments are priceless! I can’t thank you enough for your insights and your sense of humor! Hang in there.


  2. Greetings from Las Vegas , NV.

    I am a staff psychiatrist at the CCDC, Clark County Detention Center . I manage about 4,000 inmates with the help of 5 APRNs and 10 Psych RNs.
    I got a kick out of your play on words , ie Defuse versus Diffuse .

    With regard to the use of ” OUCH ” to de-escalate sub-optimal encounters with our fellow humanoids …

    My son Aaron laid this technique on me several years ago. He is a gifted actor with a SAG card , and well on his way to success within his chosen field. Aaron has no formal training in the mental health field ; however, he has been blessed with an abundance of emotional intelligence. He would make a most outstanding Shrink.

    On another note , I too am thinking about decreasing my hours . I still love what I do here at the Twin Towers of the Lost Souls . I cast my net far deep and wide, with the hope that I will encounter a few inmates each day who truly want to begin the hard work .

    This facility would be a superb venue for rotations for 3rd and 4th year medical students, and – of course – Psychiatry residents. Unfortunately , my ideas have not gained enough traction to go anywhere.

    Come June 1st , 2018 i will probably drop down to 32 hours per week which will give me an ongoing long weekend. i will still be able to have full benefits , albeit a 20% pay cut and fewer PTO hours.

    Your HOA comments were amusing. My wife Katey retired this past Fall. She has encountered all 3 clusters of personality disorders as she manages the financial side of our HOA ; the Weird , the Wild , and the Worried.

    I have really enjoyed your blog. I hope that you will continue to write ; perhaps with an ongoing narrative as you make the transition to retirement. I sense that you have many other interests outside of medicine. I certainly do !

    Now – in the words of one Groucho Marx – Hello , I must be going

    Time for charting … Point and Clink Schtick ad infinitum !

    Liked by 1 person

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