drcuriosity: (Default)
[personal profile] drcuriosity
Over upon the Book of Face, I posted a link to Dr. Michelle Dickinson's excellent open letter on fluoride, science and kindness. It's an excellent informative piece, and it rounds out with the simple and powerful phrase: "We’re all smart. Distinguish yourself by being kind." Excellent advice for anyone in academia or science in the broader sense, really.

This ended up being shared around quite a few places, spawning interesting and largely constructive discussions as it went. It also attracted not a small amount of scorn for the person who the letter was addressed to. This got us into a conversation about the social effects of scorn and ridicule, their effects on persuasiveness, and how to invest your energy in arguing well. My comments follow - I'd be interested to hear yours.




It took me a while to get to the point where I realised that making a persuasive argument is about more than laying out facts (as I saw them) and the (i.e. my) line of reasoning that links them. That whole theory-of-minds-of-other-people thing was admittedly slow to develop, in the way it often is for geeks.

I find it helps to think of it in terms of working out where their thinking is at, and trying to lay out a clear path for them that acknowledges their values. You may not be able to bring them all of the way all at once, but you can mark a trail that will be easier to follow in future.

Boiled down into two fancy words: memetic aikido.

The good thing about doing things that way with an audience is that, like the article above, you have the opportunity for collateral education, rather than collateral damage.

A direct, hard push doesn't usually get good results. It just tends to harden opinions on both sides of the argument. The "no, that's ridiculous..." or "well actually..." often makes someone's firmly-seated opinions dig in further. It might make you look strong to any sympathetic onlookers and those who respect a performance of strength, but it's a dead loss to everyone else.

Shame has little constructive potential if someone doesn't already care about what you think of them - and even then, laying it on too thick becomes a burden rather than an encouragement to be better.

That, in essence, is what I think we should be looking for if we're going to invest in arguments: the encouragement to be better. If we're not doing that in some way, isn't everyone better off if we use that energy somewhere else?
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

If you are unable to use this captcha for any reason, please contact us by email at support@dreamwidth.org


 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Profile

drcuriosity: (Default)
drcuriosity

August 2017

S M T W T F S
  12345
6 789 101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Aug. 18th, 2017 04:11 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios