Since there's seemingly some benefit of exposure to these kinds of negative experiences, they mention advice on how to mitigate the negative aspect of conflict.
But I think it's actually great advice to teach children/students these civil, but pseudo-adversarial skills as general purpose cooperative reasoning tools completely independent of conflict-management. From the article:
• Frame it as a debate, rather than a conflict.
• Argue as if you’re right but listen as if you’re wrong.
• Make the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s perspective.
• Acknowledge where you agree with your critics and what you’ve learned from them.
These behaviors correlate very strongly with the people I personally have found most intelligent and productive in group settings.
I would add:
* agree on the meaning of the words you use.
* be upfront about how willing you are to be wrong / change your mind (I phrase this as "what would have to be true for you to accept I am right" and vice versa for my beliefs).
1) "I see when you say X you mean [specific definition]. Given that definition I agree with you, but I disagree with the definition"
2) "When I say X it seems it means [specific definition] to you. Rather than fight over the definition I will avoid saying X and use different terms so we can keep moving"
We really need a better word than "piracy".
This would often be a highly productive way to start the discussion, because very often the situation is that one side or the other is vehemently not willing to have their mind changed, which I'd argue is the case with most arguments you'll see on Facebook or Reddit.
Agreed, this is very important.
One way to handle it when the two of you have different meanings for a word is to keep using the word, but add a different qualifier in front for each meaning, i.e. logical proof versus empirical proof.
On the listening side, something that often helps is what is often called active listening. This is where you say back to the person what you think they are saying, and they agree you got it right or correct it until you do. It is amazing how this can often lower the emotional level and make the disagreement more productive.
In the case where legitimate debate can occur, the rules I usually try and follow/enforce are:
1. Establish the goal all parties wish to achieve (i.e., define success).
2. Establish the point at where our agreement on methods diverged.
3. All ideas should be orphans in that they have no privileges purely due to parentage.
4. Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence or ignorance.
5. Be ruthlessly honest about your own position, to include disclosing the weaknesses you know or suspect as well as disclosing the strengths of the opposing position (especially if the parties holding that position do not know it or present it themselves).
Personally I become uncomfortable when there is unanimous agreement on positions I know to be legitimately debatable, even if I hold that position. In those instances I will promptly switch sides and argue against my own position to insure it has been properly vetted.
In my experience the point that most reliably invites emotional response is failure of #3 since it's hard to move from "my idea" to "the idea." The most insidious failure is at #1 due to either misunderstanding or dishonesty since it corrupts the entire effort but can be very difficult to discover.
If you define Truth as being "the thing that actually happened", rather than the more definite "Mathematical truth" I believe that the best you can get at is an understanding of somebodies opinion of what happened, along with the bias that leads to that opinion.
Reading your comment again, I see that you do emphasis "different points of view", so I'm guessing that are actually approaching the same understanding from different directions. I believe outside of mathematics, truth is in most cases just an option depending upon point of view.
My oldest son sees the world extremely differently from me. When we hash things out, there is a lot of added value in hearing the other person's take on a problem space. If we both agree on the same solution having come at it from opposite directions, we can be confident it is a solid solution and not merely an expression of personal bias.
I believe green is the best color, the opposing side believes red is the best color. There is no argument to be had here since we don't agree on a definition of "best" other than "my color."
The last time i had a conversation with an american trained in "debate", it was quickly obvious that reality and truth were the last thing on his mind, but scoring rethoric points was the first.
The rest of your points are good, but i think if you start it out with the word debate, many americans are going to mentally short-circuit to that style of conflict, instead of "respectful conversation".
It's reflected in our adversarial legal system as well. I personally don't like it that way, but there are people who think it's the best way.
For example a motion of no confidence is a serious matter in any parliamentary system.
Still, such people seem even less likely to be productive if they approach the situation as open conflict — hence the advice to reframe conflict as debate, not to insert debate where it is otherwise unnecessary.
I mention it specifically because, in all the nationalities i have talked to, i.e. in my personal experience, the USA is the only one to have a high school debate club culture that's widely spread.
Having said that, there is indeed an overly aggressive subset of the population that is, as I think you're suggesting, attracted to debate for all the wrong reasons. But based on the literally hundreds I've met, I'd say as a population they are on average more civil and more likely to follow norms of "fair argument". They are much more likely to aspire to be erudite policy wonks than to be angry talk show pundits. YMMV obviously.
I'm also curious what exactly you mean with civil discourse? I don't know which style you're referring to, but i've seen people who cared primarily about discourse being "polite", even if the most horrible ideas were being presented as valid.
"Discourse" is a much broader term and does not imply formal structure, opposition, merit evaluation, or that advocacy of particular ideas is associated with particular speakers.
IMO "Debate" is absolutely the right term for what the advice suggests, which is to reframe a conflict situation into a situation where there are norms of fair argument and expectations of equal access to present opposing views, with the hope of evaluating the merits of said views.
The problem with debate as it exists today in the english sphere is that it refers to a sport where teams try to argue for views they don't even hold regardless of what they themselves even think about it. Due to the idea that regardless of the actual merits of an idea debated, either team needs to have an equal chance to "win", the whole "evaluating merits" part has in more recent times been deemphasized.
If I'm understanding you correctly, it sounds to me like you think the current use of the word in the USA is restricted to one narrow activity of debating societies (formal tournaments where neither side is, a priori, invested in a particular idea and in fact doesn't even know which side of the debate they'll have to represent). This is just one of many things debating societies do, and yes it does have a sport element as you and others suggest.
But, based on my experience (and I have quite a lot with debating societies in both the USA and the UK) I don't think this one activity has come to dominate what "debate" means in the USA. I would be surprised if the average citizen thought in this way.
So I wonder what makes you think this activity has come to be the meaning of debate in the USA, as opposed to just one thing debating societies do?
P.S. purely as an aside I think there may be misunderstanding about the value of people advocating "views they may not even hold". This is only characteristic of tournaments, and is a feature not a bug. Since you don't know until quite late which side you will represent, it forces you to be prepared to do an equally good job representing either side. This is, in my opinion, an excellent mental exercise. At the moment the debate happens, you are arguing something one-sided you may not believe — but in the preparation for the debate you are carefully evaluating the best arguments for both sides.
You're certainly right about the long tradition behind 'debate', and yet, it does still carry the connotations I mentioned earlier, to the extent that one would likely have to say "let's a have a fair and honest debate about X" in order to temper some of the unproductive tendencies that tend to arise in a debate.
Anyway, with (Plato's) Socrates, dialectic doesn't seem to have been two people candidly searching for the truth either - usually it was Socrates expertly pretending to do that, while actually showing some expert just how much he didn't know about his chosen subject.
For me, dialectic and derived words mean Hegelian dialectic. That's 99.99% where I've heard the words used.
Certain exposure to them, understanding their basic mechanics, and the skill of telling them from a truth-seeking "dialog", would be valuable for kids.
It's important for the same reason why understanding cognitive biases is important.
But I think you are too harsh on the idea of winning as inherently bad. If you are a saint and your opponent is a nazi, you fundamentally disagree on what the truth is. The way you advance truth is by winning (i.e. persuading an audience, or perhaps even your opponent, that your views are correct).
I agree that in general it's best to avoid zero-sum framing. But some ideas are simply incompatible with other ideas, and in those cases the pursuit of truth is inextricably tied to winning a contest.
How about arguing and listening as if you know exactly as much as you do and nothing more? It's not hard to imagine a case in which both arguing "as if you're right" and listening "as if you're wrong" would be inappropriate or down right foolish.
People should remember the Iraq war and especially the build-up to it. Debates were silenced by the rallying call to "Support our troops!" You couldn't claim that the war was a pointless hunt for oil engineered by the oil companies. Because that implied that the "war moms," those who let their sons enlist and fight the stupid war in Iraq, were doing something wrong. Telling it how it was, that whoever travels half-way cross the world to participate in a war against a people they should have no beef with, is committing state-sanctioned murder, was not allowed. I know that is polarizing, but polarizing is whatever a lot of people disagree with. It doesn't mean that it is factually incorrect.
So the next time the US rallies the dogs of war, remember Iraq and what made that war possible. Because it will happen again. When Trump, or his successor, decides that "something has to be done" about North Korea, Iran or Syria, do break the decorum. Don't allow disagreement to become taboo because then history will repeat itself.
Countries where the debate continues end up having a social split where part of the nation supports the war, and part does not. This kind of civil division is fatal during war time if your enemy isn't similarly hobbled.
Any war, even the most worthy, is susceptible to having its justifications criticized but the consequences of not being unified during the conflict are so catastrophic that people prefer to criticise wars only after they have been won or lost.
Henry Kissinger would certainly have been happier to see a US public united behind the Vietnam war effort because it would have made it easier to win in a geopolitical sense, but what about in a moral sense? The US wasn't threatened existentially by failure in Vietnam, and it's right that we didn't adopt the attitude expressed in your comment.
Losing a "war" in the middle East would not affect the US very much outside reputation.
"traditionally"? This makes starting a war the perfect way to unite a country. Dictatorships and oligarchies seems to love this trick.
> This kind of civil division is fatal during war time if your enemy isn't similarly hobbled.
For dissenting citizens losing a war is often much better than dragging it longer or even winning it.
See Germany in WW2 for example.
"Declaring yourself to be operating by "Crocker's Rules" means that other people are allowed to optimize their messages for information, not for being nice to you. Crocker's Rules means that you have accepted full responsibility for the operation of your own mind - if you're offended, it's your fault. Anyone is allowed to call you a moron and claim to be doing you a favor. (Which, in point of fact, they would be. One of the big problems with this culture is that everyone's afraid to tell you you're wrong, or they think they have to dance around it.) Two people using Crocker's Rules should be able to communicate all relevant information in the minimum amount of time, without paraphrasing or social formatting. Obviously, don't declare yourself to be operating by Crocker's Rules unless you have that kind of mental discipline.
Note that Crocker's Rules does not mean you can insult people; it means that other people don't have to worry about whether they are insulting you. Crocker's Rules are a discipline, not a privilege. Furthermore, taking advantage of Crocker's Rules does not imply reciprocity. How could it? Crocker's Rules are something you do for yourself, to maximize information received - not something you grit your teeth over and do as a favor."
No need for complex social relations, I will process information, more than ever before (because there is so much of it now!), like the great logical-positivist that I am!
Moreover, I certainly do not have any political positions embedded in my norms-steamrolling worldview, because all there is, in fact, is information.
Personally, I've found this to be a very useful tool with people who are conflict-avoidant. I tell them "if you're afraid of offending me, please don't hesitate, I promise I won't get mad".
Sometimes I go as far as to suggest something they might be thinking that might be offensive in order to get the ball rolling and show them there won't be negative consequences.
For example: "Hey I wonder if you're concerned I'll be offended if you propose throwing out my work and replacing it. Don't worry, it's fine. I just want what's best for the project, so if you're holding back because you're concerned I'll be upset, you can relax."
- the example of the project at work is benign, especially since the outcome doesn't matter to you. What happens then the issues are about personal skin-in-the-game, like someone coming after your means of living, gentrification of your neighborhood, attacking the behavior of your significant other, etc..
You say the example I gave is benign — so is it fair to assume you believe that this behavior is useful in at least some cases?
You're right that I have the "luxury" to do so in that situation because the outcome isn't particularly painful.
And you're also right that it would be difficult to opt in to Crocker Rules when discussing something with huge stakes and emotional charge. But that's why it's opt-in ... no one should try to force you to accept it, and you can choose to accept it depending on context.
I would probably not volunteer for Crocker Rules with someone proposing something that would grievously harm my family.
(and just to be clear: I never actually use the term, I always use in-context statements like the one in the example).
edit: And Crocker himself is an Aussie.
Is calling someone a moron the best (most information-optimized) way to tell someone they're wrong?
I'm in favor of truth being more valued in this culture, but I don't think being too polite is the root of the problem.
Think of it not as "please be rude to me, that's optimal".
Think of it as "I'd rather have the truth delivered rudely than a polite falsehood or slience."
You may say that's a false dichotomy — surely everyone should just tell the most informative truth and be polite. But this is often just too taxing, or not even possible depending on language and social skills. This is especially true on contentious topics.
It is also about being able top unguard your own language should you know that the other person is operating by the rules, not to be insulting, but so to not worry about it for that conversation and so not having to run that whole level of extra processing.
I tend to swear a lot, as do most of the people I both work and socialise with. If I were to work with people of a more delicate sensibility, conversations would take a lot longer.
A listener declaring Crocker's rules says they will not be offended, but
at best, profanity communicates your emotional reaction to a situation. In seeking optimal communication of information, profanity is largely wasted bandwidth.
I have certainly been in stressful situations with people where I was confident they were struggling to say what they really meant because they were angry and trying to remain civil.
Giving someone permission to vent at you, in the interest of also giving you a truth they've struggled to present politely, is one of the functions of this practice.
I think you may be taking "optimally" to mean something like "ideally"; in this context I take it to be "the best available". It would be ideal for the angry person with the important truth to find a polite way to present that truth — but with emotion involved the best available option may be to accept some profanity along with the truth, in preference to the truth being hidden behind an attempt to stay civil.
Profanity is either seeking to evoke an emotional response, or basically just "very" as DoreenMichelle says.
As such, profanity is semantically a really poor intensifier.
While a listener declares Crocker's rules in order to optimize communication by saying "I won't take offense," a speaker can optimize communication by clearly stating what is wrong, rather than just "This is !#$%&, you !$_&!"
I work really hard at editing out profanity when I write online. The reality is that I swear like a sailor and the running joke in the family is to quote that movie line "you go into a bar and sailors come running out." I basically use the eff word like other people use very.
So when I write something full of profanity, it doesn't suggest I have really strong feelings about it or am trying to attack or insult people. It usually means I was writing while tired, distracted or a bit under the weather and failing to put in the extra effort to mind my Ps and Qs.
I am aware that it causes problems at times for me to use so much profanity when I post things online. It isn't uncommon for me to go back and try to edit out the worst of it after I post it.
But the converse of that is this: it takes extra effort for me to come up with alternate phrasing and this takes bandwidth away from me focusing on more substantive elements. If someone actually thinks I have good ideas and they want to know what I think about something, they will get more useful info from me more frequently if they don't give me shit constantly about how my foul mouth is an excuse to just not listen to the substance of my points.
There are plenty of people who punctuate their speech with colorful language. Colorful language can be a rich way to express some concepts and trying to clean it up can actually lose something.
So given that I am hardly the only person on the planet who just habitually peppers their speech with profanity, I think one use of this standard is to agree to ignore that element as a minor style detail in order to focus on the substance of their ideas.
People from bad neighborhoods often have foul mouths. Expecting them to politely and articulately elucidate their points without profanity can be a form of classist and racist gatekeeping that excludes them from serious discourse.
I don't have an easy answer for you. I do try to clean up my language when speaking "in public" whether online or off. I just wanted to note that the issue is more complicated than that.
Consider; "Get some water now, please.", when compared to; "Get some fucking water now!". One of these will usually elicit a much quicker reaction.
A root of the growing divide between Left and Right is that neither party realizes how easily falsified their claims are.
Scientists realize that they are wrong almost always, and that when they are right, their hypothesis is usually very narrowly defined.
If people were trained to realize that they were almost always wrong by the time they reached 6th grade, you’d see a lot more openness to debate, and far fewer entrenched positions - and much more liberty allowed by/to everyone, I think.
Presently, kids exit grade school pretty much believing that they are pretty much “right” in everything they believe. This is tragically false, and a foundation for a lifetime of deep disappointment.
>> It turns out that highly creative adults often grow up in families full of tension. Not fistfights or personal insults, but real disagreements. When adults in their early 30s were asked to write imaginative stories, the most creative ones came from those whose parents had the most conflict a quarter-century earlier. Their parents had clashing views on how to raise children. They had different values and attitudes and interests. And when highly creative architects and scientists were compared with their technically skilled but less original peers, the innovators often had more friction in their families. As the psychologist Robert Albert put it, “the creative person-to-be comes from a family that is anything but harmonious, one with a ‘wobble.’ ”
Referenced study: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092656698...
There's another study linked, but the rest is anecdata built on famous people that, personally, wasn't too illuminating on a skim. It might be interesting to read for the narrative.
It's often hard to disagree on content without anger or other personal emotions, but his doing it inspires me to improve my skill at it.
It's really frustrating having to spend a couple of minutes to read seemingly interesting articles only to find out a few minutes later it's probably someone writing for his own gain (well... popular media).
The first scientific journal article that is linked to appears to use the word "parental" to refer to the relationship between a child and her/his parents instead of, and as suggested in the article, between parents (see "parental warmth" and "parental restrictiveness" in the abstract of the journal article). The second scientific journal article that is linked to is used to argue that "architects and scientists were compared with their technically skilled but less original peers"—but the article that is linked to only mentions architects (apologies, but not actually too sorry, if it's actually because of the pay wall and that the authors did not mention scientist in the abstract).
This is probably considered an emotional, and potentially uncivil, response. But it's really, really frustrating. Just because some guy has a PhD doesn't mean what they write is credible when they quote scientific journals—I know plenty of people who have PhDs but what they say are far from credible.
I mean, is it even at all surprising that people who are subjected to an environment with more conflicting views (both good and bad) of any kind are probably less likely to comply and think more?
EDIT: expansion of why I think the interpretation of the first article I mentioned is wrong and cherry-picked. Added emotional sentiment at the end.
An opinion piece is kind of like a Medium post- the view of an author with a clear point of view. Often explicitly by someone in the field or with an "axe to grind". This is a feature not a bug. They are giving experts a forum for debate.
An "article" should be more neutral, more widely sourced, and reports the opinions of others vs the author. (It goes without saying that this is clearly messy and you can't remove all bias.)
I see this frustration about "opinionated articles" incredibley often in critiques of opinion pieces in major newspapers and I can only assume that is because "how to read a newspaper" is a skill which is not taught and also because the web with its direct links makes identifying the differences harder.
The clue here that this is an opinion piece is the "Review" section of the NYT, and the identifying bio at the end about the author.
1) I have no agenda to promote the NYT (feel free to check my submission history)
2) I personally have never seen anything like a "spamming" effort with respect to NYT articles here. If you have, perhaps consider it was a transient cluster of articles (which can happen from time to time for entirely benign reasons)
I'm sorry the article frustrated you, and I think it's fine to point out possible problems with cited studies.
I honestly did not mean to offend you in particular and, given what you said, I really am regretting having made an emotional response without considering and qualifying all parts of my arguments now—I did not consider the possibility that one may or may not have considered (and/or may or may not have the technical insights into) all the references in the article when I commented. I would have shared something that I think is interesting without understanding all parts of it.
Please accept my sincere apology for lumping everyone together (in fact, maybe there really isn't anyone who want to promote articles and people just happen to read NYT more often than any other sources), and I really didn't meant to offend you by venting my frustration. :(
EDIT: typo. Clarification.
Most of these stories are disguising ephemeral, unproven theories under the guise of longer term truths.
I've submitted a Ask HN: ban nytimes lately - and got banned. Ive also sent an email to moderator asking for a feature that allows the ban of domains per user.
Note that I've actually enjoyed this post, but anyway, if someone wants to read nytimes, he knows where to find it.
EDIT: what's my opinion precisely you may ask? I think those are not hacker news per the guidelines. They are often general - good - but not really surprising. Therefore they are kinda platitude.
EDIT2: currently, there is 2 newyorker.com, 2 nytimes.com, 2 economist.com on the front page. And it's like that every day lately.
1. Flag articles you don't want here.
2. Don't participate in discussion of those articles, not even to talk about how you don't want them here.
3. Submit, upvote and comment on things you do want here.
I used to self post my own writing fairly regularly. I mostly have stopped. I don't feel it really goes well even though I posted stuff for a time in part because some people said they wanted to hear from me. I am still trying to figure out what exactly to write about these days, having recently abandoned a bunch of projects.
And I am saying that to try to make the point that what people say they want or don't want in comments seems to have a poor signal to noise ratio. I haven't personally found it to be a reliable indicator of what works on HN.
A much stronger indicator of interest or lack thereof boils down to "voting with your feet" as a means to indicate what isn't wanted here and "voting with your wallet (attention)" as to what is wanted here.
Give attention to things you want here. Starve other things of attention. Even if it doesn't have a notable impact on what appears on the front page, it will positively impact your experience of the site
Flag articles you don't want here.
For example, Craigslist used to have different flags for different reasons, e.g. Prohibited by policey, Spam, Illegal Content, Wrong Category, Sex for Money, etc. Now it's a unary, generic flag only.
I am old and cranky and at a point where I would rather see more of that than more off topic pissing and moaning about what one or two individuals would like to see or not see here. It's lots of sound and noise, but no real action. I am suggesting they take action because my experience suggests that's both more effective and more satisfying.
But, then, in some sense, I am being a hypocrite. I probably should have just flagged and downvoted their off topic, annoying comments rather than trying to make suggestions.
You did the right thing.
If someone wants to discuss the merits of a particular NYT article they think may be of interest to this community with this community then this is the place to do it.
Imagine the front page of HN is filled with articles like that, would you still read HN? I dont think so. Therefore, those articles are at the bottom of the standard and instead of more of them, we want less.
Although [disclosure] I didn't actually read the article. How many people do that regularly on here? Often I figure the discussion here is more interesting, more worth my time, more intellectual-curiosity-gratifying, ranging over more associated topics and questions, than the original article. Plus the top-voted comment, as here, often offers a TL;DR.
Most of the time, its contentious rehashing of tired old rhetoric, and it crowds out more interesting material.
I hate these NYT articles and those from other similar publications, but the silver lining is that I spend much less time checking Hackernews and more on things I enjoy.
Reminds me of fun quote from a polemical essay written by a professor from Boston College:
"I have verified over and over again the principle that there is only one thing needed for you to believe any of the 100 most absurd ideas possible for any human being to conceive: You must have a Ph.D."
Reuters is my main source of financial and world news, and it's mostly for productive reasons. On Twitter I try to follow people who are knowledgeable in their domain, and I frequently get exposure to current events through them. Bonus points to follow two experts in the same domain who think differently, and see what they say about the same thing. For random political stuff, I like Snopes and factcheck.org.
Overall, I care much less about the news than I used to. There are many societal issues that interest me but I have learned that keeping up with minute to minute noise is a waste of time. I can read in-depth things that describe broad trends and useful facts, and prefer that to my old addiction to the news. It's not just to avoid getting influenced by biased stuff, but to avoid wasting time.
I wish HN had less political content, although I think the community does a good job flagging political content off of the front page.
How come when I click and drag on text on this article, instead of highlighting it, it goes to the next article?(!) What kind of UX is that?
My 5 year old daughter in particular inherits the stubbornness of both her parents. She often she says something she regrets immediately (e.g "I hate you!"), cries on realizing it, but refuses to take it back.
We teach them that disagreements are perfectly normal. Differences in opinion should be embraced. And while you disagree with someone, you don't take it personally and dislike the person.
Shows like My Little Pony are excellent at this. While these shows have a villain and plot, the drama and conflict in most of the episodes revolve around growing up and dealing with stark personality differences. Friends will argue a lot, but the shows highlight that this doesn't end a friendship. And even someone who was 'evil' can turn over a new leaf.
She had a rough first week of school. Was picked on by a classmate, admitted she spent much of the day crying. But she goes home, opens up My Little Pony for inspiration. Then she's excited to go to school again. A couple of weeks later, she has solved the conflict with her classmate.
My dad did that to me and he still does it occasionally even when I'm "in the right"; I think he probably means well (he claims that he does when I confront him about it), but it's still an awful feeling that doesn't make me thankful of what he does or like him more. If you really do make your kids feel like that you are bullying them, maybe you should consider cutting it back a little.
We try to be very careful with damage control. We honestly talk it out. My daughter is good with labeling her feelings. She would say things like "Mom loves to pick on me for no reason, but I know she's just kidding," or "I was really angry with you this morning, because you glued the wallpaper without me, but I'm not angry anymore."
And when they do get angry, we talk it out, what they're pissed about, say sorry, and how to fix it.
I think it's sort of like exercise. We take care to not go past the 'injury' point, but sometimes it happens and we try to avoid it next time.
I teach them that if some kids do that to them, it is their right to defend themselves or retaliate (otherwise they would end up submissive victims of bullying, have seen that when I was child multiple times). I also teach then that if someone do it to others, it is their right to defend that other person too from bullying.
That said, I think that the child's tolerance usually develops organically via interaction with other children, and the biggest way to help with this is to give the child a lot of siblings.
We should be careful not to "overengineer" our children's childhood, especially not in ways that are ripe for misinterpretation in hindsight.