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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Why and How to Debate Charitably

   
Author Topic: Why and How to Debate Charitably
Raymond Arnold
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We could probably all use to give this a read:

http://pdf23ds.net/implications-and-debate/1/

Exceprt:

quote:

As soon as you find someone espousing seemingly contradictory positions, you should immediately suspect yourself of being mistaken as to their intent. Even if it seems obvious to you that the person has a certain intent in their message, if you want to engage them, you must respond being open to the possibility that where you see contradictions (or, for that matter, insults), none were intended. While you keep in mind what the personís contradictory position seems to be, raise your standards some, and ask questions so that the person must state the position more explicitlyóthis way, you can make sure whether they actually hold it. If you still have problems, keep raising your standards, and asking more specific questions, until the person starts making sense to you.

If part of their position is unclear or ambiguous to you, say that explicitly. Being willing to show uncertainty is an excellent way to defuse the personís, and your own, defensiveness. It also helps them to more easily understand which aspects of their position they are not making clear enough.

The less their position makes sense to you, the more you should rely on interrogative phrase and the less on declarative. Questions defuse defensiveness and are much more pointed and communicative than statements, because they force you to think more about the personís arguments, and to really articulate what it about their position you most need clarification on. They help to keep the discussion moving, and help you to stop arguing past each other. Phrase the questions sincerely, and use as much of the personís own reasoning (putting in the best light) as you can. This requires that you have a pretty good grasp on what the person is arguingótry to understand their position as well as you can. If itís simply not coherent enough, the case may be hopeless.


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Stephan
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Sounds like good relationship advice to.
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Raymond Arnold
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That also.
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Swampjedi
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One thing that I try to do when communicating is to assume the following: If someone isn't understanding me, the fault is mine. The other person isn't stupid or malicious; instead, my communication was unclear.

This seems to be a mirror image of the above (good) advice.

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Dobbie
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What do you mean?
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jebus202
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quote:
Originally posted by Swampjedi:
One thing that I try to do when communicating is to assume the following: If someone isn't understanding me, the fault is mine. The other person isn't stupid or malicious; instead, my communication was unclear.

This seems to be a mirror image of the above (good) advice.

Another arrogant, condescending post from the master of "civil" debates.
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Swampjedi
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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbie:
What do you mean?

I almost, almost fell for it. [Wave]
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AchillesHeel
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You should save the URL and just toss the link out whenever our arguments degenerate into comparing others to animals.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Swampjedi:
One thing that I try to do when communicating is to assume the following: If someone isn't understanding me, the fault is mine. The other person isn't stupid or malicious; instead, my communication was unclear.

This seems to be a mirror image of the above (good) advice.

Of course, sometimes the person is stupid and or malicious. These people prey on our understanding, and leach our good will out of us like so much juice from a capri sun packet. Yes. I used Capri Sun as a metaphor.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Good advice, I, for one, will try and follow it.
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kmbboots
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Be careful. Sometimes asking questions to clarify a person's position can be seen as trying to back them into a corner. It can also lead to frustration when the conversation goes like this:

"Do you mean X?"
"No."
Repeat.

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TomDavidson
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*laugh* And here I suspect Kate and I are thinking of the same person. [Smile]
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Swampjedi
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Orincoro, troll* detection is surely just as useful as the link's advice.

*Troll = trolling for a response (malicious) OR brains made of rock (stupid). Stupid and Malicious is a special breed. Nuke those from orbit, just to be sure.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
*laugh* And here I suspect Kate and I are thinking of the same person. [Smile]

Well...there isn't just the one. But probably.
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Tresopax
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It's probably worth quoting the full set of rules given, since they're pretty much right on target:

The golden rule:
quote:
Treat the personís position as if it were your own. First, make sure you understand the argument. Then go about trying to see how you would disprove it to yourself. Then, walk step by step with the person through your rebuttal, and see where the arguments you use against their position fail to have the same effect on them (and why). Charity is about empathy.
Rule 1: "You cannot read minds."
Rule 2: "People are not evil." (This is the answer to the Troll issue)
Rule 3: "Debates are not for winning."
Rule 4: "You make mistakes."
Rule 5: "Not everyone cares as much as you."
Rule 6: "Engaging is hard work."
Rule 7: "Differences can be subtle."
Rule 8: "Give up quietly."

This point is also worth noting from the first page:
quote:
The biggest thing by far that happens, in my experience, is that people see implied assertions (implied positions) in othersí posts that the posters didnít intend, and attack the others based on those perceptions.

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Stone_Wolf_
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Thanks Tresopax, I was thinking about quoting the rules and hadn't gotten around to it.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
*laugh* And here I suspect Kate and I are thinking of the same person. [Smile]

Well...there isn't just the one. But probably.
I had three come to mind right off, but I suspect I know who you are talking about.
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kmbboots
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I imagine those conversations are frustrating for both sides.
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The Rabbit
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The challenge here is that most peoples' critical thinking ability is pathetic. That isn't simply my opinion, its backed up by lots of education research.

Most people don't recognize the assumptions that underlie their worldview. Most people have not critically evaluated most of their beliefs and opinions. Most people have a blind spot for data that does not fit their preconceptions of the way they universe works. Most people have a selection bias in what they notice and remember so that their personal experiences nearly always reinforce their existing world view. Most people have a difficult time comprehending indirect relationships between things.

Once again, those aren't my opinions. They are the conclusions of a very large body of research on cognition.

To be charitable, when someone says things that are in apparent contraction, I should presume that the person has sound reasons for their views even though they can't articulate those reasons. Unfortunately, that requires either ignoring everything I know about human cognition or presuming that they are highly unusual people.

I can usually start off a conversation that way but the more a person evades questions, refuses to explain themselves and ignores my objections, the harder it is for me to ignore what I know and conclude that their views just don't make sense.

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advice for robots
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Give people the chance to back down gracefully, and much fighting is averted. Make them think that they will lose face and credibility if they admit they are wrong, and they might just keep on doggedly pressing the point. IMO, that is civil discussion 101.
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BlackBlade
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Rabbit:
quote:
The challenge here is that most peoples' critical thinking ability is pathetic.
I can certainly accept that as true, but I think it's equally true, if not more so that, "The challenge here is that most peoples' conversational ability is pathetic."

It's well documented that forums impose a bit of a handicap as tone of voice, body language, and nuance are all missing. All we have are crude emoticons, which are not necessarily even used. But even in live conversation, I find people these days are ludicrously ignorant when it comes to tact, charisma, and propriety.

Most conversations go as follows,
"I was reading X, and I felt Y about how Z people can do such things!"
"I don't necessarily agree with your conclusion, there is W to consider."
"It's stupid that we have to even consider W."
"You just called me stupid, you're a moron."
"I see you don't have any real argument, figures."
"(Explosion of emotion)."

It astounds me how little people know about rudimentary phrases that defuse tension and keep things focused.

"So if I understand you correctly, you feel..."
"Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you are suggesting..."

Usually when people feel attacked, and lash out, people respond with something along the lines of, "It's funny/pathetic/immature/stupid you reacted that way, do you always do that?" It's so much better to say, "No need to get upset, I'm not trying to attack, I must be misunderstanding your position."

Conversation is not something we are taught at school, home, etc, it should be. It takes 10 minutes to learn those principles, but it saves hours of useless posturing, arguing, and screaming.

edited for grammar.

[ April 15, 2011, 06:19 PM: Message edited by: BlackBlade ]

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Stone_Wolf_
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Well said!
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The Rabbit
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quote:
"So if I understand you correctly, you feel..."
"Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you are suggesting..."

While I agree with your general assessment and try to use such phrases, I have found that in real life (including internet discussions) they are far less effective than is suggested by communication experts and relationship councilors. I've seen too many discussion that go like.

quote:
A: There is nothing wrong with testing new products on animals. Animal rights activists are just wackos.

B: Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be saying that there are no legitimate ethical concerns with animal testing.

A: No, I didn't say any thing about the legitimacy of their ethical concerns. There just is not anything wrong with it.

B: What do you mean by "not anything wrong with it" if you don't mean there aren't any legitimate ethical concerns?

A: I never said anything about ethics. Quit putting words in my mouth.


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BlackBlade
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Rabbit: Well yes, the stuff I wrote out is the bare bones kindergarten stuff, they aren't automatic conversation will go well phrases. But in your conversation, I would say.

"A: There is nothing wrong with testing new products on animals. Animal rights activists are just wackos.

B: So if I understand you correctly, we should be able to test any product of any kind on animals, and there's nothing wrong with it?"

I try to use the words they themselves used if I feel they are going to accuse me of putting words in their mouths. If they were to say,

"Yes, there's nothing wrong with it."

You can then follow up with a real world example of something that does not necessarily involve them directly or indirectly. Say they are a 25 year old male,

"There are bunnies who have cosmetics put on their eyes, hurting them and causing them to go blind, all so people can have new brands of make up. Should a bunny really endure that sort of treatment just so we look good?"

At this point, I'm just making stuff up, and it's too easy to make up a conversation where the person says what you want them to say.

Ultimately, it takes practice, but those general principles I stated above are so commonly neglected it's ridiculous. It's why I kinda miss the days where children were actually taught ettiquette in school, or at church, or by their parents in preparation for attending social functions. It's an all but lost art.

I don't pretend to be an expert, but I have seen a staggering change in the conversations I had when I started to learn those lessons as a missionary.

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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
"So if I understand you correctly, you feel..."
"Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you are suggesting..."

While I agree with your general assessment and try to use such phrases, I have found that in real life (including internet discussions) they are far less effective than is suggested by communication experts and relationship councilors. I've seen too many discussion that go like.

quote:
A: There is nothing wrong with testing new products on animals. Animal rights activists are just wackos.

B: Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be saying that there are no legitimate ethical concerns with animal testing.

A: No, I didn't say any thing about the legitimacy of their ethical concerns. There just is not anything wrong with it.

B: What do you mean by "not anything wrong with it" if you don't mean there aren't any legitimate ethical concerns?

A: I never said anything about ethics. Quit putting words in my mouth.


But don't you see that conversation IS a win for the rational person. The other person looks every bit as stupid as you would like to call them, but you never call them it....they just make it obvious to everyone themselves.
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AvidReader
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In my experience, the rational person isn't as cool as the less effective guy, and cool will win. Or the less rational person is in charge, so everyone wants to suck up to him in case a promotion comes up.

Life appears to very rarely have much to do with rational thought or polite conversation, much as I wish it did.

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Rawrain
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I feel as if this topic is calling me....
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The Genuine
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Kate, do you mean to suggest that asking questions to clarify a person's position can be seen as trying to back them into a corner?
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scifibum
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I see what you did there.

I mean, are you indeed trying there to demonstrate a humorous example of the sort of tactic Kate thought might be perceived as a motive for clarifying questions?

Or are you actually just clarifying?

Do I or do I not see what you did there? Please choose from these options:

1) You are so right it hurts.
2) I am deeply sorry.
d) I would definitely eat panda.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by The Genuine:
Kate, do you mean to suggest that asking questions to clarify a person's position can be seen as trying to back them into a corner?

Yes. See what I did there?
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Samprimary
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coming soon: sam's "when to debate charitably"
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Raymond Arnold
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I'd be very interested in reading that.
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Jake
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
1) You are so right it hurts.
2) I am deeply sorry.
d) I would definitely eat panda.

You forgot "f) All of the above".
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advice for robots
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
coming soon: sam's "when to debate charitably"

Thinnest book in the world. [Big Grin]
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Samprimary
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BAM
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