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4 Rules for criticizing with kindness

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Follow these rules to avoid unnecessary, useless, and harsh discussions

In his book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, the American philosopher Daniel Dennett (who has been called “the Bertrand Russell of our day”) offers what he calls “the best antidote to our tendency to caricature our opponent,” a brief listicle of four rules, originally written by Russian-American social psychologist and game theoretician Anatol Rapoport, which Dennett brilliantly synthesized, as we read in the post published by Maria Popova in her well-known blog, Brain Pickings:

How to Write a Successful Critical Comment:

  • You should try to explain the position you reject as clearly, vividly, and justly as possible for your own opponent to say, “Thank you, I wish I could have formulated my ideas that way clearly”.
  • You should make a list of points on which you agree, especially if you are discussing issues for which there are no tacit or general agreements.
  • You should mention anything you have learned from your opponent.
  • Only then will you be allowed to make some criticism or refutation.

Certainly, these four simple rules could avoid more than one futile discussion, especially online.

If you want to read the full post, as published in Brain Pickings, you can click here.

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