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How to Criticize with Kindness

‘In Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking Daniel Dennett offers a list of rules formulated decades ago by the legendary social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport:

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

  • You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
  • You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  • You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  • Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism….’

— Via Pocket

Let’s be real, though. There is a certain class of disagreement that has become especially prevalent in the last four-plus years in which:

  • there is no way to re-express your target’s position clearly, vividly, and fairly without sounding delusional
  • there are no appreciable points of agreement
  • nothing is learned from your target.