miss_s_b: (feminist heroes: river song)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
In discussion on twitter today, someone Not Like Me* praised me for trying to understand their position. I am having a rather mixed set of reactions to it. Obviously gratitude (it's nice to be praised) and faint smugness (yes, I AM awesome) but also a large dollop of confusedness (it was described as a rare thing to do) and quite a lot of sadness (why is it rare? Surely everyone reasonable tries to understand other people?).

I suspect this plugs into my fondness for debate, and my dad having drummed scientific method into me. How can you debate something with someone if you don't understand their position? How can you test someone's reasoning if you don't know how that reasoning has been reached? So I try very hard to understand the positions of people Not Like Me because I don't know without trying to understand them whether or not they might have a point in whatever they are arguing for/against.

What I don't get is why this isn't second nature to everyone else?

I mean, sure you might be totally convinced of your rightness in a particular argument (I often am ;)), but if that's the case, surely you'd be better forensically dismantling your opponent than just dismissing them? And to do that you need to at least try and understand where they're coming from. You can pick holes in a cloth if you don't know where it is, after all.

Or you might want to totally support the position of the people unlike you. But without trying to understand them you might unwittingly undermine them or cause them pain (and this is something I suspect I am rather prone to, which is a big part of my wish to understand).

Now I'm not saying that this is easy. It often isn't, particularly because I do occasionally get things wrong and have to publicly apologise/backtrack. But surely it's easier than being dogmatic and unmovable and ignorant? Surely it's easier than pissing people off, either purposefully or inadvertently?

I guess this is just another thing I don't understand that I would like to. Like a circle in a circle...



* for the purposes of this blog post it doesn't really matter in what way I differ from the person I was talking to, so I am keeping it deliberately vague. A person being Not Like Me is in no way meant as a perjorative - in fact, in many cases it's a positive advantage - but just as a description.

Date: Saturday, November 10th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It could just have been a nicety phrase, some people like to go overboard on the niceness when talking online as it's hard to understand other people's tone from just their words.

More generally I guess it's sometimes hard to understand someone's point of view when you're certain they are wrong. If someone keeps insisting that 2+2 is 3, it might just make more sense to go whatever and not bother to find out what they are thinking. Plus a lot of people think they're right all the time, or don't realise that they come across that way.

Dunno really, guess everyone is different. Also I agree you're awesome.

Weaselx

Date: Saturday, November 10th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
Some people have learned, and watched, debate as a competitive sport, rather than as a way of exploring a topic. That's everything from high school debate teams (at least in the U.S.) to how most broadcast political debates work these days. You can't really have a meaningful discussion with people who aren't listening, whether the topic is politics or soup recipes.

Date: Saturday, November 10th, 2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
perlmonger: (anarchism)
From: [personal profile] perlmonger
« searches in vain for a "like" button »

I find this profoundly depressing; I can't watch what passes for political debate now. Posturing, point scoring, and no, no listening. Never that.

Date: Saturday, November 10th, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
ginasketch: (Blasphemy)
From: [personal profile] ginasketch
Well, it depends on the person.

I would rather dismiss and mock most bigoted people if I sense they are beyond listening to my position anyway. If someone genuinely doesn't understand, then I can have a discussion with them. If they want to insist on being a tool that is not my problem.

Date: Monday, November 12th, 2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] haggis
One issue is getting caught up arguing against strawmen versions of your opponents positions, rather than the real positions. Strawmen are quite easy to recognise when they are used against you but are not as obvious when you fundamentally disagree or think your opponents position is stupid.

A related issue is making well-trod arguments on a subject as if they are new. Abortion discussions, especially in the US seem very prone to this - there will always be one person (usually male) who thinks that pregnant women just haven't realised that a fetus is a baby and that this insight will change their mind.

I don't feel like I am good at debate and I am aware my sources are biased to people who share my opinions. I'm not sure what to do about it though.

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Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.






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