comment by mingyuan ·
2019-12-12T02:44:58.222Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I have several problems with including this in the 2018 review. The first is that it's community-navel-gaze-y - if it's not the kind of thing we allow on the frontpage because of concerns about newcomers seeing a bunch of in-group discussion, then it seems like we definitely wouldn't want it to be in a semi-public-facing book, either.
The second is that I've found that most discussion of the concept of 'status' in rationalist circles to be pretty uniformly unproductive, and maybe even counterproductive. People generally only discuss 'status' when they're feeling a lack of it, which means that discussions around the subject are often fraught and can be a bit of an echo chamber. I have not personally found any post about status to be enlightening or to have changed the way I think.
My other concerns have to do with specific parts of the post:
How is worth generated? Quite simply, by giving praise.
This is unsubstantiated and confusing in a whole host of ways. First, what is 'worth' supposed to mean? Toon seems to say it means something along the lines of "we will grant you personhood and take you seriously and allow you onto the ark when the world comes crumbling." If I had to sum this idea up into one word I would call it 'acceptance'.
Second, "worth is generated by praise" doesn't square with my experience at all. I tend to think I'm fairly well-calibrated when it comes to my own abilities, so when someone gives me praise that I don't think I deserve, that doesn't generate any value for me (I just think the person is wrong/miscalibrated). Praise is also not what I need when I'm burned out or upset - I need people to help me solve my problems, not give me vacuous words of encouragement.
Also, to be more general about it, giving children too much praise can harm them just as much as giving them too little.
I'm having trouble putting my finger on exactly what else about this claim feels wrong to me, but the two points I covered are definitely not all of it. It just really rubs me the wrong way.
I'd like to suggest we try for Giving Praise as a rationalist virtue.
I see lots of rationalists shying away from calls to action nowadays, and I think this one is particularly dicey. Related to my point about being calibrated about your own abilities, if we unthinkingly adopted this 'rationalist virtue', it seems like it would encourage people to say nice things to others even when it wasn't warranted.
In this post, Toon specifically mentions not being appreciated for his work on RAISE, which he recently revealed [LW · GW] shut down partially due to potential funders having concerns about the organization. While I know from (less intense) experience that it can be really emotionally draining to work for no pay on something that gets no recognition, I don't think the problem there is that we're refusing to give recognition. The problem is usually with the project. When I've worked on projects that fizzled and died, and while the negative feedback at the time hurt my feelings, I'm glad that people didn't lie to me and tell me that the projects were a good idea. The failure and lack of recognition were usually eye-opening signals that my idea was bad or that I was going about the thing incorrectly. I don't have context on RAISE beyond what's in Toon's post, but (not to be a huge jerk) my sense is that it was likely a flawed project, and while the impact the whole thing had on Toon's well-being was definitely unfortunate, I see no evidence that just giving him more praise for the effort he was putting into it would have been helpful.
If I were to reformulate the entire idea of this post into something more palatable to me, I would say something like, "If you appreciate someone's actions, you can often provide them with a lot of value by giving them specific and genuine feedback about what it is you appreciate about them," and, "In general, showing people love and acceptance is a good way to help them avoid burnout, and once you have that established backdrop of trust and mutual respect, you can be honest with them about the ways in which they're going about things wrong."
These takeaways are very different from the original "give praise", and I continue to be uncomfortable with this post.Replies from: toonalfrink, toonalfrink, leggi, Raemon
↑ comment by toonalfrink ·
2019-12-12T19:58:00.531Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I appreciate your review.
Most of your review assumes that my intent was to promote praise regardless of honesty, but quite the opposite is true. My intent was for people to pause, take a breath, think for a few moments what good things others are doing, and then thank them for it, but only if they felt compelled to do so.
Or I'll put it this way: it's not about pretending to like things, it's about putting more attention to the things about others that you already like. It's about gratefulness, good faith and recognition. It's about validating those that are already on the right track, to embolden them and secure them.
And this works to the extent that it is genuine. If you don't feel what you say, people will notice and discard your opinion. Congruency is an obvious first step that I didn't include in the post because I assumed it to be obvious.
But of course not getting that point across is all on me. I suppose I could have written a better post.
↑ comment by toonalfrink ·
2019-12-12T20:03:57.273Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
People generally only discuss 'status' when they're feeling a lack of it
While this has been true for other posts that I wrote about the subject, this post was actually written from a very peaceful, happy, almost sage-like state of mind, so if you read it that way you'll get closer to what I was trying to say :)
↑ comment by leggi ·
2019-12-12T09:19:02.055Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
As a relative newcomer this critique is refreshing.
I have observed a fair amount of ego and ego-stroking within a system that allows punishment of dissenters. (the core group has a lot of power to chase off things they don't like to hear and are therefore missing out on expanded thinking.)
Encouragement should not be confused with praise. And correction is not punishment.
negative feedback at the time hurt my feelings, I'm glad that people didn't lie to me and tell me that the projects were a good idea.
A good take-away message from the above review.
↑ comment by Raemon ·
2019-12-12T02:57:16.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Child development literature says that praise should be rare, specific, and genuine
This sounds plausible, but in a domain as fuzzy as this having some kind of citation would be good.Replies from: mingyuan