comment by Matt Goldenberg (mr-hire) ·
2019-07-10T19:44:45.268Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
FEELINGS AND TRUTH SEEKING NORMS
Stephen Covey says that maturity is being able to find the balance between Courage and Consideration. Courage being the desire to express yourself and say your truth, consideration being recognizing the consequences of what you say on others.
I often wish that this was common knowledge in the rationality community (or just society in general) because I see so many fights between people who are on opposite sides of the spectrum and don't recognize the need for balance.
Courage is putting your needs first, consideration is putting someone else's needs first, the balance is putting your needs equally. There are some other dichotomies that I think are pointing to a similar distinction.
From parenting literature:
From a course on confidence:
From attachment theory:
From my three types of safe spaces: [LW(p) · GW(p)]
We'll make you grow---->Own Your Safety---> We'll protect you.
Certain people may be wondering how caring about your feelings and others feelings relate to truth seeking. The answer is that our feelings are based on system 1 beliefs. I suspect this isn't strictly 100% true but its' a useful model, one behind Focusing, Connection Theory, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Internal Double Crux, and a good portion of other successful therapeutic interventions.
How this caches out is that being able to fully express yourself is a necessary prerequisite to being able to bring all your beliefs to bear on a situation. Now sometimes, when someone is getting upset, its' not a belief like (this thing is bad) but "I believe that believing what you're saying is unsafe for my identity" or some similar belief.
However, if they think its' unsafe to express THAT belief, you end up in a situation where people have to protect themselves under the veneer of motivated reasoning. You end up in a situation where everybody is still protecting themselves, but they're all pretending to do it in pursuit of the truth (or whatever the group says it values).
In this sense, tone arguments are vitally important to keeping clean epistemic norms [LW · GW]. If I'm not allowed to express the belief that the way you're phrasing things means I'm going to die horribly and live alone forever (which may be an actual system 1 belief), then I have to come up with FAKE arguments against the thing you're saying, or leave the group where that belief of mine isn't being respected.
Which brings me back to the definition of Maturity. If you put your need to express what you think is true in the way you feel is true (which again, is based on your beliefs), over my feelings that I'm going to be alone forever if people take your arguments seriously), you not only are acting immature, but you're fostering an immature community with people who aren't in touch with their own beliefs. What was wrong with this example:
The conversation of the group shifted at the point when Susan started to cry. From that moment, the group did not discuss the actual issue of the student community. Rather, they spent the duration of the meeting consoling Susan, reassuring her that she was not at fault.
Was not that the group considered Susan's feelings, but that they put Susan's feelings above their own beliefs, instead of on equal footing.
Here are some situations I've encountered where I wish people knew about the definition of Maturity:
A rationalist friend of mine got upset about being repeatedly asked about a situation after he asked the other person to stop. The other rationalist friend told him "The mature thing to do would be able to control your feelings, like this other rationalist I know." The mature thing is to control your feelings, but also sometimes express them loudly, depending on the needs in the moment.
A lover told me that they weren't going to lie to me, they were going to tell it like it is. I said that was in general fine, but that I wanted them to consider how the way and time they told me things affected my feelings. They said no, they would express themselves when and how they wanted, and they expected me to do the same. That relationship didn't last long.
People taking care of a friend at detriment to their own health.
Soooo many more.
Lately, I've been considering adding a third factor, so it's no longer a dichotomy but a trichotomy. Courage, Consideration, and Consequences.
I know there's a strong idea around norms in the rationality community to go full courage (expressing your true beliefs) and have other people mind thmeselves and ignore the consequences (decoupling norms). As I've said elsewhere and above, I think in actuality this leads to a community that trains people to hide certain beliefs and lie about their motives, but do it in a way that can't be called out.
I think you should obviously think about the effects of what you say, on the culture, on the world, and on the person you're speaking to. I have beliefs about this, which cache out in me feeling very upset when people express the truth at all costs, because they're sacrificing their terminal values for instrumental ones, but I'm punished in the rationality community for saying this, so I'm less likely to express it. So the truth seeking norm is stifling my ability to tell the truth.
I think in general I'd love to see WAY more truth seeking norms in society, but I think that's because most of society is immature, they're way too much on the side of consideration, with barely thought to consequences and courage.
Meanwhile, some of the rationality community has gone way to much towards courage, ignoring consideration and consequences.
comment by ChristianKl ·
2019-08-12T12:45:20.084Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I found Taber's radical honesty workshops very useful for a framing of how to deal with telling the truth.
According to him telling the truth is usually about choosing pain now instead of pain in the future. However not all kinds of pain are equal. A person who practices yoga has to be able to tell the pain from stretching from the pain of hurting their joints. In the same way a person who speaks in a radical honest way should be aware of the pain that the statement produces and be able to distinguish whether it's healthy or isn't.
Courage is only valuable when it comes with the wisdom to know when the pain you are exposing yourself is healthy and when it isn't. The teenager who expresses courage to signal courage to his friends without any sense of whether the risk he takes is worth it isn't mature.
Building up thick emotional walls and telling "the truth" without any consideration of the effects of the act of communication doesn't lead to honest conversation in the radical honesty sense. As it turns out, it also doesn't have much to do with real courage as it's still avoiding the conversations that are actually difficult.
comment by Matt Goldenberg (mr-hire) ·
2019-08-12T13:25:39.636Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I like this framing, the idea of useful and nonuseful pain. It seems like a similary useful definition of maturity.
comment by ChristianKl ·
2019-08-13T09:11:21.412Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
One difference is that different types of pain come with slightly different qualia. This allows communication that's in contact with what's felt in the moment which isn't there in ideas of maturity where maturity is about following rules that certain things shouldn't be spoken.
comment by Lukas_Gloor ·
2019-07-20T09:04:36.981Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I know there's a strong idea around norms in the rationality community to go full courage (expressing your true beliefs) and have other people mind thmeselves and ignore the consequences (decoupling norms).
"Have other people mind themselves and ignore the consequences" comes in various degrees and flavors. In the discussions about decoupling norms I have seen (mostly in the context of Sam Harris), it appeared me that they (decoupling norms) were treated as the opposite of "being responsible for people uncharitably misunderstanding what you are saying." So I worry that presenting it as though courage = decoupling norms makes it harder to get your point across, out of worry that people might lump your sophisticated feedback/criticism together with some of the often not-so-sophisticated criticism directed at people like Sam Harris. No matter what one might think of Harris, to me at least he seems to come across as a lot more empathetic and circumspect and less "truth over everything else" than the rationalists whose attitude about truth-seeking's relation to other virtues I find off-putting.
Having made this caveat, I think you're actually right that "decoupling norms" can go too far, and that there's a gradual spectrum from "not feeling responsible for people uncharitably misunderstanding what you are saying" to "not feeling responsible about other people's feelings ever, unless maybe if a perfect utilitarian robot in their place would also have well-justified instrumental reasons to turn on facial expressions for being hurt or upset". I just wanted to make clear that it's compatible to think that decoupling norms are generally good as long as considerateness and tact also come into play. (Hopefully this would mitigate worries that the rationalist community would lose something important by trying to reward considerateness a bit more.)