We're all forgetting how to read analog clocks. Or are we? 2010-11-28T06:19:01.899Z
Love and Rationality: Less Wrongers on OKCupid 2010-10-11T06:35:52.600Z
Everyday Questions Wanting Rational Answers 2010-10-05T06:04:58.990Z


Comment by Relsqui on [deleted post] 2013-04-01T05:56:46.852Z

Absolutely. That doesn't contradict what I said in the slightest.

Comment by Relsqui on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-12-04T07:50:36.353Z · LW · GW

Fair point. I'm not sure either; I think I'm relying on a given individual who is e.g. intersex either a) knowing that, and being able to make a better-educated guess about their chromosomes than any heuristic I offer, or b) not knowing that, which I'm willing to assume correlates well to having genitals that either do look like a penis or don't.

Comment by Relsqui on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-30T22:56:02.993Z · LW · GW

Also, rereading that explanation, I'm annoyed at how I worded it. It's okay, but my trans*-inclusive vocabulary has improved since then and I could do better. Hell, just "if unsure, select 'yes' if you were born with a penis" would have been sufficient.

Comment by Relsqui on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-29T07:21:23.898Z · LW · GW

Came out of activity hibernation to take this. Thanks for seeing a thing that needed doing and choosing to do it!

Problems with the gender field have already been discussed; the sexuality question has some of the same issues. "Gay" and "straight" don't really make sense for people with nonbinary gender, and many people interpret "bisexual" as referring to "both" genders (male and female), as opposed to a more inclusive "queer" or "pansexual." I do honestly appreciate how much effort you've put into making the survey as inclusive as it already is, though.

Comment by Relsqui on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-29T07:02:47.249Z · LW · GW

So how you do decide which options merit inclusion? Which snowflakes are special enough--or, I suppose, mundane enough? And what's the harm in counting how many snowflakes aren't, even if you don't ask them exactly what type they are?

Comment by Relsqui on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-29T06:59:19.207Z · LW · GW

If you put "other" - and this applies to any of the questions, not just this one - you're pretty much wasting your vote

I disagree; it might be important to identify oneself as something which is not one of the presented options, even if no one cares what other thing you are. For example ...

I was kind of surprised how many people can't settle on a specific gender, even though the aim of the question was more to figure out how many men versus women are on here

... I'm genderqueer, and when I take demographic surveys it's important to me that I'm not counted in either the "men" or the "women" group. Firstly, it would be lying, and secondly, it would be lying in a way which perpetuates the invisibility of my actual identity. That may not be a big deal to the survey writer, but it's always a big deal to me.

Comment by Relsqui on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-29T06:52:00.521Z · LW · GW

You're correct; we asked for Y chromosomes rather than X chromosomes because it's way easier to have an extra X and not know it than to have a Y and not know it. So if we ask about Y, we can rough-sort into "probably XY" and "probably XX" groups and then look at the statistics for chromosomal deviations within those groups.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2011-10-23T11:56:18.276Z · LW · GW

Oh, thoroughly agreed. That was an observation, not an advocation.

Comment by Relsqui on Reference Points · 2011-05-06T01:14:53.558Z · LW · GW

I only just noticed this reply, so we're even. ;) Thanks.

Comment by Relsqui on Ask and Guess · 2011-05-06T01:11:28.596Z · LW · GW

(On one occasion, when highly motivated to have a departing guest take leftovers home with her if and only if she actually wanted leftovers, but not knowing her default rules, I ended up saying "So, among your tribe, how many times do I have to repeat an offer to have it count as a genuine offer?")

I once saw a friend ask our host, upon leaving a party, if he would like her to leave the rest of the cake she brought, which we'd eaten some of but hadn't finished. She's very asky, he's very guessy. However, she knows this, and immediately followed up with: "Please don't feel you need to take it--we'll happily eat it at home. I know I don't like it when people foist leftovers on me that I don't really want." He considered, and said since there was so much of it, he'd take a couple of pieces for himself and his roommate and let her take the rest home. Very asky question, very guessy answer, all parties satisfied.

What field do you go into if you want to study this stuff? Anthropology of some flavor? I find it fascinating.

Comment by Relsqui on Ask and Guess · 2011-05-06T01:06:09.741Z · LW · GW

There are some things which it's impolite to say, in any words, because the sentiment is impolite--for example, "I don't want you to come to my party." Guess culture, applied well, allows you to avoid having to say those things or cause the attendant hurt feelings. (Guess culture applied poorly avoids the hurt feelings but puts you in the awkward position where they're at the party anyway because you felt compelled to invite them.) The same situation in ask culture requires you come out with it.

This may sound like a good thing in the long run--especially if you are yourself asky--but sometimes there are valid reasons both that you don't want someone at the party (they smell bad) and that you don't want to hurt their feelings (they're your boss/family member/other person you'll be spending more time around, especially in a position of authority).

Another thing guess culture is good at is keeping secrets. In ask culture, if someone asks you something you've promised not to tell, it's certainly valid to say "Sorry, I can't tell you." But then they know there's a secret, and sometimes that alone is enough to cause harm--through speculation and deduction, or asking someone else, for example. (You could also lie, but that might cause its own problems.) In guess culture, there are things you don't ask about. This is part of why.

Comment by Relsqui on Ask and Guess · 2011-05-06T00:51:53.782Z · LW · GW

FWIW, among my friends--whom I might describe as "polite askers" or "assertive guessers"--it's common to ask "does anybody want to split this with me?" That way, you're both asking for what you want (more of the thing) and making an offer in a guess-culture-compatible way. It's easy for other people to accept, because now by taking it they're not preventing you from having it. If no one does, you can be reasonably confident no one else actually wanted it.

A variant on the same thing is: "Would anyone else like this?" which is a shorter version of the offering ritual that TheOtherDave described. Because it's skipping most of the ceremony, it's much askier, but it's still not polite to say "yes" and take the thing, because you'd be taking it out of the hands of someone who clearly wanted it. (An exception might be made if you hadn't actually had any of the thing yet, and said so.) But you can say "I'll split it with you," achieving the same result as the above.

Of course, this only works for plausibly divisible things. I've had a friend laugh at me--good-naturedly--for offering to split something bite-sized. Surprise, surprise: he's much askier, I'm much guessier.

Comment by Relsqui on On Pi day, we eat pie; On Tau day, we eat Taoists? · 2011-03-17T04:49:28.846Z · LW · GW

Correction: it's a good excuse to eat TWICE as much pie.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-13T08:42:09.172Z · LW · GW

thanking-for-thanking, long buildups to requests, apologising for things which are clearly not the other persons' fault

(Assuming you mean "not the apologizer's fault" in the last one.) I don't do these things, and I don't think they're necessary forms of courtesy, at least in a peer situation--customer service calls for jumping through hoops sometimes but I don't think that's what we're discussing.

How much have you considered the level of politeness you prefer to receive as opposed to the potentially interesting/fun problem of working out what to transmit?

I suspect that I'm similar to most people in that I notice mostly when someone uses a politeness level which is not what I wanted. ;) I'm not sure what terms I could use to clarify what that level is, though.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-08T06:20:23.102Z · LW · GW

Yeah, but the scale we're using isn't very precise. The variables you mention will move the threshold around, certainly, but not so much that shokwave can't at least give me a smallish range. We can limit it to modern, Western, and no significant status differences from each other.

Polite means a very different thing here (Australia) than it does in the US for example.

Yeah, I can tell. ;)

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-08T06:18:59.072Z · LW · GW

In actual practice I behave the way I described; I like to think that if this were drastically counterproductive for my goals, I would have noticed by now.

At any rate, the goal under discussion was informing the other person of the error in a way that didn't result in defensiveness or aggression.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-08T06:17:23.632Z · LW · GW

Oh, interesting. I hadn't thought of it in those terms before but it does immediately make sense.

It's true about status, though. It works out okay in my current time and place, where I very rarely encounter people whose status is so drastically and publicly different from mine that it would call for significantly different behavior. Or at least, that's my perception; if I encountered one of your friends on the other side of a cash register, we'd apparently have different ideas about what our relative status was and what level of courtesy was called for. I wonder what leads to that difference.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-08T06:07:10.719Z · LW · GW

Hmm. I think you're onto something, but that doesn't quite fit for me. Off the top of my head, I think I do something more like this:

I run the words I'm considering saying through my mental simulation of the person I'm talking to--which is going to have "like me" or "like normal" as defaults where I lack details--and check for snags like "does not acknowledge hearer's agency/competence" or "implies hearer smells bad." If I find one, I'll either remove/change the problematic wording or add words to counterbalance them.

Of course, as I get better at it, I also improve a lower-level filter on "things to not say at all," like giving advice to people in any situation where I don't actually have more knowledge or experience than they do. That's another kettle of worms, though.

The difference between that and your model of me is that it's also a multi-stage process; it's just fast. It may bear noting that I find it really interesting how much small word choices affect implication and connotation, which probably helps a lot with not being frustrated by the task. It's work, but it's fun work--like a productive debugging session.

The difference between the above and your model of you is that rather than taking a concept and adding semantically null politeness indicators around it, I'm making small adjustments to the presentation of the concept.

We may not actually be doing or imagining such different things, but I think that difference in our perception of the task is very telling. Your second model definitely lends itself to descriptors like "fluff" and "inefficient" and "time-consuming," whereas even in cases where it actually is noticeably time-consuming, the model I described above feels much more like an intellectual puzzle.

But then the question becomes: is it our different models of the mental process of diplomacy which causes us to have different feelings about it, or is it the other way around? The former seems like it would be easy to change in one's own mind, if one wanted; the latter puts us back where we started.

Something else I notice on rereading my description is that my model depends on having fairly reliable simulations of listeners, and fairly robust defaults when a specific data is not available. I expect that being able to build those simulations is an improveable skill. Empathy is a good head start on it, but one can care enough to try and still not have enough practice to do it well. As for the defaults: as I mentioned, I'll use myself when I don't know any better, and the accuracy of doing so would logically correlate to neurotypicality and otherwise being more like more potential listeners.

Summary: More agreeable models of what diplomacy requires may lead to more agreeable feelings about it, or vice versa. Some skills which make it easier can probably be learned; being empathetic and being neurotypical probably give you a leg up. Nothing earth-shaking, but an interesting puzzle nonetheless.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-08T05:38:22.081Z · LW · GW

Hmm. Getting an answer forced me to figure out exactly why I was asking. ;) I guess the followup question is, where on that scale would you put the threshold for everyday, out-in-public polite conversation between neurotypical adults? That is, the expected level, below which someone would come across as rude.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-08T05:36:07.818Z · LW · GW

Well, that's as much politeness as I was talking about, so I still think it's no worse than bluntness would have been.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-08T05:35:21.073Z · LW · GW

Hmm--my goal is to inform the other person of the error. This does not require them to respond.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-07T05:11:04.799Z · LW · GW

Agreed about standardization; knowing what to expect is useful in communication generally. My dad (former pilot) is fond of pointing out that this is how pilots and ATC people understand each other over crackly radios. There's only a small set of possible things they could be saying, and they know what to expect, so they only have to listen for whether the crackly voice matches what they're expecting.

even if that means taking twice as long to get to the point

I still find the time argument odd. The difference doesn't seem like that much to me, and the couple of seconds seem trivial weighed against the social currency you gain by taking them.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-07T05:05:19.564Z · LW · GW

Anything softer would have been condescending.

Do you find this condescending?

"You seem to have misread his comment--he said 'bowing out now,' not 'for now.'"

If so, can you explain why? Whether you do or not, what significantly worse result would you expect from that response, as opposed to teasing him about it?

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T20:41:11.850Z · LW · GW

Oh, yes, I'll certainly agree with that. Even the examples in the original post were a little too fluffy for my taste, and I'm the one who's a stickler for courtesy. There's certainly a balance to be struck--enough, but no more--which I haven't emphasized enough for how important it is. Thanks for the reminder.

I wonder how much striking that balance is part of the skill of being useful and courteous at the same time.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T20:38:58.392Z · LW · GW

For calibration purposes, where on that spectrum would you place the conversation we're having right now? :)

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T13:06:29.266Z · LW · GW

That's exactly it.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T13:01:36.742Z · LW · GW

It's an interesting example of balancing the need for clear rules without having so much specificity that it's easy to game.

Yeah, that was one of the major goals in the channel rules. Both the long and the short versions are explicit that if you come up with a way to be a pain in the ass that we haven't already thought of, we'll still kick you, even though it's not already in the rules. :P If you're curious, the long version is here and the short version is here. I didn't compose all of them but I did write them. (That is, I didn't choose everything that went in them, but I picked most of the words and put them on a page.)

but nothing about how long it went on or how it worked out in the long run.

It's still going on, in #xkcd-signal on Foonetic. I don't follow the channel actively right now, but my experience when I was there and the channel's continuing reputation are that it has high-quality conversations at very long intervals. That is, it tends to be quiet for long periods, but the conversations that do happen are relatively free of noise.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T12:54:43.596Z · LW · GW

It's the prescriptive/descriptive divide.

Oh hey, so it is. Well observed. (This is not sarcasm; I actually hadn't noticed.)

ought ... error ... worse

The meaningfulness of these words relies on sharing the relevant parts of a value system, and we haven't come anywhere near establishing that that's the case. If you mean that it's definitely more useful for people to behave in the way you prefer, you have not yet convinced me of that.

There doesn't seem to be any point being purely descriptive about anything.

That depends on the goal, doesn't it? If you're a mapmaker, being purely descriptive rather than prescriptive is the whole point. When I'm setting about to choose my own behavior, I would like to have as good a descriptive map as possible of the way the world is now; if I find a part I dislike, I might then choose a behavior with which I intend to change it, but even while doing that I'm best served by having an accurate description in place.

False dilemma. I can agitate for change in that culture.

Fair point, but as above, it's useful to have a very good understanding of what you're trying to go about changing; and even then, simply contradicting it or behaving as if social norms aren't what they are may not be sufficient to convince anyone of the rightness of your position.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T12:43:22.780Z · LW · GW

Mm, okay, let's put it another way than "good" then. Perhaps: "That's a desireable outcome and your method would work if we had the resources, but we don't."

Comment by Relsqui on Radical Honesty · 2010-12-06T12:40:04.033Z · LW · GW

Crocker's Rules are appealing. That's taking responsibility!

Can't you take exactly the same responsibility for your own actions without ever thinking of or mentioning some rules?

ETA: Man, it's frustrating to get downvoted for asking a question. If the question is stupid or the answer is obvious, fine, but I haven't learned anything unless you tell me why.

Comment by Relsqui on Radical Honesty · 2010-12-06T12:36:12.603Z · LW · GW

Buddhism has this idea too. Here's a nicely specific bit from one of the suttas, on how the criteria for "right speech" encompass much more than telling the truth:

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing and disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing and disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say them.

In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing and agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings.

(Emphasis mine.)

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T12:13:12.610Z · LW · GW

Something I have trouble remembering:

To someone for whom it is normal to choose words carefully and connote respect, it's obvious that this is the right way to go about things--it gets other people on your side, so you don't have to fight as much to get what you want or convince people of something. It's also more pleasant to be around, and is the way you wish to be treated.

To someone for whom it is normal to be as direct, clear, and efficient in language as possible, it's obvious that this is the right way to go about things--it's much more honest than insincere fluff and doesn't waste everybody's time. It's also more pleasant to be around, and is the way you wish to be treated.

The bit I particularly have trouble remembering is that neither person would believe that if their method didn't work for them. If you practice one of the above policies, I can reasonably assume that you get results from it which are acceptable to you. There appears to be a fairly strong division between people who have that experience with the former strategy, and those who have that experience with the latter strategy. Seeing that, I find myself wondering which of these scenarios is most accurate:

  • Does one strategy work better for some people, and the other work better for other people? Each is certainly easier for different people, but I'm asking about results.
  • Is the difference instead in the situation--so people who often find themselves in situations where one strategy is better prefer that strategy?
  • Are these just two different tools which are both often valuable?
  • Or of course, is it really just that one of these is a better strategy, and a lot of people are just so stuck to the other one that they won't accept it?

The reason I care about which of these scenarios is most accurate is that they change what kind of conversation about them is appropriate. If different strategies work for different people, then trying to convince someone else to use yours is unproductive other-optimizing. If they apply to different situations, it might be interesting to examine the differences in experience that lead to each preference. If they're both good tools, that suggests it could be worthwhile for each of us to work on the one we're worse at. And, finally, if one of them is actually better, we can carry on trying to convince each other of which one that is.

My intuition is that defaulting to courtesy, if it is not uniformly the more useful strategy, is at least more useful in the vast majority of cases. However, I do not trust my intuition on this, because that is the strategy which is much easier and more enjoyable for me to use. When I try to think of real reasons to hold that belief, other than "it's worked for me," two come to mind: one is that the courteous strategy seems like it requires more skill/effort (even people who don't prefer it seem to think so), and I don't see why that would have developed if it weren't valuable; the other is that I've read or heard several people (including the OP) say that they used to prefer the blunt strategy, but have learned to use and now see the value in the other one; I have never seen anyone describe the opposite experience.

If I'm wrong, I would like to be convinced that I'm wrong, and I feel strongly enough that I'm right that I don't think I can do that on my own. Here are some ways you could convince me:

  • Describe a common situation where there is clearly more utility in stating x bluntly than stating x politely. Note that I don't consider the extra few seconds to say a few more words to be significantly detrimental to utility. If you can come up with one which is common for you but not for me, this will lend weight to the second scenario; if you want to convince me that the blunt strategy is really generally better, I would want an example that's common even when you're not, say, working in a technical field.
  • Are you someone who is naturally inclined towards being more consciously respectful/courteous, but has switched to the other strategy because you found it more useful? What experiences led to this switch and what's different now that you've switched?
Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T10:18:03.613Z · LW · GW

It isn't dishonest to say "this is a good idea, but it might be difficult for these reasons" rather than "your idea isn't feasible for these reasons" (unless of course you don't like the idea, in which case pick a different way of expressing politeness). The first one is stating the objection and also implying respect; the second one is stating the objection and also implying disrespect.

If you really wanted to state the objection without making any implication of respect at all, the nearest thing which comes to mind right now would be phrasing it as a question. "How would you deal with such and such obstacles?" This is a little dangerous, because if they don't have a good answer, they get stuck looking dumb and might blame you for it--but I think that's probably true regardless of how you raise the objection, so I don't think I'd worry about it.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T10:01:48.078Z · LW · GW

Elaborating on nerzhin's comment, which I think is well stated: the tradeoff between clarity and politeness is not absolute. If politeness is non-habitual and thus difficult, it requires a lot of your energy and attention, and you have to give up some of the energy you could otherwise have spent being clear. This is much less the case when you're very practiced at speaking courteously, because that action becomes automatic; you can then use all your conscious focus on clarity.

It's much the same as the speed/accuracy tradeoff in, say, typing, or playing a musical instrument. When you're still learning how to do it, you have to type or play slowly if you want to make sure to get it right. Once you gain the muscle memory to do it right, you can speed up because it's not so much work to be accurate any more.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:55:52.139Z · LW · GW

I agree with this; I found the metaphor choice sort of disconcerting. (Given that I agreed very much with the overall point, I didn't find it important enough to comment on, but I have a lower threshold for agreeing with someone else.)

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:50:21.209Z · LW · GW

This is not the answer to your question, but it might be relevant/interesting that communicating respectfully/politely by default is one of the stated rules of #xkcd. Obviously it doesn't actually happen every moment, and people aren't kicked for being rude once, but there is an atmosphere of not tolerating rudeness for its own sake. The ops are reluctant, but willing if it goes on long enough, to get rid of someone whose only crime is being incredibly unpleasant to interact with. This is in line with the community's goal of being pleasant and entertaining; if the goal were getting some sort of work done, it might be important to tolerate people who are rude but useful, but that's not the case.

The specific relevant text in the channel rules (in a section on "generalities," not specific things to do/not do) is this:

Be nice. There are plenty of places on the internet where you can be cruel, but not many where you can be nice, and #xkcd is one of them. If you're not usually nice, give it a try. You might be amazed.

There's also a simplified version of the rules page that exists to give people a general sense of how to behave without swamping them in specific examples. It includes:

Act like an adult, whether or not you are one.

Speak to each other with respect, whether or not you actually have any.


Don't be offensive without being funny. The more offensive you are, the funnier you also have to be.

You are not the arbiter of whether you're too offensive or funny enough.

Just because your gay black female friend doesn't mind you saying it doesn't mean you can say it anywhere.


If someone asks you politely to stop doing something, stop doing it.

It's clearly possible to abuse that last one by asking someone politely to stop doing something which is totally reasonable, but in actual practice that hasn't been a problem.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:37:32.306Z · LW · GW

This is really interesting; thanks for adding it to the conversation. (I haven't chewed on it mentally enough to have an actual comment, but I wanted to elaborate on the upvote.)

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:35:47.291Z · LW · GW

Second, lack of politeness is a countersignalling method to indicate friendship and community by showing you are close enough to a person that politeness is unnecessary

As you say, that only works if everyone is already on board with this. What the OP is talking about is, effectively, the situation where you're saying "hey nigga wassup!" to someone you've just met or barely know. In order to use direct communication to signal closeness, you need to be sure that you're on the same page first.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:30:49.128Z · LW · GW

It's not a status hit to you. It's a status hit to them. Feel free to make whatever noble choices you want about being willing to make yourself look stupid in a public forum, but you don't have the right to make that choice for someone else.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:28:59.829Z · LW · GW

I've met people who get huffy about the suggestion that they preface their opinions with "in my opinion" or "I think that." For a long time I had trouble explaining what good came of doing so; the best I've got so far is "it distinguishes you from the people who think their opinions are facts." Does this make sense? Any suggestions for making it clearer?

Edit: I just found a couple more ways to explain this in my notes file. One is that "x is bad" invites the conversation "no it's not!" "yes it is!" (because it's a disagreement of fact) whereas "I think x is bad" invites the conversation "why do you think that?" (because it's a disagreement of opinion). The second argument is more interesting. Another is that when you say "x is bad" as an absolute, you're implying that anyone who likes it is wrong; you're insulting their taste. When you say "I don't like x" you're merely disagreeing with their taste.

I haven't yet figured out to do with people who actually do believe that their opinions or experiences represent objective truths.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:26:02.606Z · LW · GW

Upvoted on spec; I tabbed out the essay to read later. (Commenting mostly as a reminder to myself.)

ETA: Okay, yes, upvote stands, that was good.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:24:15.407Z · LW · GW

This is dead on; if I'd thought of it, I would have written it myself. ;) One thing you're missing, though, is an example of where it is okay to be blunter--with very close friends, with whom you already have an understanding of a certain amount of respect. This doesn't obviate the need for politeness, of course, but it does lower the threshold of importance at which it's okay to be blunt. If I'm in a hurry in a shop, I'll still be polite to the clerk, because they don't know me well enough to know that I'm impatient and stressed, rather than just a jerk. I worry about this less when talking to a close friend who already knows I'm not a jerk.

I'm actually not a very good example of this, because my default setting for the courtesy slider is fairly high. I can do this because it comes naturally to me, so it takes very little effort for me to reap the benefits of showing respect to the people around me. It took me a LONG time to realize that this is not true for everyone, i.e. that it is very difficult for some people to understand, remember, or apply these social rules, and therefore only do so in select situations.

ETA: ... and this of course doesn't make me better or smarter or more useful than people who have trouble with it. I'm incredibly frustrated with how slowly I think in arguments or debates, and my inability to remember details which help in them. The people I know who aren't good at showing respect in casual conversation tend to be good at these things. Another tradeoff, probably, although I'm not sure why it would be the case. (I know at least one person who's good at both, but I think he's made a conscious effort to be so.)

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:16:17.704Z · LW · GW

A friend of mine described a creative writing class in which the students would read pieces on a workshop day and then have other students respond. The responses came in phases. First, anybody who wished to praise something about the piece had the opportunity to say that. When they were finished with that, anyone who wished to criticize something about the piece could do so. There was a third phase, but I don't remember what it was--specific recommendations, maybe.

This always seemed like a very sensible model to me. It prevents the reader from feeling jumped on with criticism and internalizing the impression that the piece isn't any good before anyone's said anything nice yet. It also prevents the error mentioned in one of the EY excerpts in the OP--good and bad are both made explicit. Also, praise is useful. It tells someone what parts to keep!

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:12:11.866Z · LW · GW

It's the wrong understanding.

I think that when one finds oneself writing this sentence, it is time to take a step back and think pretty hard about what one is saying.

We're not talking about a mathematical fact that can be proven or disproven as correct; we're not taking about people having the "wrong understanding" of, say, how Bayes's Theorem works. What we are doing is describing a culture in which behaving in x way signals y, to wit, being blunt and direct signals rudeness. This is hard to stomach for people who are part of a subculture where that is not the case, but being part of that subculture and having that preference does not make that particular meme in the larger culture "wrong." It's not even meaningful to give it a value; it's just an observation of the way it is. You can play along and be accepted/effective in that culture, or not. It's your choice.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:07:53.544Z · LW · GW

I think respectful behavior is a good default. It doesn't need to be as padded as the OP's example, but what I have done in the past on LW is give a quick response to the overall post (so as to not be totally ignoring it just to point out little things), and then say "oh, by the way, a couple of things you might want to fix: x and y."

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T09:05:41.721Z · LW · GW

You're fooling yourself if you think that polite criticism doesn't work better on you than rude criticism. You may prefer directness and honesty, but you're still human, and you've still got an ego.

Also, following the golden rule to the letter is an example of the typical mind fallacy--and it's particularly bizarre when you know you're atypical in that regard. The golden rule is best used as a default--a heuristic for how to treat people in general when you have no more specific data about how a particular person would prefer you to treat them. Can you imagine if masochists applied the golden rule when sleeping with someone new? "Well, I like being beaten, so clearly that's okay to do to someone else." No. If you have atypical preferences, a better base heuristic is what's common, especially when the common thing is considered more respectful. On which note:

But I will not treat my technical coworkers like children, and I expect the same of them.

You've got this backwards. Being direct and telling people what to do without showing any regard for their own ability or status is how you treat children. When you're respectful to other people, you're treating them like adults.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T08:53:47.191Z · LW · GW

What makes the direct statement more "effective"? It makes it more forceful, to be sure, for exactly the reason you state:

with indirect requests or criticism you run the risk of the recipient having a sense that your criticism is somehow optional, that since you're not stating it forcefully they must have a choice whether or not to make the change

That's exactly the point. They DO have a choice. The other person has agency, and it's their idea. When you state your criticism directly, implying they must do it the way you state, you're expressing that you have greater power or status than they do and this entitles you to direct them to do things differently. This isn't true unless you are actually their boss, and whether you are or not it's belittling and rude; this is why it puts people on the defensive.

Comment by Relsqui on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-06T08:51:15.780Z · LW · GW

This is the kind of thing I'd like to see more of on here; explaining how to use e.g. language to get along with people who are socially unlike you is hard and being able to do it is important. I laughed at this:

The most common criticism seems to be that adding fluff is a waste of time, insincere, and reduces signal:noise ratio.

... because as I was reading the post, I was hearing in my head every time I've heard that excuse from a friend. "It's just fluff, it shouldn't matter, it doesn't mean anything if you just say it automatically ..."

It does mean something. It means that you respect the person you're talking to enough to follow these social mores and support them rather than just sticking pins in their ego. Speaking directly and simply isn't neutral--it's actively disrespectful, with the results you describe.

Comment by Relsqui on Belief in Belief vs. Internalization · 2010-11-30T11:33:39.411Z · LW · GW

Upvoted for

"What a coincidence, every single one?"

but while I'm here,

I support this 'x is my invisible dragon' turn of phrase!

me too.

Comment by Relsqui on Belief in Belief vs. Internalization · 2010-11-30T11:27:45.349Z · LW · GW

I've seen you delete comments that received objecting responses a few times now. Why do you do that?