As most of us are aware, communication comes in a variety of different forms, and is motivated by a variety of different desires. Reflecting upon some of the dialogue that has taken place within the forum, it seems as though there is a regular disconnect between sender and recipient, whether it be the fault of the former or the latter. The intention of this thread is to create a discussion about discussion, in the hopes of illuminating the nature of this potential disconnect and to explore the driving forces behind this place we all hold so dear.
In line with the sprit of this thread, I'd like to mention my motivations in creating it:
1. To inquire about the beliefs of others, in order to gain insight and refine my own beliefs.I'd like to start by bringing up a topic which is very personal for me: argumentation. In it's purist form, it is meant to be a form of external, multi-person brainstorming aimed at reaching reasonable conclusions from a series of known facts. More commonly, it is thought of in terms of winning or losing, where individuals will pass judgments first, find supporting facts second, and rarely ask questions. I find this approach to be dissatisfying, unpleasant, and downright harmful to proper decision making. In the context of this forum, it isn't uncommon for discussions to deteriorate to the point of personal attacks, changing the intentions of communication - from: the transfer of information > to: the preservation of self worth.
2. To modify the social environment to produce a better discourse / forum experience.
3. To fulfill a basic human need to transfer information.
4. To fulfill a basic human need to relate, socialize.
I am of the opinion that, while there may be differences in preference, there should rarely be a situation where both parties should have to "agree to disagree." With a reduction approach to argument, the source of all disagreement can be found to be either a difference in personal preference, or a disagreement about the validity of a particular fact (premise). In either case, rational men and women should be inclined to accept the utter truth of another's preference (no disagreement), and should look at the potential facts in terms of likelihoods and probability rather than right and wrong.
Preferences which are themselves based upon other preferences and facts may be discussed (e.g. having a preference for exercise because you have a preference for health and facts would indicate that exercise leads to health), but very basic preferences need no justification other than there own existence. In the case of a difference of basic preferences, there is simply no reason for argument unless there is a belief that a particular basic preference might be in direct opposition to another basic, more important preference. Ex: Convincing a serial killer not to kill is futile unless you believe his preference for freedom, personal safety, etc. outweighs his preference for killing. There is no disagreement here, simply an acknowledgment of different preferences.
Facts, for the most part, are themselves concrete and absolute (so long as they are framed correctly), and any discrepancy in our understanding of the facts should cause those involved to treat all potential truths with caution, rather than blindly believing in one truth and rejecting the other as fiction. If need be, the argument should be expanded to include an analysis of the facts, treating them more as a link in a chain than as the foundation upon which an argument is based. Often times the motives of the opposition are questioned (e.g. accusations that they wish to persuade through falsification of the facts), but in these instances a proper exploration of the facts should fully illuminate the truth, so long as one carries the primary motive of truth discovery.
My girlfriend and former roommate were arguing about whether or not omission of the truth was a form of lying. My girlfriend was of the opinion that it was, as both lying and omitting the truth lead others to false beliefs. My roommate was of the belief that it wasn't, as lying forces misinformation upon another whereas omission of the truth only prevents the correction of false assumptions. They bickered back and forth for about 15 minutes, giving examples meant to support each of their beliefs. Eventually I intervened, suggesting that there argument had less to do with a definition, and more to do with a difference in feelings associated with each.A few guidelines for good discussion:
I reminded them of the connotations that words carry, and suggested to them that what they really were attempting to do was associate the connotations of lying with omitting the truth (my girlfriend) and distance the connotations of lying from omitting the truth (my roommate). I went on to explain that, rather than convince each other of anything, they were simply informing each other of their preferences: my girlfriend of her displeasure with omission the truth, and my roommate of his relative apathy towards omission of the truth.
Following this reduction and clarification, we then went on to discuss the potential benefits and costs of omitting the truth, independent of it's relation to outright lying. What would have once most probably ended with them agreeing to disagree, then became a fruitful discussion about the merits and follies of a common human activity. A fruitful discussion, ending in unity rather than disharmony.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt.
- Be skeptical, but not to the point of paranoia.
- Be polite.
- Be open minded.
- Don't think in terms of right or wrong, better or worse.
- Have your primary motivation be to learn, not self preservation.
- Check your ego at the door.
- Realize that it is much easier to criticize than come up with original ideas.
- Ask questions, seek to clarify rather than persuade.
- Listen, respond.
What are your thoughts about communication?