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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 02:15 pm
time

I haven't always been like this, of course. It used to be that I would accept much of what I read, if presented in factual form. I would also accept much of what I heard, especially if the speaker managed to appear or sound confident enough in the truth of his statements. I didn't know for a long time that confidence can be feigned, because I've never been able to do so. Of course, this meant that I tended to question a lot of my own personal beliefs, especially if they were discordant with those of others. I didn't have a lot of confidence in matters of my own judgment.

Somehow I managed to develop a pretty good instinct for when something sounded fishy. As facts and details became easier to check, I became more comfortable doubting what I read or heard. Opinions, and the rationale behind them, were a different story, but gradually it's become easier for me to conclude if someone doesn't necessarily believe what he's saying, or can't explain what he's thinking, and what's infinitely more fascinating, why.

In this context it seems strange to consider me argumentative by nature. I am argumentative, but not combative or quarrelsome. However, it's still surprising to me how often people interpret disagreement as a personal attack. It's probably my style, but I do know that people simply aren't used to being asked to back up why they believe something to be true, or offer a rationale for a value judgment. More often than not, it's interpreted as a challenge, rather than welcomed as an opportunity for some good discussion.

There's no better way to learn than by challenging what you think you know.

16CommentReply

kaleidoscopeeye
kaleidoscopeeye
Kaleidoscope Eyes
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC)

This is a timely post for me. I questioned someone about something they said in a community today and they acted as if I attacked them, and called me bitchy and so forth, when I was just trying to find a source for what they were telling people. Ug. Whatever. Not someone I want to interact with if they can't be questioned at all.


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bellybalt
bellybalt
Belly
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)

There's no better way to learn than by challenging what you think you know.

Or, more appropriate to this post, by challenging what others think they know. :)


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)

Not necessarily. I challenge what I think I know by asking you why your opinion might differ from mine.


ReplyThread Parent
bellybalt
bellybalt
Belly
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)

Yeeeesss... isn't that what I just said?

*re-reads*

You're challenging what you think you know by challenging what another person thinks they know.

You know?

(Ok, now I confused myself.)


ReplyThread Parent
littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)

Are you challenging me???


ReplyThread Parent
krazyfelioness
krazyfelioness
sarcastic bubblewrap
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 10:44 pm (UTC)

Yeah, some times the only way to understand some one else's perspective is to try on the "pregnancy suit," or look through the "coke-bottle lenses".

=P

Edited at 2008-05-08 01:52 am (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent
jef182
d
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)

In what I've observed of your internet discussions- I'd say you're more inclined than most to enter a battle of wits with an unarmed person- establishing, then arguing by a set of rules that your opponents don't understand or even know exist. With this in mind- one wonders if the belief [that someone can re-evaluate and change their view based on your probing] borders on absurdly optimistic.

In my experience most folks don't know the difference between the stateemnt "That's a dumb idea" and "You are a dumb person". I remember reading somewhere that "An educated mind is unique in that it can entertain an idea without accepting it". This is where you, and your opponents tend to differ- their beliefs define their reality inexorably. They are literally what they think, and a challenge to that framework is a challenge to their self..

Sadly, I don't have the time to produce evidence to support this view- it's just an impression formed over following (and goading you along) several little flamewars ;)


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Thursday, May 8th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)

With this in mind- one wonders if the belief [that someone can re-evaluate and change their view based on your probing] borders on absurdly optimistic.

I used to have this belief, but I don't much anymore ... it's more likely that I'm looking to re-evaluate and change my view by asking questions. The last line of the post was a personal truth, rather than a universal one.

In my experience most folks don't know the difference between the stateemnt "That's a dumb idea" and "You are a dumb person".

Absolutely.


ReplyThread Parent
remix79
remix79
remix
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC)

OK. No time to send this through the PC filter; I'll just speak plainly. Below is my uninformed-of-this-situation opinion.

Your first premise is that most people want to be correct. They don't. They want to be comfortable and to avoid cognitive dissonance.

Your second premise is that things that are incorrect need to be corrected. Again, sometimes they don't. The phrase about the difference between being correct and being right applies here. Not everything needs to be corrected.

Your third premise is that people should not feel bad when corrected. This is a very dangerous assumption. People are very attached to their opinions.

And your fourth premise is that your audience here will understand why you labeled this post "time". Whuzzat?

Much LJ love! I too like having honest opinions even when I don't agree with them. :)


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Thursday, May 8th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)

Hehe, hmm ... I hate to disagreem, but I don't think any of those are my premises -- but this illustrates my points about communicating thoughts, doesn't it? For example, I'm not talking about anything being "correct" in an absolute sense. If you think Zeppelin was the best rock band ever and I disagree, there's no telling which of us is "correct."

Personally, it wouldn't matter too much to me, because I'm more interested in investigating why we disagree. In fact, it's a lot more likely that I am looking for the opportunity to learn something from such a conversation, which might change my own opinion, than to want to change yours. However, I think this distinction is very difficult to communicate, which is why there can still be tremendous difficulty in simply discussing ideas.


ReplyThread Parent
girl_on_a_stick
girl_on_a_stick
stickgirl
Thursday, May 8th, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)

I'm going to make some major blanket statements about the genders, though anyone who knows me knows I'm not a huge believer in stereotypes BUT I will say that often times women are looking for sympathy or talking to sort out their own feelings, so when someone challenges these thoughts it feels hurtful.
/blanket statements about the genders


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remix79
remix79
remix
Thursday, May 8th, 2008 01:38 am (UTC)

Oooh good point.


ReplyThread Parent
littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Thursday, May 8th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)

Well sure. But what I'm talking about here is when it's not a challenge, but is interpreted to be so. If in conversation I ask you why you feel a certain way, or if I say that I feel a different way than you do, I don't necessarily see these as challenges.


ReplyThread Parent
girl_on_a_stick
girl_on_a_stick
stickgirl
Thursday, May 8th, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
You're such a dude :)

Let me put it this way. People talk for different reasons, not just to convey information. Sometimes people, women in particular, talk to feel more connected to someone. When the person they're trying to connect with counters the things they're saying, even if it's factually correct, they get hurt because from their point of view by challenging them you're negating their ability to connect.

If I'm having a rough day at work and I'm telling you about it, it's because I'm looking for sympathy. If in the middle you several times try to counter my details of my day by correcting things or pushing the other person's point of view, I'm going to feel very hurt because at that moment I was communicating not to try and get facts right, but because I was sad and was looking for comfort. I find that by someone I care about listening to what I'm saying rather than trying to "fix" things by offering other points of views or correctioins or facts.

It's just a different way and reason for talking. Again, I hate narrowing it down to gender because I know it's not 100% true all the time, but there's a lot of truth to the differences in why/how the genders communicate.


ReplyThread Parent
littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Thursday, May 8th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
Re: You're such a dude :)

Awesome. I appreciate that you explained this. See what I'm learning here?


ReplyThread Parent
crackmonkey
crackmonkey
Hue hue hue
Friday, May 9th, 2008 06:41 am (UTC)

I've had to learn to re-phrase questions I ask along these lines.

* "Does that make sense" -> "Am I explaining that well?"
* "That doesn't make sense to me" -> "I'm having a hard time following what you're saying"
* "That's fucking crazy" -> "I find what you've said to be fascinating and would like to subscribe to your newsletter"

This has made the world of difference for me, as I come off as far less aggressive (and possibly stupid) despite having made no fundamental internal changes.

The fun part, for me, is watching people that know me (and know that I do this) after I interact with someone that doesn't know me. Typically, people leave a conversation feeling smart(!) and happy(!) despite there being nothing in the conversation to prompt said feelings.

Also, my wife and I have a code now. She says "I need to bitch" and I say "OK". I've watched woman talk at each other, often times ignoring what the other is saying, and at the end there is a magical bond formed between them. Fortunately, my wife and I have sort of gotten around these problems with a bit of shorthand.

I have no idea how others do this, but it pretty much guarantees we have mostly male friends or women who don't just vent and ignore responses.


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