How to criticize effectively03 Jan 2015
One of my favorite blogs, Brainpickings, posted an article “How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently”. It featured an excerpt from Mr. Dannett that I want to remember, so I’ll share it here:
How to compose a successful critical commentary:
- You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
- You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
- Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
And if that sounds too good to be true, Brainpickings’ editor Maria Popova adds another advantage:
But rather than a naively utopian, Pollyannaish approach to debate, Dennett points out this is actually a sound psychological strategy that accomplishes one key thing: It transforms your opponent into a more receptive audience for your criticism or dissent, which in turn helps advance the discussion.