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It’s Not Enough to Be Right – You Also Have to Be Kind (forge.medium.com)
595 points by victorbojica on Nov 9, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 304 comments



If we accept the premise that you don't listen to messages that are too mean, then there are two aspects to it:

The nicer you state your messages the more people will listen to you.

The meaner messages you can stomach the more information is accessible to you.

So we'd expect those who demand others to be nice to be less well informed than those who can tolerate mean communication. For example, a person who thinks their math teacher is mean when the teacher corrects them will probably never become great at math. I believe that this is an aspect of communication we need to talk way more about, since large parts of the population are currently handicapped like this.

I'm not sure if it is genetic, but if it can be taught then we ought to tell our kids to listen to everyone and not just what feels comfortable. Fill your kids heads with statements like "It was a bit mean, but he is right, you should really try to do FOO". People often have good reasons for being mean, they could be tired, hungry, depressed or just spoke without thinking, those are really bad reasons for not listening if the actual message is sound.


>For example, a person who thinks their math teacher is mean when the teacher corrects them will probably never become great at math

Not a math teacher, but I had a boss once when i was younger who constantly would tell me I only did a 99% job. I worked too fast and didn't finish the last little things. It pissed me off every time. He wasn't really that nice about it. He was a pretty blunt and straightforward kinda guy.

He was right though and it took a while but I eventually noticed that I did exactly what he said I was doing and it did impact things I did. Since I realized that, I hear is voice now telling me this before I think I've finished everything I'm doing and inevitably I find something I missed or didn't finish properly. In the end his blunt delivery of information and reasonable criticism did sink in and I feel like my attention to detail has improved because of it on anything I work on now.


I used to be a boss like that. I thought people are always motivated to be better at their jobs. And that they are better at regulating their feelings. I was wildly wrong on both. Even though people learn that way, it is faster to impart learning by using slightly less confrontational approach. Specially if the relationship you are building is going to last more than a semester. I highly recommend reading https://www.amazon.com/Thanks-Feedback-Science-Receiving-Wel... to everyone. It helped me enormously to receive and give feedback in way which was conducive to build a feedback loop where people actively sought feedback on their work and received it with much more open mind.


Honestly, I wouldn't work for him again, but I did appreciate after the fact he meant well, at least that's how I've chosen to take it.


Thanks for your input. Often critical people mean the best despite coming off as mean. That said, I think it is best if you are close with these people first so you know they mean the best. I don't think it's natural for individuals to recognize when someone means well but is coming off as rude, particularly when rudeness is defined differently for everyone.

For the unversed, my family's dinners can come off as abrasive. The reality is we just enjoy talking to each other in an uncivilized manner.


It's entirely possible to be able to grasp the content in a mean message, and also demand that the source be kinder. In other words, just because I might demand someone treat me respectfully does not mean I am mentally incapable of grasping the content of a mean message.

I think your argument conflates "there exist" and "forall" - certainly, there exist people that simultaneously demand niceness and are incapable of processing mean messages. But that's definitely not true for everyone.

So you can believe that people should try to grasp any valid meaning behind a mean message, and also believe that people should be kind.


I don't think GP suggested that some people can't grasp the content of a mean message. GP specifically wrote, "the premise that you don't listen to messages that are too mean," and not, "the premise that you can't listen..." Usually, people would be would be capable of grasping a 'mean' message's content, but they reject it because of their own passionate reaction to the 'meanness' of the delivery.

The first thing GP suggests is that communicating a message more 'nicely' means more people will listen. So I'm not sure what your point is here independent of what GP has already written.

I suspect GP is emphasizing the importance of stomaching meanness because that's the harder (and more rewarding) thing to accomplish. It takes some effort to phrase and intone things more gently. But it takes a lot more effort to unlearn your own rapid emotional responses to someone else's tone... And successfully doing so is like having a superpower in social interactions. It starts to seem like everyone is driving drunk with respect to their own emotions: reacting instinctively when emotions are so strong that they drown out or dulled down all the other information.


> I believe that this is an aspect of communication we need to talk way more about, since large parts of the population are currently handicapped like this.

> People often have good reasons for being mean, they could be tired, hungry, depressed or just spoke without thinking, those are really bad reasons for not listening if the actual message is sound.

How do you know if "the message is sound"? This actually has me thinking that it's an adaptive trait to pay more attention to people who have the energy to spare some kindness for others. Because clearly they're doing something well enough to either not feel tired/hungry/depressed or well enough to still have the energy to consider other people despite feeling any of those things.


I believe you can't know whether a message is sound until you've managed to work past/through your own strong feelings reacting to a message's pleasantness or unpleasantness. A heuristic which dismisses a message because of its unpleasantness or accepts a message because of the opposite is going to result in many, many false negatives and false positives with respect to message validity/usefulness. You can only pick apart a message's 'soundness' in the calm place that comes after emotion: where those feelings can be one source of information without their intensity overwhelming all the other information.


The opposite fallacy seem to be quite common: People thinking some dubious message delivered in a sufficiently abrasive way must be a "harsh truth", and any counterargument just means "you can't handle the truth". This is why politicians and debaters use the harsh rhetoric: It works. People eat it up.


Well, it works when it's not directed at you and yours. There's a reason these people all have public relations specialists.


> The nicer you state your messages the more people will listen to you.

> The meaner messages you can stomach the more information is accessible to you.

• From the receiver's view:

Meanness implies conflict. It evokes threat, defense, flight.

Those are instinctive responses to an intent of attack. Suppressing those requires non-zero effort.

• On the other hand, from the mean person's view:

They are experiencing impatience or frustration with something they want to change.

Suppressing that requires non-zero effort.

It all comes down to who can put more effort into suppressing their instinctual responses at a given moment.


The non-sexy answer here is human interaction is almost always a negotiation. Sometimes being a little harsh is what the other party needs to hear. However in the wrong circumstance, it can turn people needlessly against your message... or, at worst, destroy your relationship with others. It's the same thing with being (overly) kind.

Tl;dr human interactions are complex and require emotional and situational awareness to maximize effectiveness.


Yes, and the state of people at any given time is a result of their recent interactions.

If I recently spoke to someone Harmfully Harsh, I will not be receptive to someone who is being Beneficially Harsh.

You cannot know the internal state of someone, so it does no harm to take that into consideration when interacting with them.


There's another dimension you can work on that I find seems to work much better.

Put your complaints in the form of a question. People will use whatever internal dialog they are comfortable with to unpack it in their own heads.

Doesn't work on everyone. There's a couple engineers at every job who will happily answer questions about their Rube Goldberg machines as if they were innocent questions instead of an invitation to be introspective.


Rhetorical questions annoy me even more than an opinionated statement. So yeah, YMMV


Rhetorical questions don't require an answer.

Questions like, "How can we have an audit trail for this solution, in case we have to diagnose problems?" demand an answer.

"This is a stupid idea and let me tell you why." invites a rebuttal, not a compromise or a re-think.


Do you think that a complaint in the form of a question is necessarily rhetorical? Couldn't it, in fact, be Socratic?


The way I read or hear it every time there a “you stupid twat”, “haven’t you thought about that eh! Dimwit” closing line.

I can’t help it...


I see what you did there.


Who do you think you are, saying I did stuff?


Another aspect to this is that the meaner a message is, the less likely it is to be said by someone who can grasp a very basic point about human nature.


Or, the meaner a message is, the more likely is to be said by someone who cares about subject matter way more than "human nature".


Reading meanness as an indication of investment in a subject, is a mistake.


It's not just investment. High level experts do not care much about "human nature" as average persons do, it is also part of "human nature".

Also disrespect goes both ways. For many people, using "mean words" (e.g. "this is terribly wrong", "what a stupid mistake") is being disrespectful and offensive. For many experts, being incompetent or making repeated mistakes in your work is being disrespectful and offensive.


I hope you don't use Linux.


In any environment with more than one person, human nature is the subject. This is the message of the article.


What does being right buy you if it doesn't affect the change you're after?


Or more likely to be said by someone one sees trees not forests.


I have this conversation at work. Team leads are Pollyanna types. Nobody wants to complain to an over-confidently happy person.

Meanwhile, if a tool we use or code I wrote is frustrating to use, I call a spade a spade. So then people open up about other stuff that bugs them. I hear everyone's fears and frustrations. I hear how bits of the code make people feel stupid. On other jobs I've gone out of my way to fix these problems. Often this doesn't impress your bosses (especially the bad ones) but it gets you plenty of respect from your peers and subordinates.

This particular system is such a Gordeon Knot that it's taken me years to see daylight. It's almost time for a new job and the code has just gotten to a place I wish it had been in on day 1.


> since large parts of the population are currently handicapped like this.

That is called fragile. It isn't genetic, but it is socially reinforced. I suspect people who suffer from fragility are more prone to depression and anxiety.


Pretty sure you just proved the point.


That's an interesting application of Postel's law.


Had to look this up: "Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others. The principle is also known as Postel's law, after Jon Postel, who wrote in an early specification of TCP"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robustness_principle


It reminds me of Conquest's 1st law:

> Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.


I've received many unkind messages that I needed to hear, and was made better off.


It's possible that every single one of those messages you needed to hear could also have been said kindly.


Absolutely. But I was better off hearing it unkindly than not hearing it at all. Also, and unkind message might jolt me into taking it more seriously.


Yeah, I get curious about the latter. I get it, those jolts appear to help sometimes, but ideally we'd treat it with the seriousness it deserves whether it was presented kindly or unkindly.


The problem is that mean speech correlates with more damaging behavior downstream, like violence or libel. So it's a conservative act of self protection to ghost/avoid individuals who use mean speech. I for one tend to avoid them. And I question how much I could actually learn from them if they have yet to develop a basic sense of social decency.

This is the base case. I understand that there are more extreme cases where you "win" in some specific ways if you keep stomaching mean speech.


There's a limit to the "meanness" one can stomach, however, without some aspect, such as mental health, going awry. In short bursts it may be useful, but in the long run, meanness is not sustainable.


It’s not that you should deal with mean people regularly, but if a mean person tells you a useful piece of information you shouldn’t dismiss it just because they were mean. After that you’re free to avoid interacting with them in the future (to the extent possible — if you can’t avoid them then it’s a moot point anyway and you should still seek to get as much from them as possible)


> The nicer you state your messages the more people will listen to you.

Most of the evidence I see directly contradicts this. The most successful people I know are generally very nice, but can turn on the assholishness very tactically.

People don't remember Feynman's O-ring demonstration because it was nice, they remember it because it was a nasty takedown in spite of it not being strictly correct.

After 30+ years, my father could get most misbehaving high school students to stop with just a quip that embarrassed them in front of their peers. That may have pissed off the student, but it was less disruptive to both class and the student than having to stop class, send the student to the administration, and invoke overzealous cover-your-ass administration punishment.

In most successful projects I have been involved with, a single person dragged it's bleeding, broken corpse across the finish line. And, I assure you, they weren't always being very nice at the end--generally justifiably so to people in the way.

And, being nice in politics got us where we are today--a resurgent set of right-wing demagogues in multiple countries.

Sorry, just not seeing it. I"m not saying "You should always be a raging asshole," but I see precious little evidence that being the "nicer" person turns out better in the long run.

Game theory, in fact, prefers tit-for-tat, no? Be nice and forgive, but do punish those who deserve it.


> The most successful people I know are generally very nice, but can turn on the assholishness very tactically

I have a manager's manager that's great to talk to, and one of his stated talents is he can "take a passive-aggressive situation and remove the passive component quickly and effectively". He's great.


Feynman's O-ring demonstration wasn't mean or nasty. It was calm, polite sharing of factual information.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Rwcbsn19c0


I think you're conflating politeness with empathy.

Shallow politeness may vary well lead to shallow politics, but empathy and actually being kind to other people is quite different in its outcomes.


Just because one receives more information doesn't mean it's beneficial for the listener. There are plenty of times where bad information (like false statements) can cause more damage than no information. Why listen to a mean speaker if the message can be just as negative as it is beneficial?


> So we'd expect those who demand others to be nice to be less well informed than those who can tolerate mean communication.

Only if you are demanding that others are nice to you. You should demand that others are nice to others.


Yep. That math teacher might reach more kids by adopting a different tone -- but the one who actually suffers is the kid who can't listen to harsh feedback.


Filtering out mean opinions might actually be a good heuristic though that more often leads you to the right answer


It might or it might not, but if you follow this particular untested heuristic, you may not have the opportunity to change your mind (because you're avoiding any useful mean messages that could change your mind).

Also, I would bet that your perception of the meanness of messages changes over time as you restrict yourself to inoffensive ones, with your personal overton window for what offends you shrinking.


I think a large part of this involves personal insecurities. I remember saying truthful things in very shitty ways during my younger years. But I also had a lot to prove, having just started out in life as an adult.

Somehow as I grew older (starting in my mid-30s I suppose), I became more and more aware of how I was affecting other people with my choice of words, and I had less and less reasons to "defeat" people in conversation. When victory is no longer the objective in a discussion, you tend relax, and can choose your words more carefully.


Similar experience here. I thought of us all more in terms of whether I & they were "doing it right", but I try now to see others as individuals of infinite worth, and remembering that things can be OK in the end, so I can hopefully think more about them as a person who (like me) is still learning, and has a unique background of experiences good & bad, likes/dislikes, choices, habits, ideals & dreams, and tremendous potential. I made notes on this for myself to review periodically (helpful for me at least), which I have also posted (at a simple site): http://lukecall.net/e-9223372036854745184.html .


I love "others as individuals of infinite worth"


The reality is that, unlike yourself, most people replace "learning new things" with "actively avoiding learning new things" at some point after leaving high school. Correcting one of these people can snap them out of their self-imposed rut just long enough to correct a bad habit.


I think there is some truth to what you say, but you would be more productive if you approached the "problem" from a place of empathy, like the article discusses.

A lot changes after high school/college which frankly makes learning more difficult.The nature of brain development changes, people acquire new priorities like jobs, children, and family. Additionally, they have more cognitive inertia to work against.

If you are implying that harsh attacks are required to snap them out of a deep set belief, and I don't agree and have never seen it work in the real world.


That might be true sometimes, but my experience is that more often it just alienates them (or lowers their confidence), which reduces chances of future success working together. I've found that certain mental habits I try to cultivate help me to say what is needed, if/when needed, in a way to move forward more and back less.


What are those mental habits?

Edit: it's the blog post you linked above? "How to see self & others: not as better/worse, but as individuals..." ?


Yes, especially if you follow links around (or start at the home page). If there is any page on the site where you would like more ideas or content added, let me know (the footer has an email address), as often I have much more written under that part of my private notes, just haven't taken the time to decide what more I should mark public for export and edit for readability. The last link on most pages has more info on how to read the site. Honest comments are much appreciated.

Edit: examples include, though I'm not sure if I have them concisely in these words (but I do have a ton of notes) are: to try to ask gentle questions instead of making strong statements whenever possible, to observe more than I did, to wait 72 hours thinking things over before making a negative/critical/possibly hurtful statement, to use the "compliment sandwich" (sincerely) to clarify that I respect/love them as a person and they are more important than the issue, to remember a quote from Pres. Thomas S. Monson to never make a problem to be solved more important than a person to be loved, to pray about how to help someone or if/how I should say things, and not forgetting that saying nothing can also be a selfish disservice (ie, finding the right balance: some things really do need to be said), and a routine to review habits at the right times, mentally practicing, including praying daily until I am confident I will remember the most important things and have a comfort level that my plan for the day is good (which has been helpful).

Note: I have not spent much time as a manager, but we have grandchildren, and I see that clear statements of what needs to happen can be required more often than the above suggests, but with thoughtfulness and caring toward others. I also know that if someone is a threat to others or the org., that boundaries need to be set, sometimes immediately, and there are consequences for performance and for choices, which should be made clear, and it is worth helping people develop and learn from where they are. Authority with accountability, choices to consequences, are relationships that should not be disrupted, it seems to me. I also try to remember that I have learned for myself that God lives and will judge us all, that this person who is learning might be my superior in the eyes of God (for all I know), might be more humble or have overcome more than I have or such (I am not qualified to judge), so I had better treat them with respect, and that God has commanded us to forgive everyone, so some things I can just let go. But trust is different from forgiveness, and should be based on real reasons of performance over time, not words or wishes. And my mistakes are forgivable also, based on repentance, and there is much more, which is why I made a web site....


test2 (ignore: trying to pick an old enough comment to see if replying makes hnnotify.xyz email me a reply notice, per https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16070949 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18845842 and maybe https://github.com/alexyorke/hn-sonar and more discussion at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21172406.)


Thanks for your reply and thoughts :- ) What you wrote can be helpful advice to me now soon.


I'm glad if it can be useful. My email is in the site footer if ever you want to discuss ideas.


> Somehow as I grew older (starting in my mid-30s I suppose), I became more and more aware of how I was affecting other people with my choice of words, and I had less and less reasons to "defeat" people in conversation. When victory is no longer the objective in a discussion, you tend relax, and can choose your words more carefully.

Without trying to invalidate what it is you're saying: Would it be false to say that, you have also realized that how you say things will have consequences on your personal reputation and may be subconsciously taking them into consideration as well?


Most definitely this would be a part of it, but only when dealing with people with whom you'll have recurring interactions, or within your tribe (where word gets around).

Online this tends to disappear (at least to our perception). When there's no face-to-face interaction, we seem to lose that reputation instinct rather quickly...


There’s nothing wrong with being known as the type of person you want to be. It’s a side effect of being a version of you that you like. Of being able to live with yourself.


Not OP but 100% no for me. The difference here really is motivational difference of empathy vs selfishness. I think if you've learned the latter there's still much to be gained, even if the actions in this specific case are the same.


I think this pokes at the heart of what it means to be mature. To become more aware of how what we do and say impacts other people and their perception of us.


Social-positively mature. One can be mature and stable in their decisions, obligations, ideas, etc, but give much less damn about how others feel. There are people‘s people and things’ people, the latter usually discriminated for not thinking about someone’s insecurities. I met strangers on the internet who could rip off everyone insecure around and then discuss a topic freely being sure that the opponents who remained are strong persons not changing their minds or truths, not playing logical tricks when being offended. It is somewhat beautiful when a group of commenters almost kills itself only to continue in peace. The world that triggers on a minuscle misstatements has to learn from them, don’t you think?

I would say that a heart of being mature is when you don’t care how someone says something, but that is out of trend right now.


you hit the nail in the head. I cannot resonate with this enough. The more and more I realise, I dont have to win a conversation, the more relaxed it gets.


Yes, I experienced something like that as well. I don’t feel I have anything to prove anymore; listening and choosing my words more carefully comes as a very natural approach to conversation now. I’m also a lot less interested in convincing people of things, though. It’s not important to me for others to see things as I do anymore.


> I remember saying truthful things in very shitty ways during my younger years

People prefer to be deceived than proven wrong.

That's why young people are often thought of as shitty, because they have far less sovrastructures.

The more people age the more they think that when they where young they were shitty and insecure, because they need to justify becoming conformists (they prefer to deceive themselves)


Interesting, I find the opposite conclusion.

I think it mostly has to do with other people's insecurities. If I say something like, "veganism is unhealthy" (because of lack of B12... yes I'm aware there are nuances), some vegans interpret that as a statement of opinion, rather than a statement of fact, or even as an attack on their lifestyle choices, because they are so involved with their egos.

I try to follow Paul Graham's dictum "keep your identity small", the saying "strong opinions weakly held" and/or I've extremely strong self-confidence (compared to most people), so I seem to be way less personally affected by statements like these (though I'm sure I have other triggers)...

Granted I'm only 30 so maybe that will change in a few years, but for the time being I've started to moderate my stated opinions to spare other people's feelings (though I still think it would be better if they grew more emotionally mature, but I realize that's unlikely to happen), to improve social relations and, frankly, also because it's getting more and more dangerous out there, with political correctness and/or China-driven character assassinations.


When you say things like, "Veganism is unhealthy," the issue is that it simply leaves no room in the conversation for the other person. Even just a slight change ("I understand that veganism is unhealthy") will almost certainly elicit a different response.

If you feel like you're often pushing people's buttons to the point of censoring yourself, maybe take a step back and see if you can communicate more kindly.


> "Veganism is unhealthy," the issue is that it simply leaves no room in the conversation for the other person.

Smoking is unhealthy, there's no possible conversation.

It is, if you prefer to smoke, it's your choice, no amount of reasoning is gonna change that.

Disclaimer: I'm a smoker, a not very involved one, but still one.


Smoking (or other forms of nicotine administration) is self-medication for a significant portion of the population, due to the not-completely-understood action of nicotinic receptors in the brain...

I think it's particularly harmful and sad to say there's no possible conversation about something when you are of two minds yourself!


> Smoking (or other forms of nicotine administration) is self-medication for a significant portion of the population

It is believed to be, but it isn't.

We could make the same argument for alcohol or even heroin, that stop a cough and relieves from physical pain.

> I think it's particularly harmful and sad to say there's no possible conversation

As a smoker, there is no possible conversation on the fact that smoking kills, cigarettes are killers, no matter the benefits one can take out of them, they are "responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers"

This is a fact that can only be acknowledged as true, even though personally many people decide to ignore this fact and smoke anyway (including myself).

But we smokers are simply wrong.


> I think it mostly has to do with other people's insecurities. If I say something like, "veganism is unhealthy" (because of lack of B12... yes I'm aware there are nuances), some vegans interpret that as a statement of opinion, rather than a statement of fact, or even as an attack on their lifestyle choices, because they are so involved with their egos.

I'll bite. It's true that a vegan diet can be unhealthy, and that it's wise to supplement with B12, but that doesn't mean a vegan diet is unhealthy.

This is like saying "an omnivorous diet is unhealthy because you don't eat enough vegetables". Sure, some people with omnivorous diets need to eat more vegetables, but that's not true of all people who eat omnivorous diets.

I'm not sure whether you would benefit from increasing your precision or accuracy, but the "veganism is unhealthy" line is plain wrong.


[flagged]


The calling out of the example of being bad was perfectly topical. tomp is espousing advice that is nominally supposed to imply that s/he's risen above petty emotional investment in arguments, when in fact it's clear s/he's making misleading and inflammatory statements that are going to be directly insulting to a certain audience. Not only should s/he moderate their opinions, but s/he should reflect on their substance and accuracy. "My understanding is that veganism can lead to a B12 deficiency which is unhealthy" would be much better.


I’m happy to discuss, and I even indicated as much (a.k.a. there’s nuance). But people would rather play emotional games and feign being offended. Just look of what I’m being accused - wanting to win, misleadig, ego investment, trying to offend, being an asshole, ... I think the replies here perfectly demonstrate my point, ironically.


You are absolutely being misleading. The statement "Veganism is unhealthy" is objectively wrong in the sense that it implies that it cannot be done healthily. Practically any diet or activity in general is unhealthy if proper precautions are not taken. In the case of veganism, the proper precaution happens to be B12 supplementation. You clearly know this as indicated by your disclaimer about 'nuance'. You are making an equivalent statement to me saying "You are making asshole comments (but there is some nuance)" - there is an element of truth to the statement, but it is misleading and first and foremost designed to create an emotional reaction.

Edit: My last point is clearly demonstrated if the immediate downvote I received after posting this was from you.


You can't downvote replies to your own comments.

> The statement "Veganism is unhealthy" is objectively wrong

The statement "vaccination is safe" is also objectively wrong (it's a medical procedure therefore it carries risk; the more correct statement is "vaccination is risky, but the tradeoffs are extremely worth it"), but saying it wouldn't "create an emotional reaction" in most people (except in anti-vaxxers, which AFAIK are a huge minority, and pretty much everyone would agree that they are extremely ego-invested in their opinion) (saying that it's wrong, however, might).


>You can't downvote replies to your own comments.

TIL.

Anyway, my aim isn't to debate you on specific subjects like veganism or vaccines. Just be aware that stating things in a blunt, opinionated way can have undesirable effects on your communications, regardless of your intentions.


Eh, the upstream comment used bogus incendiary flamebait as an "example" so yes, people are going to reply to it. They might as well have gone with "the earth is flat". It's a show-stopper that challenges the veracity of the rest of their post. They aren't being "right but rude" when they are wrong about such a basic statement.

For example, B12 is in meat because animals are supplemented with it, like cobalt added to their feed. Humans can supplement directly.

It's like thinking you have to drink vitamin D fortified milk or iodine fortified salt to get vitamin D and iodine, and then asserting people who don't consume either must be unhealthy.


[flagged]


The irony..

Maybe it's best to install an add-on which blurs veganism out for you, if it is so uninteresting that even mentioning it offends you.


If I could find an extension that blocked the thousands of "ackshually" reply threads or replies like yours that miss the point entirely I would be so happy.


I realize and appreciate your point, but are you willing to consider the possibility that there's something important going on here that you may be overlooking? "Stop writing irrelevant stuff, just stop it" suggests not, but I try to not make assumptions.

> If I say something like, "veganism is unhealthy" (because of lack of B12... yes I'm aware there are nuances), some vegans interpret that as a statement of opinion, rather than a statement of fact, or even as an attack on their lifestyle choices, because they are so involved with their egos.

tomp wisely acknowledges, within brackets, that there are nuances, but statements like "veganism is unhealthy" are incredibly vague, and the very real nuances will be automatically constructed and appended to the message (and attributed to the speaker) by the listener's brain, typically without their conscious knowledge, and often in a manner not to your liking. Should people be like this? Who knows. Are they like this? Of course, and we all know it when the topic of conversation is psychology, but how easy it is to forget this when the topic is something else.

"they are so involved with their egos" seems to me of key importance, but it's so easy to forget that we are all involved with our egos. I listen to a fair amount of lectures by experienced Buddhists, people who devote their lives to observing their own minds, and a recurring theme that arises is that even with the substantial discipline and skills they've acquired in that field, they are still regularly fooled by their egos.

> but for the time being I've started to moderate my stated opinions to spare other people's feelings (though I still think it would be better if they grew more emotionally mature, but I realize that's unlikely to happen)

"feelings" is a tricky term in this context. What does it mean, really? Sometimes, it accurately refers to simplistic, emotional, low-information emotional reactions, as opposed to logical thinking. But is this always the case? Might there be times that it is perceived that this is what's happening in someone else, but in reality there is an unseen, complex multi-dimensional (nuanced) analysis taking place that happens to come to a different (and not incorrect) conclusion than the one (also not incorrect, considering the implicitly assumed nuances) that you or I might have formed?

Getting along can be amazingly difficult even in the simplest of situations (say, a family or team consisting of only 4 or 5 people, who mostly have aligned interests). But look at how the complexity, interconnectedness, and technical capabilities of the world has exploded in the last 50, 20, or even 10 years. And we're managing all of this complexity with largely the same political and psychological tools that we used when half of us were farming the land, with the addition of some "weaponized" psychological capabilities and techniques (mass media, internet, machine learning) thrown into the mix to make things even more interesting.

Considering all this, how reasonable does this common "just look at the facts and agree with me already" attitude seem?


> I have the least patience for these pedantic/off-topic replies that completely distract from the central thesis of the parent post.

like your post?

There are far more fictional or at least many times less controversial examples to made, the OP "dug his grave" them self.


GP's larger point is fair enough. But it would be telling, and germane to this discussion, if it turned out that many of their experiences were due to the fact that remarks they consider to be just "statements of fact" are more contentious than they realize.


(1) Heme-iron is really the only good way to get iron and it's only in meat (2) You're not really going to get carnitine from vegetables (3) You're going to have a really hard time eating enough calories and having balanced ratios of macro-nutrients. Beans and rice which have protein also have tons of carbs and no fat. Good luck with that.

I've seen literally dozens and dozens of videos and posts of really really malnourished people advocating veganism. It's pretty much too hard to execute for the average person.


But “veganism is unhealthy” is an opinion. Your parenthetical about the lack of B12 indicates that you know this, and that the topic is more nuanced. If you don’t normally qualify that statement, why did you choose to do so here?

Frankly, I don’t believe that you don’t mean it as an attack on the lifestyle choices of others, and I’m not surprised that people get defensive.


[flagged]


Agreed, it is a false claim stated as fact.


correct. my vegan in-laws, have been vegan for 40 years now and they are in very good condition for their age. Saying it's "unhealthy" with no nuance is a ridiculous statement. It is in a no-way a fact. People that speak like this give people that speak in facts a bad name.


My uncle has been smoking for 50 years, suffering no consequences whatsoever.

It must be because cigarettes are good for the health.

/sarcasm

That's exactly why speaking the truth is fundamental, being kind is simply a plus: we all do reckless stuff in life, we all base some choice on assumptions or beliefs, it's usually not that bad, but it can be and someone needs to say it.

Just the fact that we are discussing about an unhealthy diet, that killed millions of people in poor countries, because in rich countries we have doctors and pharmacies and a lot of ways to overcome its dangers and we can't agree that a fact is a fact and choices are choices, proves that being kind before being right can be dangerous.

Doctors will never say "you should eat vegan because it's better for your health", they will say "you should remove this or that from your diet" if something is wrong (yes, bacon is unhealthy too, coke in unhealthy as well etc. etc.) and if you decide to go vegan they will say "it won't probably affect your health, but be careful. Also I want to visit you again in a couple of months".

That's just what it is, unhealthy means not healthy, it doesn't mean deadly at contact!

But people are more sensitive about their choices than their health conditions. People think that their choices defines them, they resist to changes and to facts that challenge their status, because it shutters their reality and trigger their insecurities.

It's not personal, If I say "veganism is unhealthy" it' because it's historically correct and still a cause of malnutritions around the World, not because I think vegans are stupid.

I think they are adults making unhealthy choices (I hope knowing it), just like driving too fast, drinking too much, living a sedentary life or, like my uncle, smoking for 50 years.

My dad worked in lung oncology and doctors couldn't stop some people from smoking even after they had to surgically remove one of the lungs because tumor destroyed it.

Lucky them in Italy healthcare is paid by everybody's taxes or we would have more than a few Walter White.

A popular similar episode happened in the UK, a former very popular soccer player, George Best, had a liver transplant because he drank too much. Even after that he kept drinking and it led to complications and a liver infection that killed him at the age of 59. Few days before he died he asked to be photographed in the hospital and the photo published with the message "Don't die like me".

It took him 59 years, a liver transplant and an horrible death at relatively young age to understand he was wrong.

Do you think nobody was kind, empathetic or nice with him before about his alcoholism problem?

But how many more were nice with him just to take advantage of his glory, fame, and, of course, money?

Being nice alone serves no purpose, being empathetic or nice, sometimes requires "not nice" manners.

If somebody confronted him and actually forced him to quit, he could well be alive and that liver could have saved someone who deserved it more than a repentless alcoholic.

We should also ask to ourselves: why is it so important for some people to convince others?

What purpose does it serve to have tools (empathy, kindness) to win people trust (they value the messenger), when we have tools (logic, fact checking) to evaluate the actual message?

Back to cigarettes.

Hironically my dad was also an heavy smoker, and reduced it a lot when my mother was pregnant of my sister (she had medical problems while being pregnant of me) and completely quit when my sister was born, because she suffered from asthma.

He went from 3 packs a day to zero in a few months and has been cigarettes free for 43 years now.

He knew he was wrong, he just had no reason to change, he probably thought that without cigarettes he would have lost self-confidence. My mother has always been more kind than right, but she couldn't convince him to quit, no matter how she tried.

Your partner shouldn't convince you to quit smoking or drinking when you have little kids, you either understand it on your own or they make you. There's no amount of discussing the matter that can be considered acceptable. There should be no space for being nice or empathic or reasonable or compromising.

But my dad also taught me that "you smoke years of your life away" (just like Bezos with his grandma, it's true, you really do...) and I have never touched a cigarette before I was in my late 20s, not because I ws scared, but because I thought it was stupid!

I eventually started smoking to make breaks at work, admittedly one of the worst decision of my life, but I like it and keep smoking from time to time, no matter how nicely people advice me to stop.

p.s. many in the comments are assuming that people talking straight haven't tried being kind or understanding before.


> Just the fact that we are discussing about an unhealthy diet, that killed millions of people in poor countries

I believe the reason these people died was lack of food in general, not veganism.


“Unhealthy” is not an intrinsic, observable feature; it’s a label we use to describe things that cross some arbitrary threshold of having deleterious effects. Calling something “unhealthy” is the textbook definition of an opinion, my dude.


Imagine that I start off a conversation with you along the lines of 'meat is murder', or 'taxation is theft'.

Both of those statements have some element of truth to them, but they're obviously incendiary, as is your 'veganism is unhealthy'.

For the most part it sounds like you're just lacking tact. I used to be that guy too. Probably still am, to some extent.


> Both of those statements have some element of truth to them,

No, they don't.

They are supercharged propaganda.

> but they're obviously incendiary, as is your 'veganism is unhealthy'.

Not at all.

Saying veganism is unhealthy is stating an opinion shared by many nutrition expert, it says nothing about vegans, it is just what it is.

meat is murder contains a judgement: if meat is murder, you are a murderer, if taxation is theft, who collects taxes is a thief.

I can accept "you eat corpses" because it's true, I don't eat animals alive, they are already dead when I eat them, but it is also imprecise, because I eat just bits of the corpses, not the entire carcass.


> Saying veganism is unhealthy is stating an opinion shared by many nutrition expert,

But also an opinion disagreed with by many nutrition experts


Yes, a minority of them share the same opinion.

A majority of them studied and proved its unhealthy effects.

Unless you wanna say that every opinion counts, no matter the opinion, we can safely assume that being vegan is like drinking or having unprotected sex or speeding.

It won't probably kill you, it will even improve life for some, but it's not something one should take lightly like "it has no effects".


How do you know it is a minority?


You seem like the prime example of someone who has to win the conversation.

Purposefully harsh wordings that require parenthesized nuance even here are hardly the listeners fault. If there's a breakdown in communication because you're being pithy and sharp that's a problem you can choose to fix.


Are you open to the possibility that even your deeply held beliefs, like “veganism is unhealthy” could be wrong? I have very frequently blundered into defending a false assertion for far longer than I should have, especially in work settings where you never know when you might meet someone much, much more well informed about a subject than yourself.

That burned me a lot when I was younger. Intellectual humility has never failed to serve me. I wish I was more humble about my strongly held opinions (that I thought were facts) when I was younger.


Maybe because you're mentioning one group specifically. Any diet can be unhealthy. The fact that Vegans need to be a bit more careful doesn't make it inherently more unhealthy.


No, it's just an example. Probably a poor example. In reality I don't often meet vegans, but people get upset for all kinds of reasons / statements, most commonly for political ones which are to be avoided on HN (and real life) (and are quite easy to avoid, if you want to).

Another (non-political) one that comes up fairly often, is that I don't think it's reasonable to congratulate people when they decide to get married... it's a decision after all, nothing to do with achievement and/or luck (for most people I know at least, who aren't extremely lonely to the extent that finding anyone that tolerates them is an achievement... in which case, "congratulations" would be more in order), and if anything, they should be warned (as many marriages end in failure). But if you say that, you're the asshole.


You don’t say congratulations to newlyweds because they overcame adversity and conquered something, you say congratulations to newlyweds because that’s the customary way of communicating to them that you are happy for them. Like so many things, it’s not literal. It’d be like refusing to say “I’m sorry for your loss” when a friend’s parent dies, and then making a point of explaining to them that the reason you’re not going to say that to them is because you didn’t personally kill their parent therefore you have nothing to apologize for.


“It pains me to see what you are going through. I’ll be there for you if you need me.”

No customs, no euphemisms, and to the point.

There is a way out of the conundrum you outlined.


There was never any conundrum. "Sorry" can be correctly used in both an apology or in expressing sorrow. In saying, "I'm sorry for your loss," the context makes it clear that the speaker is not penitent, but sympathetic.


I truly mean no offense but you kind of sound like an asshole.

I think these are perfectly acceptable thoughts to have but in the context of interpersonal relationships and society as a whole, these statements just seem confrontational and unnecessary.


So which diet is OK to be claimed as unhealthy without being considered as confrontational?

Maybe published on academica journals is the only way to do it?

But again, if you recommend a journal article about how beef is unhealthy to a beef-lover, you can still kind of like an asshole?


> I truly mean no offense but you kind of sound like an asshole.

I’m curious if you will elaborate. What your parent commenter said about failing marriages is factual and is supported by statistics —- for decades.

You saying that somebody _seems_ to be an asshole however, I see nothing factual about that statement.

Would you try expanding on your position?


Nobody's disagreeing with the statistics, they're disagreeing that statistical likelihood of success is a good criteria for determining whether to congratulate somebody on something or not.

I suspect that if we used that criteria, we'd end up reinforcing a lot of existing trends. For example, my daughter gets into a computer science program, but I know that most women don't end up getting jobs in that field, so I withhold congratulations. Why are you yelling? I'm right! I'm backed by decades of statistics.


What I'm saying has nothing to do with whether something is factual or not.

We say congratulations to people when they get engaged because it is nice to do so.


Someone to Tomp: "I have brain cancer."

Tomp: "Chances are you will die within the year. Just stating the facts hurp, don't know why everybody I talk to is so sensitive."


If you find that people often get upset when you talk to them then maybe you should look for the common factor?

Of course if you're "warning" people when they proudly and happily announce that they're getting married then you're the asshole. It's a super strange superiority complex to have. I got over this "social constructs are dumb and we should only express ourselves in objective facts like Mr Spock" phase when I was in high school, I encourage you to do the same. I remember explaining to some friends that having a party for the New Year was dumb because, after all, it was just a random point in the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. Ow, the cringe.


I don't think you understand marriage if you don't think it's an achievement.

If you give the people in question the benefit of the doubt, you would assume that they understand the gravity of the interpersonal and legal commitment they had made. Building up the trust to make that commitment is hard work.

It'd be like if somebody just made a commitment to donate periodically to charity. Presumably, those donations required that person to establish themselves financially to the extent that they can be reasonable sure that they will be able to keep their promise. So even though it's a "decision," it's closely related to an achievement.

Or maybe this illustrates it more clearly: You'd consider it an achievement to reach a 50th anniversary, correct? As you say, "many marriages end in failure." So why not a premarital relationship resulting in marriage? That doesn't always happen either. Most premarital relationships end in breaking up, not marriage.

So, as long as we're treating these people with maximum respect, we can see that:

1. Getting to the point where they were ready to commit to marriage was a challenging process. Big commitments require stable foundations, and stable foundations aren't free.

2. There is reason to hope that marriage will be a positive thing for the two who have decided to engage in it.

1 and 2 together are sufficient cause for congratulations, so they are in order.


I am married and I agree with the OP. I don't see it as a huge achievement and people who do are the ones who, in my experience, like to spend spend way too much (IMO) on a wedding. But we're proving his point really by discussing it!


Having experiences that suggest that an achievement is likely very minor should not be a cause for withholding congratulations, or any other social pleasantry. For example, in my experience, just being accepted to college at all is really not much of an achievement. There are plenty of colleges that will accept virtually anybody who applies. However, if a friend or coworker were to announce one morning, "I was just accepted to $LOCAL_COMMUNITY_COLLEGE," I would congratulate them. Maybe the hardest part for them was applying in the first place. Maybe it was harder for them to just apply to that college than it would be for you or I to get accepted into Harvard. We can't know, so we err on the side of warmth and encouragement.

As for,

> But we're proving his point really by discussing it!

I'm curious. How so?


> I don't think it's reasonable to congratulate people when they decide to get married... it's a decision after all, nothing to do with achievement and/or luck

‘Congratulate” has additional meanings: can be about success and good luck or simply happiness linked to some particular event. You share their joy, that’s all. Even if you don’t think they really have motives to be happy :-)


I don't think the problem is other people's egos, but your own.


You are right, but you are not kind. Such arguments don't seem to work on people who have problem with egos or lack social awareness/emapthy.


You could look at being in a relationship and making that decision as an achievement. Although most of the reason for congratulating the couple is to show support. Otherwise you’re just being opinionated about how much effort is deserving of being worthwhile. Which is fine as long as you accept people’s reactions.

Like you could decide nothing short of an Olympic record is worth congratulating but this is pretty obviously very socially inept.

Edit: Basically on aggregate there is nothing special about it but it’s important to the people involved and how plussed or non-plussed you feel about it should relate to your relationship with them rather than how impressed you are personally about it.


anything in life is ridiculous if you look at it a certain way. why the heck would you sit in one place staring at glass and poking your fingers against plastic all day? how dumb is that??!>>!

perspectives like this have an ideal place in humor, not in criticism. among friends in a trusting and relaxed environment, go to town on how silly we all are. do it in a funny way and you get cool points. otherwsie, not so much.

(also, you congratulate the engaged because they've made a lifelong commitment to another person, which is a hard thing to do).


You seem to be operating with a different definition of the word congratulations than everyone else is.


You and I would be friends if we met irl


Haha, yeah, you're right. I'm the same with childbirth, getting pregnant and birthdays.. I'm probably quite like you IRL.


Spoken like someone who has never suffered through trying to get pregnant! It’s not as easy as it sounds.

For both my kids we had another pregnancy prior that ended in miscarriage. The first one when you’re excited and the whole thing is new was particularly emotionally hard. Lying in bed with your partner mourning your lost future hard. Most parents wait until after the most dangerous period to announce their pregnancy to the world for this reason. There are a lot of hopes and dreams wrapped up in a very uncertain time.

There’s a whole bunch of luck involved, particularly when people start having to do things like IVF and as I said to the OP congratulating people is often about showing support. It can be an emotionally fraught time leading to physically and emotionally tough times ahead. Pregnancy, childbirth and raising kids is no picnic. The glib answer is “well you chose it” but that doesn’t make it any easier nor less worthy of support.


> Any diet can be unhealthy

Yes, exactly, so if I say "eating candies is unhealthy" I don't think there's gonna be any group jumping at my throat.

Maybe is because candy lovers are not insecure cultists.

They know it's a matter of taste and personal belief, not something with a more profound meaning.


> “as a statement of opinion, rather than a statement of fact”

I think your prior statement about ‘nuances’ discounts this as a fact. Perhaps your strong opinions are not entirely facts?


I think what matters more than kindness is simply allowing others to save face. If being wrong incurs a social cost, than any disagreement is going to become more heated, which may be detrimental to the community where this is happening.

Of course, sometimes it makes sense to impose a social cost for being wrong, but that's different from raising the stakes of every disagreement unintentionally.


Let the other person save face. Nothing diminishes the dignity of a man quite like an insult to his pride. If we don't condemn our employees in front of others and allow them to save face, they will be motivated to do better in the future and confident that they can.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Win_Friends_and_Influen...


Exactly! I've never read the book, but perhaps I've been influenced by people who have.


> Nothing diminishes the dignity of a man quite like an insult to his pride

This makes me realize how much the notion of “pride” applied to people feels such a dirty word by today’s standards.

Being proud of something, having pride in doing something is highly valued. Pride towards ourself is ridden with corrosive imagery from the cold war area, undue self boasting and narcism. I am happy with humility and openness becoming a better valued trait.


A book on Nonviolent Communication helped me a lot with conflicts. When studying it, one of the first things you learn that's really useful is how to not evoke defensiveness (or aggression) in the other party. A whole realm of new possibilities opens up; sometimes you have trouble believing you're talking to the same person.


Do you remember the title of the book?


It's Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication, third edition https://www.amazon.com/dp/1892005034


How about 'Nonviolent Communication' ?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.


It’s for this reason that, when I was still on Facebook, I would take arguments to private messages when they were either getting heated, or embarrassing for my counterpart. It would immediately change the tone of the interaction, as it was no longer a performance, it was a discussion.


The problem with Facebook and other shithole social media is that these networks promote Pavlov strategy which is actually really awful for any kind of discussion. Before the internet, using this strategy socially was called "gossip" and rightly recognized as damaging. It would be very interesting to see the effect of every post on Facebook having a big red banner above it that said, "THIS IS GOSSIP" (before the utility of that UI wore off like old school banner ads). People are incentivized to open with "exploitative" cheap shot comments in order to increase the largesse of their social signaling. This is why I flatly refuse to engage in certain kinds of "discussions" unless in a private group or chat or after limiting the audience of a post (and stating in the opening sentence that the audience is limited and therefore devaluing the post's capacity for exploitation by others). And we're back to the basic trust problem.


You can shear a sheep over and over, you can only skin it once.

How you say you are right matters.


Yes, but I know too much about saving face, and I don't like how it's growing in the west.

About costs for being wrong, last time I quoted a RFC about a topic I know well and said to someone that their information was outdated, I ended up downvoted as usual - even more in the reply, while providing a link to the RFC and even apologizing for insisting that the right information should be spread because how important it is - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21430096

In the end, I decided to stop caring. Now I stick to being factual. If I hurt someone sentiments and do not allow them to save face, so be it. Let the objective truth decide, social consequences (like karma) be damned.


Why not be factual without being aggressive?

> This is factually wrong. Your information is deprecated.

...

> Please read the outlined section 3-3 of RFC 8314 from 2018 that explain just that if you don't believe me.

You both started and ended your factual information with hostile phrasing.

You’re within your rights, of course, to keep being hostile with facts, but it’s possible to be both factual and friendly.


I am the person whom ‘1996’ corrected. I was glad to be corrected, and I upvoted the correcting comment. Even though I was of course bothered by having been proven wrong, and the phrasing was a mite adversarial, I disagree with those who may have downvoted the correcting comment.


And FYI, I didn't feel you were being negative or anything, and I don't think you have the ability downvote to -3!

I took the time to answer to tell you about deprecation because I thought it was worth sharing given your message, and that you may find that funny (double deprecation, bringing it back from the dead!) as I did when I learned that.

However, our exchange was judged negatively by other people. In the end, I still give up. I can't please them. I don't understand their culture or how it is adversarial even after going though the discussion here (especially about the "funny" part).

I don't want to watch what I say or talk in fear on ow I will be misunderstood. This is not a dictatorship. But "inclusive" language start to feels this way to me.


> In the end, I still give up. I can't please them. I don't understand

I would hate to lose you. But you’ve got to keep up with the times. It used to be, for example, acceptable to call any theoretical person “him” if it was a person in a stereotypically male role. Now it’s not acceptable, and we all have had to adjust. When I was a kid, it used to be accepted and normal to make jokes about racial stereotypes, and most people only thought it was funny and didn’t assume racism of either the person making the joke or of anyone laughing. Now it’s different, and we cringe at the terrible things which we then accepted uncritically.

It’s a bit like that when cultures change.

> This is not a dictatorship. But "inclusive" language start to feels this way to me.

There are two different things going on, one mostly good – i.e. the societal move to less adversarial language – and one bad, the social media incentives which creates an outrage driven attention culture, which drives people to, like Cardinal Richelieu, scrutinize every tweet and find something in those words to cancel them.

You shouldn’t be afraid of the latter to a degree that you reject the former.


While I recognize that the language used here would normally be read as aggressive, I don't really understand why.

When someone speaks to me this way, especially in written form, I make it a point to assume noble intent. They are trying to communicate efficiently. I think it's an especially common style among programmers who are accustomed to "talking" to computers all day.

Still, I try not to use this kind of language myself. Sometimes you need to be inefficient in order to communicate efficiently. Leadership of many organizations has to fly across the world to have conversations face to face to accomplish efficient communication sometimes. It's pretty paradoxical!


I think that people call ‘communicating efficiently’ is full of phrases the message would actually be better off without.

In this case, leaving out ‘This is factually wrong’, makes the message a whole lot nicer and doesn’t change anything about the content.


I have seen far worse passive-aggressiveness here (most often it's a variation of "why anyone would think X is beyond me" or "You do X ? I do Y because of reasons and I would certainly never do X but do it if you want.").

It might be a globish issue but I don't see any hostilities in OP's comments. [0]

> > This is factually wrong. Your information is deprecated.

How would you phrase that ?

[0] but I also believe that HN has members from many different cultures and lot of what is being discussed suffer from too much variety in communication style.


Interestingly, that's no longer correct.

Historically, yes 465 has been deprecated several years ago. But as many ISP and the largest email services kept using it, the IANA had to change its tune and 'resurrected' port 465 in this RFC.

It is funny: the RFC itself describes that as a wart, but reality is a harsh mistress.

Section 3-3 of RFC 8314 from 2018 has the details.


Well, "Interestingly" (what?) and "It is funny but" sound patronizing to my ears. I'd use that language if I wanted to rub someone's nose into it and subtly hint they are stupid to other participants, especially at that point of the conversation.


"It is funny [...] but [...]" is quoted from the original comment.


Yeah, I saw that. It's the combination that ticks me off.


Doesn’t that mean that you set out to interpret messages in that way?

I guess this is the reverse of nonviolent communication. If you always speak and are used to communicating agressively, then people that are being nice suddenly sound condescending.


> Doesn’t that mean that you set out to interpret messages in that way?

Yes, it does. But then it's still up to me to try to overcome my first reaction. I don't always succeed.

> I guess this is the reverse of nonviolent communication. If you always speak and are used to communicating agressively, then people that are being nice suddenly sound condescending.

"Always" ? Interesting choice of word when talking about non violent communication :).

Snark aside, I don't see myself as communicating aggressively. I may be wrong. I certainly don't put myself in the camp of "people who tell it like it is" though.

Also, faking being nice can really be annoying.


> Snark aside, I don't see myself as communicating aggressively. I may be wrong. I certainly don't put myself in the camp of "people who tell it like it is" though.

Ah. I didn’t mean you in particular, and not necessarily aggressive, just the opposite of nonviolent.

I just never considered this from the point of view of the other side before.


Note: I left the middle sentences entirely alone because they had a friendly tone.


> How would you phrase that ?

One way that comes to mind is along the lines of “It was deprecated, true, but it’s actually back in favor now because...”


> How would you phrase that ?

Maybe "I am not entirely sure I feel convinced that nobody would disagree with this description providing sufficient convergence with what might be argued is a valid way to interpret reality". Or maybe "that's being disingenuous", another classic of sophisticated kindness.


I disagree with that style of writing. Your example sentence comes off as heavily passive voiced rather than sophisticated kindness.


I agree, I was being sarcastic. I find this overly flowery and passive language more dishonest than polite, because it means the same thing, but with added plausible deniability/indirection, and more useless work for the reader.

"This is wrong" always implies "IMO/to my knowledge" anyway, and is functionally equivalent to "I feel / it could be argued that this might be wrong" and all that, except that the writer has the courtesy to speak up when they are ready to actually express an opinion, not just to allude to the possibility of someone, possibly them, expressing an opinion or making an argument.


> "This is wrong" always implies "IMO/to my knowledge" anyway, and is functionally equivalent to "I feel / it could be argued that this might be wrong" and all that, except that the writer has the courtesy to speak up when they are ready to actually express an opinion, not just to allude to the possibility of someone, possibly them, expressing an opinion or making an argument.

They are not "functionally equivalent" if they effect the reader in two different ways.

I would infer an aggressive attitude on the part of the speaker which makes the meat of the message more difficult to parse. Should I, for my part, try to get better at parsing messages delivered in such a format? Sure. But the question of whether or not you want to be heard still leaves some onus on the speaker to consider their audience.

But it's complicated, right? There seem to be quite a few people in this thread that strongly prefer one over the other.


It sounds like you believe that you're simply delivering the unvarnished, objective truth, but this method is just a different (and less-persuasive) type of varnish.

Even if there's some "protocol overhead", a more effective communication/persuasion style benefits both parties. Plus, it's more fun!


I'm a "less fortunate, mistaken, and afraid" immigrant living in Canada.

It would feel so refreshing to get the truth straight sometimes, instead of the oh-so-subtle and gentle ways Canadians have of dealing with clashing cultural behaviours.

The end result is I don't know what I'm doing wrong until years later, because so many think the right thing to do is coddle me.

Many of us want to adapt, and if we don't have access to the ground truth, it's a painfully slow process that is simply holding us back from fully integrating into society.

Canadians: I love you guys, but please give it to us straight.


As a Canadian who lived outside the country for a few years, I would say that most Canadians* are ignorant of the unwritten rules that underpin our culture, just due to the fact it’s hard to see the arbitrary choices that lead to our current society without deeply experiencing another.

It’s not malicious, it’s misunderstanding.

Ask for feedback on your perceived missteps (prefer “what” and “how” questions), and you’ll likely get answers. I also believe that it will lead to a learning opportunity for both parties.

* I would add that you could replace “Canadian” with any identity that has any sense of isolation.


This resonates. As a nerdy adolescent in BC, I couldn't understand why I sometimes felt gaslit and confused after seemingly polite exchanges. Moving to east coast USA fixed it--I'll take candor and tough love over passive aggression any day. I recognize it's not for everyone, but this worked for me.


This is an interesting point-of-view to me because I've lived on the east coast of the USA my entire life, roughly split between two places. Between that and the changes that come with aging, I have mixed feelings about this point that I don't fully understand myself. I'll try and explain anyway though.

I like the intent delivered clearly over roundabout ways of getting there. It can weaken the meaning otherwise to not try and be more direct. So clear intent is good. And of course I dislike are when people either make criticism personal, but I think most people feel that way.

What I dislike the most are when people drop their criticism off for you and let you deal with it. It's weird to not have any room for questions. It's hard to work with that and improve on the criticism without being able to discuss it. I also think I find it jarring how few people express any sort of self-doubt either, or room for the possibility that they may be misunderstanding something causing their criticism.

The interesting thing is that sometimes people are willing to help out, but they won't directly say they are, or even drop a subtle hint that they are. If you sort of go in head-first and just ask the dumb questions you may find they're very helpful. But that lack-of clarity is bothering to me.


Thank you for these insights. I see what you mean--drive-by criticism is just rude.


I once saw a research talk at MIT, where the visiting professor ended up in tears. I've also seen a couple of talks, where a question at the end was phrased so "softly", that if you weren't already close to seeing the fatal flaw in the work, you might miss that it was pointed out. I've wondered what the right thing is. Kind to the person, but unsparing with the ideas, seems... hard to execute here. The person being so invested in their ideas.

And yet, I once saw someone doing a community outreach road trip. Maybe from NSF, for Next Generation Science Standards. She was awesome. As in, I sat there in the audience, and was awed. Some of the questions asked were emotional, and angry, and too confused to even be wrong. Where I would boggle, and could think of little more than "okayyyyyy... moving on". And yet she fielded them with empathy, respect, and grace, extracting value for both the questioner and the audience. I've long wished I'd tagged the event, so I could find and ask her, how does one train to do that? I still don't know, but I was left with a new presumption, that no question is so broken, that a sufficiently skilled respondent cannot address it with productive kindness.


Recently I was berated on a forum for my "overuse" of "please" and "thanks" when talking to someone who represented a company.

The angry person argued we shouldn't be so "submissive" and are perfectly in our right to be demanding etc

My response: "It took me less time and effort to type please than it took you to get angry and write all this about it."


What fascinates me about it is the psychology of it all.

That guy had nothing to gain, nor anything to lose, in your interaction with the other party. So why was he willing to invest so much clearly emotional energy into it? It's almost like he wanted to have the aggressive interaction simply for aggression's sake. Like he needed to feed on the aggressive emotions or something? There just doesn't really seem to be any sense in this whole thing?


There's a certain type of person who sees niceness or agreeability as weaknesses, and not strategies for cohesion.


Nah, it's signaling. Being nice, to the angry person, undermined the social cohesion of the people asking for change from the company and marked the person being nice as a potential weak link that the company could placate to divide and conquer the opposition.


That's pretty much it. They wanted a mob.

Not getting a mob means everyone goes home, bored, probably alone, and doesn't get to participate in making changes.


People have got to stop using the term "political correctness" to mean two entirely different things.

There's a Venn diagram of free speech and respect. It's entirely possible to have both. Some people rightly criticize PC when it's about inhibiting free speech. But other people wrongly criticize PC when they just want to speak disrespectfully.


This topic is something I think about a lot. While I am generally for kindness and empathy, there is something dangerously patronizing about this point of view. Quote:

> If you can’t be kind, if you won’t empathize, then you’re not on the team. That team is Team Humanity, where we are all in this thing together. Where we are all flawed and imperfect. Where we treat other people’s point of view as charitably as we treat our own. Where we are civilized and respectful and, above all, kind to each other—particularly the less fortunate, the mistaken, and the afraid.

That bit at the end is the crux of the matter: Instead of having an honest, fact based (yet perhaps heated) discussion, it purports a "civilized and respectful" treatment because the other side is to be seen as "less fortunate, the mistaken, and the afraid". This is hiding an assumption of superiority towards the other side. They are flawed and imperfect due to their unfortunate circumstances so we have to nobly accept them as such and be tolerant about their points-of-view. This to me seems like a worse, more insidious form of bigotry: Instead of have a leveled argument, where you risk hurting the other side by calling them out for being wrong (or dumb) but also allow them to answer back (and perhaps discovering you are wrong or dumb), you deem them 2nd class, in need of special attention and care. Too fragile/delicate/uneducated to be able to handle a direct response one would give to someone they see as "on their level" or above.

Of course context matters and no sweeping generalizations can be made, but (as per the example in the article) making your grandma cry by articulating her self-inflicted harm due to smoking is, imo, much kinder and empathic than being "understanding" and keep quite maintaining her short-term good mood.


If you're getting decent at being kind and empathizing, you naturally won't end up being patronizing. Being patronizing is a lack of empathy: you're not understanding the others point of view. And, of course, it's insulting, which is unkind.

In terms of promoting kindness, I wouldn't worry much about that. If you're trying to be kind but end of patronizing, you probably just need some more practice.

Anyway, there's definitely a difference between coddling and being kind while telling the truth. It's not necessarily easy to find, especially since it often depends heavily on the other person's perspective (hence all the talk of empathy).

> ...making your grandma cry by articulating her self-inflicted harm due to smoking is, imo, much kinder and empathic than being "understanding" and keep quite maintaining her short-term good mood.

I don't think that's true. I suppose you're thinking that confronting Grandma with the facts will help her quit.

However, it's likely she knows those facts, yet has been unable to quit anyway (hence the bursting into tears -- you're reminding her of her failure, her accelerated mortality, and the associated anxiety and feelings about failure). So you aren't helping by providing her with facts she already has. You're only making your Grandma miserable. A better approach to helping your grandma might be to encourage her about cessation treatments and focus on what she has to gain (not what she's already lost).


>Of course context matters and no sweeping generalizations can be made, but (as per the example in the article) making your grandma cry by articulating her self-inflicted harm due to smoking is, imo, much kinder and empathic than being "understanding" and keep quite maintaining her short-term good mood.

That is only true if you believe making the grandma cry is in some way productive or helpful. If not, it is simply cruel.

That said, I think this example isn't the best for the article's message.


>After spending years and millions of words and hours of video on this, we’ve had almost zero success. Why? Because you can’t reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into. No one responds well to having their identity attacked. No argument made in bad faith—that the person on the other side is a moron or a dupe or a racist or a snowflake—is ever going to be received in good faith.

Unfortunately it seems that even compassionate arguments made in good faith are ineffective for most people. As the author states: "you can’t reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into", and most people don't reason themselves into the positions they believe.


True, I've been trying to be polite and respectful and subtle at least in online conversations (I am far too emotional to do it effectively in real life, which is a big handicap). And I am not getting much results anyway.

But maybe the problem is also that we expect immediate satisfaction: we want the other person convinced there and then, in the course of one exchange. Probably we should accept the fact that without inciting polarization, and being open to being convinced as well as convincing, eventually we'll contribute in changing some opinions, or we'll change ours. It will take time and we won't be there to witness the "flip", the moment when the other suddenly starts seeing our point of view. Ideas don't change during a heated confrontation; they change at random times, sometimes when we're alone and maybe thinking about something else.


Being needlessly blunt is like throwing a grenade with a message attached. You can tell it's delivered when you hear the KABOOM, but you can't guarantee anything else.

In my experience, being kind has the advantage of reducing the probability of side-effects. There are typically no bonus points awarded for causing someone to get defensive, when your only goal was to correct their mistake.


On the other hand, the inability to be blunt is a serious deficiency and indicates you're sacrificing honesty somewhere.


KABOOM, blunt and mean messages sacrifice honesty too. They intentionally downplay positives and exaggerate wrongs for effect. Like, most of what is expressed as kaboom is not straightforward telling truth at all.

Extremely common way to be dishonest are jokes/mockery that imply things that are not entirely true, the expletives that imply more bad that actually is and such.

These are as dishonest as sugarcoating if not more.


There is a middle ground.

You can err toward honesty but still remove hostility.


I totally agree. I actually find this whole discussion encouraging because it indicates to me that people are trying to find that middle ground by talking the whole thing out.


In my opinion:

Being right and nice is better than being right and mean.

Being right and mean is better than being wrong and nice.

Being wrong and nice is better than being wrong and mean.


Where would you place saying nothing in your hierarchy.

I think that saying nothing is better than being right and mean, because being right and mean is usually counter productive and reinforces the wong belief.

Humans are simply wired to use aggression as overriding evidence of the person being wrong. If your goal is to change minds, it just doesn't work.


> Humans are simply wired to use aggression as overriding evidence of the person being wrong.

This is not always true, many mathematicians and physicists can be mean when they argue but they still listen to each other and acknowledge when they are wrong.


I agree that there are fringe cases where individuals can separate emotional reactions from factual arguments. I would argue that it is the exception to the norm, and there is usually an implicit understanding of mutual respect


It depends on how much you have to win or lose.

If you win practically nothing by telling the truth, saying nothing is better.

If saying nothing means that people will treat you or others unfairly, then I would say that being mean and right is better than saying nothing. The problem with this is that one can never really know when one is right.

This is just my ethical judgement though, not a practical guide to convince people. Maybe being mean is never convenient, or maybe it's convenient but unethical(?).


My experience is that saying something and being mean leads to others doubling down on their position, unfair or not because you made yourself an enemy.


You will rarely change a person's mind, and never right away, but you can do a lot to start their journey towards seeing things different (assuming you're right) by having them realize that people on "the other side" are decent, well-intentioned, rational people too.


I deleted Twitter last week because I found myself working harder to be clever and cruel instead kind. Social media is everyone screaming and very few listening. In fact, those with the loudest voices (politicians, entertainers) listen least. I haven't missed it at all.


It also consistently amplifies the angriest and least reasonable voices from the other side, so you don't get to spend any time listening to folks who could actually teach you something new.


This is an important message, and I don't want to distract from it, but there's some brutal irony in being lectured about the important of kindness by Jeff Bezos. Amazon is the home of "Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk" and fires pregnant women for taking too many bathroom breaks.

Come to think, this is actually a pretty good example of the importance of framing your message properly if you want to be heard.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-...

https://www.cnet.com/features/amazon-fired-these-7-pregnant-...


The problem with empathy is that it doesn't scale, and in fact at scale it is more harmful than helpful. Basing your decisions on a few instances of a problem (because those images were so powerful cries) might not work when the problem has to do with millions of people across multiple countries.

The Universe just doesn't care about how you feel. It is what it is. Letting people's personality traits and/or flaws get in the way of objective truths is just dumb. One exists regardless of the other.


I think there’s a hybrid approach.

You’re right; you can’t take in the experiences of the entire world and feel as they all feel. It’s impossible.

But I do think it’s roughly possible to scale up a desire to listen to your effects. When you see a stadium of people reacting, for example, you can find one guy that’s cheering and have him act as a sort of avatar for the section of the crowd that is happy. You can find a guy that’s booing and view him as an avatar for the section of the crowd that is not. You can find a guy that’s apathetic and view him as an avatar for the section of the crowd that is apathetic. So on and so forth.

People are combinations of many different characteristics, so you cannot separate them into those types of avatars with perfect fidelity. But you can get close.

Then you can attempt to empathize with those abstract representations of people, with the knowledge that it’s rough, and that you must pair your empathy with a very rational, calculating look at whether or not the avatars you are constructing are reasonable representatives of the people underlying them.

But I definitely agree that empathy shouldn’t get in the way of truth regardless of how you employ it, and find some of the talk around this sort of thing worrisome.


“When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.”

— Abraham Joshua Heschel

Words I am always reminded of whenever I try to be too clever on the internet.


My wife and I have been talking a lot about giving license to make mistakes and that means letting others do what they're going to do without mocking them for it. Be ready to help them with the "right" way if they fail but also for a pleasant surprise if it works out. As a lead at work, I often hear solutions I doubt will pan out and sometimes I can't help myself correct things. But this "fixing" is actually creating long-term problems and undermining responsibility and ownership.

Anyway, this is what I thought of about halfway through the article when it veered off into contemporary politics.


>Some people might say that young Bezos did nothing wrong. They’re just facts, and the truth hurts. How else do you expect someone to recognize the seriousness of what they’re doing to themselves? There’s something to that, but it captures the central conceit of a dangerous assumption we seem to have made as a culture these days: that being right is a license to be a total, unrepentant asshole. After all, why would you need to repent if you haven’t committed the ultimate sin of being wrong? Some say there’s no reason to care about other people’s feelings if the facts are on your side.

People do believe the above, but if one thinks rationally (Vulcan style) about it, it's a bizarro idea.

What would be the logical necessity be that makes it OK "not to care about other people’s feelings if the facts are on your side"?

What matters to people is what people decide that matters. Whether that's the facts or the delivery of the facts or your tone etc, is a subjective decision.

So why would a 100% logical person assume that being correct should trump everything else? It's an illogical conclusion to arrive at. By what logical reasoning / axiomatic induction etc did they conclude that being correct is enough?

I say there's none. Instead it's their prejudice towards accuracy and correctness that makes them consider so. In other words, those people think they're logical in that assumption (that being right trumps your tone/delivery/etc), but they're just all too human...


What you call prejudice is a debated value structure. You can weigh the cost of negative emotions against all kinds of ideas and have the ideas come out ahead.

It's weird to see you say "What matters to people is what people decide matters" and then assume the other party has no reasoning behind their actions. Peculiar indeed.


>It's weird to see you say "What matters to people is what people decide matters" and then assume the other party has no reasoning behind their actions. Peculiar indeed.

I don't assume that. If anything, I do the exact opposite.

The "other party" says that they have reasoning behind their actions (and only reasoning).

I point how they indeed have reasoning, but that this reasoning is based on an implicit value structure, and is not some "pure reasoning" as claimed, and that furthermore, that it is wrong, because their conclusion on "what matters" should have taken into account the Other.

Let me break it down to a number of statements to make it simpler:

1) if you think of yourself as a perfectly rational agent,

2) and your goal is to point a very bad habbit in someone, e.g. that their drinking/eating will kill them,

3) ig you say it without kindness and tailored to their personality

4) because you think only the fact that it's true shoiuld be enough

5) then you're undermining the success of your own intervention. The person could close down to you, double down on their habbit, etc because of the hurt of your words.

So a perfectly rational agent should include (5) in their calculations, as it's a fact about the world and how people react. Yet many (as in TFA) don't. Their rationality stops at first order thinking, and doesn't include people's reactions and other second order effects.

So, my whole point is: you're not really rational if you skip (5). You just have an incomplete model of the world, and your conclusions about "what matters" (just the truth, the delivery shouldn't count) is flawed under a rational utilitarian assessment.


You do assume that.

>By what logical reasoning / axiomatic induction etc did >they conclude that being correct is enough? > >I say there's none.

I don't think myself or people as perfectly rational. Tests have shown we are mostly subconscious beings. We are not masters in our own house.

Tailoring everything to the other person and being kind can lend into being straight up manipulative. We have an identity in the world that effects how people hear what is said. My kindness can be less effective than yours because of my identity. Wielding all of my outward facing tools to achieve a goal can include being just the right amount of challenging so that the content of what I say is heard as plausible, credible and valuable. Many attempts at kindness can leave the words in the wind, in one ear and out the other.

A value structure is taking all ideas in and bringing them into an order. Utilitarianism would be one idea that is ranked among others, as would rationality and politeness and kindness. There's light and dark to all of them, you couldn't pigeon hole someone as executing on just one of the tools or ideas listed.


>You do assume that.

The quote you pasted is about axiomatic reasoning not being able to conclude that "being correct is enough". Not that the people I mention didn't use any logical reasoning / axiomatic induction at all. As I wrote, they used some, but combined with ignoring some necessary steps (either because they didn't occur to them, or because of an implicit bias).

>I don't think myself or people as perfectly rational.

No, but some people do. In anycase, I wasn't talking about people who "think themselves as perfectly rational". I was talking about people who think that their reasoning that "truth trumps delivery" came in a perfectly rational way (whether they consider themselves otherwise rational in their other ideas/behavior or not).

>Tailoring everything to the other person and being kind can lend into being straight up manipulative.

Or it might not. It's how you use it. One can also use the truth manipulatively (e.g. to hurt the other, invoke some inferiority complex and numerous other ways), in cases when a little white lie would not have had the desired effect on the other.


Although not being offensive is an important skill, not being offended is an important skill as well.


Lukianoff and Haidt's "The Coddling of the American Mind" is a great read on exactly this idea (not being offended as a skill) and the impact of an easily offended society.

Ultimately, there's a line between offensiveness and empathy that requires judgement in order to get things done.


When you are communicating to someone, you only control one of those.


And when you are listening to someone, you control the other. In a dialogue, both parts has to do a bit of both.

Getting offended is basically never a good thing because it stops you from hearing their message. Similarly offending others is basically never a good thing because it stops them from hearing your message. So the best way to communicate is to be liberal with what you accept and strict with what you send out. Also called the robustness principle.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robustness_principle


What happens when you are actively trying not to be offensive, trying to empathize and be nice, and yet the other person takes offense?

Do you really have control of anything?


You always have control over your own actions, including your reaction when someone takes offence to something you say or do.

I've found that if someone is offended, if you react with openness and a willingness to listen to what they are saying, then the outcome will likely be positive.

If you are more concerned with defending yourself than listening to the other person, then it's likely the outcome is going to be negative.

This isn't rocket science. The problem is that people tend to react defensively. The only utility in such a reaction is a protection of your own ego. The irony is that in attempting to protect your own ego, you just end up making the situation worse, including for yourself.

Listening is a superpower.


> You always have control over your own actions

I mostly agree, but a safer statement would be “The only thing you can ever have any direct control over is your own actions”.

Sleepwalking, inebriation, low blood sugar, hypoxia — these can all lead to degradation or total loss of conscious control of one’s actions. For many people, there are many other triggers, and some of these triggers are even less physiologically driven than the above.

Knowing one’s own limitations is also important.


> You always have control over your own actions

By your logic the person who is offended has it entirely within their power not to be offended. Since in this scenario they are the one having the more extreme emotional reaction, perhaps it would be more reasonable to ask that they regulate their emotions to some degree, rather than criticize the way in which the person absorbing the brunt of their emotional onslaught does so.

> This isn't rocket science.

That's a bit condescending.

> The problem is that people tend to react defensively

I really don't think it is.


You can control your reaction and use it as a learning opportunity.

Do you really have control of anything? Maybe not, but you have to at least assume so or become a passive participant in life.


As German philosopher and scholar Hans Peter Baxxter once famously proclaimed: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."


I think it's important to practice the ability to evoke compassion for all living things.


Maybe it's possible to do both?

I've always been told to always "address the ideas, not the person" (never attack someone's character) and to adopt a pose of "curiosity".

In discourse, it's perfectly fine to dispute ideas (it's the foundation of Western civilization and of analytical thought, and is a means to knowledge and wisdom).

If we cannot argue in a marketplace of ideas, we are prevented from having hard but necessary conversations. We need to adhere to parameters of civility of course, but to me, a necessary freedom is the freedom to disagree/dispute. Some ideas are truly wrong and they need to be put through the crucible.


>Maybe it's possible to do both?

I agree, and I think that's part of Ryan Holiday's thesis. That also happens to be the message in the book Crucial Conversations.


"If you can't be kind, if you won't empathize, then you're not on the team. That team is Team Humanity, where we are all in this thing together. Where we are all flawed and imperfect. Where we treat other people's point of view as charitably as we treat our own. Where we are civilized and respectful and, above all, kind to each other - particularly the less fortunate, the mistaken, and the afraid."

Flawed conclusion. I really dislike when people think of empathy as this strange, bland, chore-like sort of service. In reality, it seems artistic to me. You are putting yourself into a completely different world. Have some fun with it! Engage in some creativity!

Plenty of people are horrific to others and yet kind to those within their tribe. Plenty more people hurt members of their own tribe - clumsily, by mistake. Kindness won't get you out of your own head, or out of your own way. It's not enough to just respect the things that exist outside of your head that you don't agree with. You have to want to do the hard work of going through the thought process of someone foreign to your world, in good faith until you can render their world in a reasonably lifelike fashion as they would.

All the kindness in the world without that mental exercise, or research, or attempt to speak someone else's language -- it's better than nothing, but not by much. We should focus on the larger task at hand: getting to know one another's way of lives better and strengthening community.


There is just a step from this to avoiding expressing anything which may be hurt, even slightly by misinterpretation.

It seems to me that many try to smooth things up to the point of actively avoiding anything remotely resembling even "I don't agree" (there is no better excipient than no excipient), and this is dangerous.

Granted, every principle/method becomes counter-productive when pushed to its max, however on this one many inadvertently go over this limit.


This is highly contextual. One community I find myself going to on occasion is the archlinux IRC channel. Manners are very much not their highest priority. While they dont go out of their way to be mean, they dont really do it to be kind either.

But the result is a channel that is a very effective means of support when the documentation or wiki doesnt have what you need.

Communication is a game of compromise. Sometimes it makes sense to compromise on clarity or brevity to be nice. But when your goal is to solve difficult, material problems- it can be beneficial to prioritize clarity over all else.

The author mentioned Bezos' grandmother being hurt when he mentioned she smoked away 9 years of her life. Is it really Bezos' manners that hurt her feelings? I would imagine that that realization hits hard and does damage on it's own. I think it would be very hard to get that message hard without it hurting. You can attempt to veil the message and lessen the impact, or distract from it somehow- but now you've impacted the integrity of the message.


> Communication is a game of compromise. Sometimes it makes sense to compromise on clarity or brevity to be nice. But when your goal is to solve difficult, material problems- it can be beneficial to prioritize clarity over all else.

I am not convinced that this friction exists. Often times things can be rephrased quite easily, e.g. "you're just plain wrong" can be "I don't think that's correct" or "I feel this may be mistaken".

These examples are simple, but in my own writing I've never noticed an example where I wanted to be clear, but wasn't able to do so while still being nice.

It is true that truly constructive comments are much harder to write, since they take significantly more effort: you need to carefully read the original article, think about it, maybe do a bit of additional research, etc, whereas a quick "this is just wrong because [X]" after reading the title is much easier.


> "you're just plain wrong" can be "I don't think that's correct" or "I feel this may be mistaken".

That makes it sound subjective, unsettled and open to negotiation. Which may be inappropriate when talking about such things that are considered medical consensus. In a way you're just the messenger, not the expert who can elucidate minor nuances behind the statement.

Perhaps it could be made more impersonal (i.e. remove the "you") and providing a 3rd party as source. But inserting weasel words doesn't help when you try to convey rather strongly established facts.


Yeah, this exemplifies exactly the kind of attitude that this article is about: calling stuff "plain wrong" is not going to convince anyone of anything and you're just going to come off as a rather self-righteous arrogant twit. The "you" doesn't make one iota of difference, no one is even going to notice whether it's there or not.


Yet, some things are just plain wrong. The world does not improve by constantly coddling other people's delusions. Facts do matter, especially in STEM fields.


> Yet, some things are just plain wrong.

Indeed, they are. Which is more important to you, being right or making a difference?

Yelling at stupid people is easy and so satisfying. Debating with the clueless while staying calm and polite is frustrating, infuriating, and difficult. But if you choose the easy and satisfying path over the difficult one that actually works, you're just patting yourself on the back for being smart.


If facts matter so much, it's important to be able to convince people of those facts. And in order to do that, facts about the best way to convince someone are relevant. And the fact is, believing that the best way to convince someone that they're just plain wrong is by saying that they're just plain wrong, is just plain wrong.

If someone really cares about the facts, and not just owning their interlocutor, they'll look for effective ways to communicate, instead of holding on as tightly as they can to a method of communication that has pretty conclusively been demonstrated to be ineffective.


The best thing about facts is I have no need to convince people of anything. Facts are true whether we believe in them or not, and someday reality will come along to inform us of those facts rather painfully if we choose to ignore them.

It’s of course best to be polite, but we should not prioritize kindness over correctness. Not in fields of knowledge. You are either right, or you are wrong, there’s not much grey area in computing and STEM.


> The best thing about facts is I have no need to convince people of anything. Facts are true whether we believe in them or not, and someday reality will come along to inform us of those facts rather painfully if we choose to ignore them.

You might be willing to put up with the consequences of other people being mistaken, but most people aren't.

Take climate change - is your attitude "well, the tides will rise and swallow the cities and so on, but there's no point trying to convince people to minimise the damage, because at least I'll be proven right in the end..."?

Pragmatically speaking, it is often incredibly important to be able to convince other people of the truth, if you want to be able to cooperate with them. That really seems so obvious as to go without saying.


> significantly more effort

Which often takes time. And limits engagement. The maintainers of pacman have a limited amount of energy they're willing to spend on free support- I'm happy for then to save effort wherever they can.

I wont argue that if you can be kind while sacrificing absolutely nothing else- absolutely be kind.

But anybody who has ever played a competitive sport or even team lifted a couch knows that sometimes barking an order is the best way of doing things- and you just have to have somewhat thick skin.

To live in a world where the perfect message always exists would be great. We dont live in that world.


You're taking my quote out of context, I said it takes more effort to constructively engage in constructive and meaningful discussions, not that it takes more effort to rephrase a sentence; I explicitly said it doesn't.

If you don't want to engage in discussion, fine. Then just don't say anything, or just state that you don't have time. That's fine. No need to not be nice.

I actually used Arch Linux for many years and switched to Void Linux last week. There were several reasons but really decided it for me was that I had an issue and found a thread on the Arch forums where a mod was chewing out a user trying to get help with the same issue in such an insufferably assholery way that it was painful to read; he almost went out of his way to belittle the other person. Most of the time this happens because it makes you feel smart and good about yourself. That's the real reason people are assholes like this. I wrote about this a while ago in the context of Stack Overflow, but the same ideas apply here too: https://arp242.net/stackoverflow.html

> sometimes barking an order is the best way of doing things- and you just have to have somewhat thick skin.

This is probably the most condensing and arrogant thing I've ever seen on HN, and that's saying something. Users aren't idiots who need to be "barked at" at when they do something wrong or misunderstand something. You can always say exactly the same without treating them like idiots.


Or, for example, on a battlefield.


Yeah, developing open source software is exactly like war


Shift the goalposts some more. The post I replied to made a point and gave an example. I added another example.


"I feel this is wrong" isn't nicer than "This is wrong", they mean different things. Ultimately someone has to state facts, if you always hedge everything you say with "I feel like ..." then that person can't be you, so someone else has to do that job. Worst case everyone else hedges everything they say as well, meaning that everyone has to construct their own facts from the mess resulting in huge inconsistencies in understanding.


> "you're just plain wrong" can be "I don't think that's correct" or "I feel this may be mistaken".

I read these sorts of communications as passive-aggressive and patronizing 100% of the time. I'm certain I'm not the only one. And your assumption that your rewording was a constructive comment is unwarranted and condescending.


> But when your goal is to solve difficult, material problems- it can be beneficial to prioritize clarity over all else.

For those problems, it is also a priority to induce the clearest thinking, cognitive capability, and relevant memory possible from all parties.

Anything that adds cognitive load to the other parties will not help - and "clear, tell it like it is" speech with no awareness of social consequence is often rather ineffective as a way to access clear thinking from everyone in the room.

Brains just don't appear to work like that.


Speech isn't free (as in effort) either though. There is an overhead cost to the person talking, and reducing that is just as valid as reducing the burden on the listener.


> But when your goal is to solve difficult, material problems- it can be beneficial to prioritize clarity over all else.

That's begging the question. You take it is a given that when solving a problem clarity and kindness are mutually exclusive, but you've provided no evidence to support that.


Theyre not mutually exclusive.

Human communication is impossible to get perfect. You have to strike a balance between a bunch of priorities. I could write an essay on this topic, but nobody would read it. Thus I sacrifice clarity for brevity, and make a comment that can be read in a minute.

If I highly prioritized kindness and told you how much I respected your viewpoint and appreciate your taking the time to engage with me- that would naturally require a number of words. Which means I either make my comment longer- which reduces engagement, or I shorten the meat of the argument- which reduces clarity.

So you can see how these different priorities can come at cost of one another. While I'd like to find the ideal sentence every time I communicate that sacrifices nothing- I just dont have the communication skills to do so.


> If I highly prioritized kindness and told you how much I respected your viewpoint and appreciate your taking the time to engage with me...

... you would be patronizing me, not showing me kindness.


When kindness transitions into patronisation depends on the listener. There are people for whom all kindness in speech is patronising.


What if that problem is "convince your grandma to quit smoking"? It seems that telling grandma she's been smoking away 9 years of her life is somehow "unkind", and yet we all do very similar things as a society, such as putting disgusting images on grandma's cigarette packages, with clear warnings that smoking is a very serious health hazard - and very few people seem to take issue with this or find it unkind.


Fine. Both are bad. What's your point?


I think it's a good point that these "ends justify the means approach" arguments and ultimatums are fully sanctioned by society irregardless of evidence that those who don't change their behavior end up more self destructive, etc thanks to the additional hostility.


> Is it really Bezos' manners that hurt her feelings? I would imagine that that realization hits hard and does damage on it's own.

How do you get people to stop self destruct? In the end you give up and just become cold.

I have sick relatives who dug their own graves. Not my responsability.


I wonder why the author used Bezos as an example. It doesn’t look like he took his grandfather’s lesson to the heart.


And it doesn't look like it hurt his career much either. It seems that in many cases it is more important to be a bit more right than it is to be a bit more nice.


Many people base their decisions on whether to emulate someone on more than the success of that person's career.


I think people should not try to be kind. They should just be themselves.

Criticism is good and useful and should be delivered in the most direct way possible. People should just toughen up. It's unbelievable to think that 80 years ago, people were killing each other with guns and bombs but today's people get offended if someone doesn't press the 'like' button on their Facebook photos. We are too weak; that's the real problem.

Being weak is bad. Political correctness poses a threat to our freedom of speech.

I can't stand this dystopian corporate rhetoric that 'being nice' and 'feeling safe' are important. They are not. Both of these things make us weaker.


I don't think the point of the post is to encourage people to be kind. It is more to encourage people to be subtle.

I think that in many situations language is a tool to make other people do what we want them to do. And turns out that closing others in a corner with data and hard logic- while an excellent method in science- is not the most effective approach in a lot of other contexts.

This doesn't necessarily mean compromising with our values either: one can be faithful to truth and still formulate his thoughts in a slightly more open, kind and accommodating way.


I think you misunderstand the word kind. You can be kind and constructively critical at the same time, and being kind enhances the result of the criticism.

I wouldn't bring shooting people into this at all.


Mean people make us stronger. I'm grateful to all the jerks I met in my life who built my character.


That does not mean one should strive to be mean.


True kindness comes from a position of strength and fortitude.

Otherwise it's just cowardice masquerading as kindness - and that's what I think you're saying we should avoid.


The opposite of kindness is not toughness. If your life seems purposeless you could always go and become a soldier of fortune in one of the hot wars already underway.


I agree with you. I try to be nice, but acting out my will , and God's will, with authenticity is a higher priority. I am increasingly aware, as I become more "myself", that people are offended and intimidated by my mere participation in the world. I respect moral boundaries, not social ones. Some people appreciate it more than others.


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