So you think I'm wrong...?

2011-06-04 14:49

Okay, this keeps coming up. People think other people are wrong. Then… they do things that cannot possibly help.

Let’s be blunt. If you think someone is wrong, and you want to tell them so, you have two options:

1. You can try to offer information or argumentation which could allow them to find out where their error came from.
2. You can be an asshole.

Seriously. Those are the options. If you didn’t pick the first, you picked the second. Being hesitant or timid? That doesn’t make you not an asshole. Covering things with disclaimers? Nope, still an asshole.

If someone believes something untrue, they believe it for some kind of reason. There is information they lack, or there’s argumentation they lack, or there’s some axiom they’re wedded to. If you are not helping them identify this so they can correct their position, you are not helping, and you are not giving them any information. They already know some people disagree with them. Telling them that people disagree with them doesn’t help them find out why.

Now, some people go further. Instead of just saying “you’re wrong”, they add insults. That makes it more annoying, but… That isn’t the point at which the “correction” became rude and unhelpful. The point where it went off the rails was the failure to support your case.

To tie this back into some recent autism-related blogging:

Many of the autistic people I know are very frustrated by unsupported assertions or refusal to engage or support. You wanna make an autistic person freak out and have an absolutely shitty day? Tell them they’re wrong but you’re too busy to talk about it. There’s nothing they can do about this that is remotely pleasant. They can’t just disregard you, because you might have good information. They can’t confirm or deny your information, because they don’t know what it is. They can’t find out what your information is; why’s that? Because you are a fucking asshole, that’s why. Don’t do that. It’s rude to anyone, but it’s particularly offensive to people who care more about finding out what’s true than about “being right”.

If I’m wrong, I want to know. Seriously. It does not bother me to find out that I’m wrong. I love it. It makes me be less wrong now. It is an improvement. If someone shows me that I’m mistaken about something I am happy; if it’s something major it can result in happy dances and running around telling people. But for me to “know” that I’m wrong, I have to be able to find out how I came to a wrong conclusion; I need to know which information or argument was flawed.

What got me onto this is that someone recently pulled this shit on Beloved Spouse. (Beloved Spouse may or may not be autistic; we’re still playing phone tag with the people who could set up an appointment…) Beloved Spouse asserted that a particular thing was not a matter of malice, but simply a cost-cutting measure; someone said this was wrong, said “you put your foot in it”, was generally smug and dismissive, and did not provide even the beginnings of a thing which could lead to argumentation or evidence.

Just… Don’t do that. It is a serious jerk move. It is disrespectful, insulting, and also fucking stupid. If you’re right, and you want people to know this thing that you know, failure to make it possible for them to do this is stupid.

How to have a rational discussion.

Peter Seebach

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Comment

  1. There’s also a cultural aspect to this. People in big cities tend to be thicker skinned, and more often prefer to hear the blunt truth. New York is particularly famous for this. Smaller cities are less so. Rural areas are famous for being nice to the point of hardly ever being able to say the truth. Minnesota Nice and southern hospitality are two examples.

    It may be rooted in the percentage of time people spend interacting with others whom they’re confident they will never see again. In huge cities, it’s easy to avoid people you’ve offended. In small towns, it’s impossible.

    Either way, it’s the sort of culture clash that many organizations have to deal with.

    Dave Leppik · 2011-06-06 10:53 · #

 
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