The Daily Objective: Respectful Disagreement

  • Mark has a reputation for being highly contentious on Twitter and a little indelicate in the debate process.
  • He’s actually very polite until someone hasn’t been polite to him for a while and then he starts punching back.
  • He’s most successful debating online when he tries first to understand and then be understood.
  • Mark approaches everyone as if they’re like him in that they hold a truth, and maybe they’ve thought about it as much as he’s thought about his truth. So rather than dismiss them, he finds out why they think their idea is good. That approach disarms people because you’re automatically valuing their opinion by — not questioning them in a socratic way to try to trap them — but to try and figure out what it is they think and feel and what their process was to getting there.
  • Invest the other person with the same power and intellectual strength that you have, and you’ll likely find someone who’s not defensive.
  • Mark compared this to an acting problem, saying you can’t challenge somebody directly and expect to convince them. 99% of the time, that’s the inappropriate way. In acting, you can’t approach a scene like I have to get here emotionally, I have to cry at the end of this scene. If you do that, you’ll find yourself further away from that emotional life than if you immerse yourself in the problem and try to figure out the problem. Then you’ll find yourself in the scene becoming emotional. And likewise with the person, you might find yourself convincing them if you immerse yourself in the problem. Always make it about your own edification.

If you hold your primary goal as clarity, then nobody’s point of view can really be threatening to you. Because if their point of view is more true than yours, and you end up assimilating that into your idea set, you’re better off. You always win. Make it about your own epistemological victory and you can’t go wrong.

Mark Pellegrino
  • Mark and Rucka were on different sides of The Olympics of Evil debate. Mark’s team Bernstein and Rucka is team Binswanger. They both set out a great case for their side (~18 minutes in and well worth listening to)