Criticism is always a hard thing to do. Actually, let me rephrase that. Good criticism is hard. In my mind, good criticism is the kind that enables a discussion around something which allows BOTH parties to learn from each other and evolve their views/actions without feeling like they won/lost. That one is really difficult to do since we all get caught up in “I am right, you are wrong, and I will prove it so you can become better” mentality that only results in everyone feeling hurt enough to further dig in to their own positions even more strongly than before.
Brain Pickings, one of the best aggregator for all-things thoughtful and interesting in the world of books, has a great piece: How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently that provides some tips on how to criticize.
In Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking … [Daniel Dennett] offers what he calls “the best antidote [for the] tendency to caricature one’s opponent”: a list of rules formulated decades ago by the legendary social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport, best-known for originating the famous tit-of-tat strategy of game theory. Dennett synthesizes the steps:
How to compose a successful critical commentary:
- You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
- You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
- Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
What would be the point of criticizing with kindness? Here is what Arthur Martine had to say in guide to the art of conversation. “In disputes upon moral or scientific points, let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Striving for truth. Gaining new discovery. So, what’s there to not like? :)