The URL to:
Paul Graham is a computer scientist and noted entrepreneur – which explains something of the nature of his suggestions.
Particularly worthy of note is Graham’s discussion of his highest level “refuting the central point”. A key to this level of productive disagreement is to explicitly identify what you think the central key point or points are.
It is important to emphasise that while some of these principles may seem obvious and agreeable two observations of humans apply (even to Buddhists).
1) While this type of explicit transparency may seem obvious, natural, and desirable , very few persons have the skill to carry it out in situations that are personally difficult or somehow threatening. Difficult or threatening meaning that one retreats into a ‘defensive routine’.
2) Most persons are unaware at the moment that they have slipped into a ‘defensive routine’ inless someone else points it out. Other persons (persons other than the speaker) are much more likely to quickly observe a shift in the style of communication. That is, we have individual blind spots.
IMO the most important quote of Grahams article is
The most powerful form of disagreement is to refute someone’s central point.
… Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point, or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So a truly effective refutation would look like:
The author’s main point seems to be x. As he says:
But this is wrong for the following reasons…
I would note that it is possible that different persons would not agree on what they see as the ‘central point or points’. The identify this difference of perception early on is usually a blessing .
I wrote about some of the most powerful investigation and commentary regarding productive communication I know of at:
I regard this perspective as powerful because it addresses some of the how and why behind the difficulty nearly everyone has consistently practicing productive communication and right speech.
I particularly recommend this page:
In broad terms effective and productive communication and disagreement:
- Emphasize common goals and mutual influence.
- Encourage open communication, and to publicly test assumptions and beliefs.
- Combine advocacy with inquiry
In these terms ‘winning’ might mean persuading others by offering the reasons that they (the other person) finds compelling and convincing. That is, the reasons given meet their standards for what causes the listener to be become internally committed. Thus, it is a form of persuasion that respects individual choice including each individual’s type and level of evidence, reasoning, etc required to compel agreement or action. The speaker /advocate cannot expect that what they feeling is ‘compelling’ to be equally compelling to the listener.
Relevant to suttacentral.net – I believe the EBT evidence a form of teaching and persuasion that is in alignment with, and often motivated by, the type of advocacy I’ve outlined.