I fell upon Anatol Rapoport‘s rules of constructive argument and debate and found them compelling:
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.
One immediate effect of following these rules is that your targets will be a receptive audience for your criticism: you have already shown that you understand their positions as well as they do, and have demonstrated good judgment (you agree with them on some important matters and have even been persuaded by something they said).
Note, the above doesn’t work for all situations and that is understood.
But also of note, is this was used in more conversations there would be a benefit to all parties that partake, and you are more likely to find the “best ideas” (discussion)than be able to declare “winners and losers” (argument).
I have written about this before, and I think it is always a good reminder of how we interact with others, especially as educators. If the intent is to help others move forward while pursuing your own development, taking time to understand someone else’s point of view and experience can become a positive for all parties involved.
Source: George Couros