I’ve been at a workshop and haven’t had much chance to engage with this post. Thanks for writing it, it’s an excellent reply and says many things better than I managed to. I especially like hierarchy which swings between nurture and combat, that seem well described to me. Also strong endorsement for meeting conversations where they’re at.
I probably didn’t emphasize this enough in the main post, but the idea I’m really going for is that there is difference in optimizing for stories vs. optimizing for reality. There’s a difference in goal and intention. Even if it’s the case that human are never seeing “rock-bottom reality” itself and everything is mediated through experience, there is still a big difference between a) someone attempting to change an aspect of the underlying reality such that actual different things happen in the world, and b) someone attempting to change the judgments of another person by inputting the right series of bits into them.
Optimizing stories is really about a mono-focus on optimizing the specific corners of reality which exists inside human heads.
Oh, right. Once upon a time I knew that was the word. Thanks.
I didn’t know that was the word for excuse, but I think it’s an excellent word itself to use for rationalization. No synonym required. ״רצה״ is the root for “want” and “הַתְרָצָה” is the the reflexive conjugation, so it’s approximately “self-wanting.” Which is exactly what rationalization is—reasoning towards what you want to be true.
The intended meaning of the post is that there can be “producing in order to produce” and “producing in order to learn”. The producing to learn might involve very real producing, but underlying goal is different. You might be trying to get real investment from real investors, but the goal could be a) receiving money, b) testing your assumptions about whether you can raise successfully.
In practice, I think you’re right that sometimes (or often) both intentions are necessary. You need to get users both to learn and to survive. Still, the two intentions trade off against each other and it’s possible to forget about one or the other. My primary recommendation is to be aware and deliberate about your intentions so that you have the right ones at the right time in the right amount.
Thanks for the link! Sorry to change from the term “mindset” to “intention” on you.
I emphatically agree with Zvi about the mistakeness of saying “you’re dumb.”
In my own words:
1) “You’re absolutely wrong” is strong language, but not unreasonable in a combative culture if that’s what you believe and you’re honestly reporting it.
2a) “You’re saying/doing something dumb” becomes a bit more personal than when making a statement about a particular view. Though I think it’s rare that one have need to say this, and it’s only appropriate when levels of trust and respect are very high.
2b) “You’re being dumb” is a little harsher than “saying/doing something dumb.” The two don’t register as much different to me, however, though they do to Mary Chernyshenko?
3) “You’re dumb” (introduced in this discussion by Benquo) is now making a general statement about someone else and is very problematic. It erodes the assumptions of respect which make combative-type cultures feasible in the first place. I’d say that conversations where people are calling others dumb to their faces are not situations I’d think of as healthy, good-faith, combative-type conversations.
[As an aside, even mild “that seems wrong to me”-type statements should be recognized as potentially combative. There are many contexts where any explicit disagreement registers as hostile or contrarian.]
Seconded. Would like to hear the in-depth version.
Thanks for surfacing these! I’ve now edited the post to mention these sources and your comment.
Thanks, that was clarifying and helpful.
I’d propose is whether the participants are trying to maximize (and therefore learn a lot) or minimize (and therefore avoid conflict) the scope of the argument.
Interesting, though I’m not sure I fully understand your meaning. Do you mind elaborating your examples a touch?
Having been inspired by the comments here, I’m now thinking that there are two communication dimensions at play here within the Cultures. The correlation between these dimensions and the Cultures is incomplete which has been causing confusion.
1) The adversarial-collaborative dimension. Adversarial communication is each side attacking the other’s views while defending their own. Collaborative communication is openness and curiosity to each other’s ideas. As Ben Pace describes it:
I’ll say a thing, and you’ll add to it. Lots of ‘yes-and’. If you disagree, then we’ll step back a bit, and continue building where we can both see the truth. If I disagree, I won’t attack your idea, but I’ll simply notice I’m confused about a piece of the structure we’re building, and ask you to add something else instead, or wonder why you’d want to build it that way.
2) The “emotional concern and effort” dimension. Communication can be conducted with little attention or effort placed on ensuring the emotional comfort of the participants, often resulting in a directness or bluntness (because it’s assumed people are fine and don’t need things softened). Alternatively, communication can be conducted with each participant putting in effort to ensure the other feels okay (feels validated/respected/safe/etc.) At this end of the spectrum, words, tone, and expression are carefully selected as overall a model of the other is used to ensure the other is taken care of.
It was easy for me to notice “adversarial, low effort towards emotional comfort” as one cluster of communication behaviors and “collaborative, high concern” as another. Those two clusters are what I identified as Combat Culture and Nurture Culture.
Commenters here, including at least Raemon, Said, and Ben Pace, have rightly made comments to the effect that you can have communication where participants are being direct, blunt, and not proactively concerned for the feelings of the other while nonetheless still being open, being curious, and working collaboratively to find the truth with a spirit of, “being on the same team”. This maybe falls under Combat Culture too, but it’s a less central example.
On the other side, I think it’s entirely possible to be acting combatively, i.e. with an external appearance of aggression and hostility, while nonetheless being very attentive to the feelings and experience of the other. Imagine two fencers sparring in the practice ring: during a bout, each is attacking and trying to win, however, they’re also taking create care as to not actually injure the other. They would stop the moment they suspected they had and switch to an overtly nurturing mode.
One could create a 2x2 grid with the two dimensions described in this comment. Combat and Nurture cultures most directly fit in two of the quadrants, but I think the other two quadrants are populated by many instances of real-world communication. In fact, these other two quadrants might contain some very healthy communication.
Epistemic status tag added. Thanks.
Personal observation. I don’t have any particular sources for anything here, though my thinking is influenced by some academic reading about emotions over the years. There are models more than conclusions and my intention is that readers evaluate them using their own observations rather than accept them based on sources, studies, or my say so.
I almost always find that when I’ve engaged in a combative discussion I’ll update around an hour later, when I notice ways I defended my position that are silly in hindsight.
I second that experience.
I completely agree that Nurture Culture has capabilities far beyond getting along without conflict.
When I think of examples of Nurture Culture at its most powerful, much of what comes to mind is the mode of relating used in Focusing, Internal Double-Crux, and Internal Family Systems. There’s a mode of relating that facilitate hazy, not-necessarily articulate, reticent, even fearful parts of oneself to voice themselves by being open, encouraging, validating, and non-judgmental (i.e., traits which are not particularly the hallmarks of Combat Culture).
I’ve found that increased skill with “advanced” Nurture Culture helped me relate to parts of myself far better alongside relating to others better.
At the risk of being a little repetitive , I’ll think the modeling required for this mode of relating is not that of beliefs but of feelings. You model (and are attentive and responsive to) the feelings of the other (internal or external) in the context: continuously gauging their comfort, willingness, and needs within the conversation. Pushing and giving space as required.
Also, in the context of discussion and debate, Nurture Culture is a stance of:
“What you’re saying sounds alien and crazy and wrong, but I will operate as though you have something valuable to say and I will orient towards you with openness, curiosity, and patience. Even though I don’t understand what you’re saying or think it’s wrong, I still welcome you. We are not fighting.”
This stance is warranted precisely when similarity is low and ITT-passing is a distant possibility (although this it is this attitude which could move you towards it).