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Shaming & Disagreeing (Reading Notes 7.13.18)

Resource: Shameless vs. shameful


There’s a difference between shameful and shaming. Shameful is a form of behavior that ought to be criticized. Shaming is an attempt to point out shameful behavior by humiliating or ostracizing them. Correcting shameful behavior in a constructive and clear way takes guts and skill. Shaming is a mostly style without substance shortcut. If the goal is to help people learn and turn things around, we have to show enough charity to point out there shameful behavior as if we believe it’s possible for them to change.

If you race people to the bottom, you lose by losing, you lose by winning, and you lose by participating in the race at all.


On the shortcomings of shaming:

“Shaming a person is a senseless shortcut. When we say to someone, “you’re never going to amount to anything,” when we act like we want to lock them up and throw away the key, when we conflate the behavior with the human–we’ve hurt everyone. We’ve killed dreams, eliminated possibility and broken any chance for a connection. The alternative is to be really clear about which behavior crossed the line. To correct that behavior at the very same time we open the door for our fellow citizen to become the sort of person we’d like to engage with.”

How social media has changed the shaming game:

“As the media available to each of us turns just about every interaction into a worldwide, hyper-competitive conflict, there’s way too much shameless posturing and division. If you want to “win” in social media or politics, you’re no longer trying to be the class clown among twenty high school students, you’re racing to the bottom among a hundred million teenagers or candidates. Multiply that by every endeavor and you can see why there’s so much shameless posturing.”

“the problem with a race to the bottom is you might win. Or come in second, which is even worse.”

Resource: How to disagree


All forms of disagreement are not equal.

It’s one thing to declare “I disagree.” It’s another thing to point out a specific thing you disagree with and explain why.

The quality of your disagreement increases with your focus on the central point and your precision in using arguments to counter the specific point.

The better the quality of our disagreements, the less mean we feel we need to be. When we have a good point to make, we tend to see being mean as a distraction.


“The most obvious advantage of classifying the forms of disagreement is that it will help people to evaluate what they read. In particular, it will help them to see through intellectually dishonest arguments. An eloquent speaker or writer can give the impression of vanquishing an opponent merely by using forceful words. In fact that is probably the defining quality of a demagogue. By giving names to the different forms of disagreement, we give critical readers a pin for popping such balloons.”

“But the greatest benefit of disagreeing well is not just that it will make conversations better, but that it will make the people who have them happier. If you study conversations, you find there is a lot more meanness down in DH1 than up in DH6. You don’t have to be mean when you have a real point to make. In fact, you don’t want to. If you have something real to say, being mean just gets in the way.”

“You don’t have to be mean when you have a real point to make. In fact, you don’t want to. If you have something real to say, being mean just gets in the way.”

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