Use Rapoport’s Rules for Better Conversations and Disagreements

I’m reading Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s excellent book, Think Again: How to Reason and Argue.

In it (on pages 25–26), I came across “Rapoport’s Rules.”

First formulated by mathematical psychologist Anatol Rapoport and discussed by Daniel Dennett (Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, 31–35), here they are:

1: 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.”

2: You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3: You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

4: Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

How would our conversations—everything from family dinner to classroom discussions to church business meetings—look different if we put these rules into practice?


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