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?

By Joshua Steele

Software engineer using "dead" languages to help the living. Learn more at joshuapsteele.com.

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