We recently stumbled upon this short post by Maria Popova (“How to criticize with kindness”) explaining philosopher Daniel Dennett’s “four rules” of fair-minded, scholarly criticism. In brief, before you begin to refute or criticize someone else’s ideas, you should do three things first:
- 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.”
- List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- Mention anything you have learned from your target.
- [Criticize all you want now.]
In the alternative, here is a much more crisp and concise “Twitter-style” version of these same rules, courtesy of “agmaster” via reddit:
- Ensure understanding.
- Express info gained.
- Note points agreed with.
- if needed Criticize.