Learned about the principle of charitable interpretation recently.

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User Info: ShadowSpy

ShadowSpy
6 days ago#1
So a few months ago, I came across one of those concepts which, while helping me to see the world in a new light, are also hard to talk about without seeming pretentious or preachy. The idea is that in any given argument, one should interpret the other side's statements in their strongest/most rational form possible.

So even if you're, say, arguing with a drunk uncle who is spouting nonsense, you can still approach the discussion from the point of view that what they are saying makes some amount of sense, editing their argument in your mind into the strongest form possible and approaching it based on that instead. This keeps arguments from turning into attacks on the way someone said something, or tiny factual points they got wrong, or bad word choices. Instead, it helps focus on the broad, core beliefs and messages of what they are saying.

This doesn't apply just to arguments, it can also be used to approach media or works of art. For instance, if I were to approach modern art with the mentality of "This is stupid, abstract nonsense," I would not get anything much out of the experience. But if I approached it thinking "Whoever made this is a genius, and I should try to understand it," I would learn a lot more and develop a new perspective even if the artist was just making abstract nonsense.

I think the concept has been pretty cool, and I've looked for chances to use it in my day-to-day life, but I have also been thinking of situations where this really shouldn't apply. Like..are there times when something is just so stupid or nonsensical that it shouldn't be interpreted charitably? And I certainly hope that this principle doesn't become a tool to silence other people either ("Stop arguing with me, you should just give me a charitable interpretation and assume my points are right"). Just some thoughts I've been chewing on.
"I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific."

User Info: Kodiologist

Kodiologist
6 days ago#2
That sounds like a stronger version of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Assume_good_faith .

I think the difficult part of such a practice would be trying to decide what point the other person is trying to make so I can mentally construct a better argument for it. If I'm in an argument in the first place, then chances are I don't completely understand the other person's point. After all, improving my understanding of the other person's opinion is a common goal of having an argument.

---
Have you ever stopped to think and forgotten to start again?

User Info: LinkPrime1

LinkPrime1
6 days ago#3
I've learned that this line of thinking is invaluable to have in the corporate world
Well, there is a new accent of n00b language. It's called: Vet LUEser goes Foreign!-MegaSpy22
Those must be the pants of the gods!-Digitalpython
That's kind of what I try to do. Very often other people's arguments that I disagree with seem to come down to knowing different sets of facts or coming from different cultural background. Probably whoever is giving an argument you disagree with has thought much longer about their views than you have. Sometimes they don't or aren't doing it in good faith and then hopefully the worst result is you wasted a bit of time being charitable but the benefits of charity are probably worth it.

User Info: Kylo Force

Kylo Force
6 days ago#5
I think this and/or assuming good faith is probably the best place to start when trying to approach people you'd otherwise disagree with.

I think my only issue is I've also been faced by people who are either unrelenting a******s who are either abrasive just to "teach a lesson" or "make a point" or people who have dismissed me because I haven't fit their scheme for whatever kind of person they were looking for, and it's hard to give of yourself so generously when you know it most likely won't be reciprocated.

There was a point in my life several years ago where I was tired of having to be the more charitable person, especially when talking to community "elders," and on the whole I still disagree with their approach to working with people. Being the age that I am now, I try to be really conscious of how I work with students in those same communities I was in to try to better represent the "elder" generation and keep those bridges of communication and contact open.

Sorry, went on a bit of a journey there. But yes, I think this is probably a really good way to approach other people. I think it just sprung open in my mind a question that I always struggle to answer, which is, where is the line between "I am willing to negotiate with this person's point of view and come to understanding or consensus" and "this person is set in their ways." Who do we give the privilege of being set in their ways, and why is that okay/not okay?
"Sa taong walang takot, walang mataas na bakod."
"To those without fear, there is no such thing as a tall fence." - Filipino Proverb

User Info: HeyDude

HeyDude
6 days ago#6
I definitely try and assume good faith but have been burned many times. Still I go on trying.

As far as set in ways, I generally let nothing go unchallenged, but if after a decent challenge they offer nothing substantive, I generally dismiss them as set in their ways and lose some respect for them.

Classic INTJ.

User Info: ShadowSpy

ShadowSpy
6 days ago#7
Yeah, the key to many arguments is figuring out where the underlying points, definitions or context differ between people, and having a charitable mindset is helpful for figuring that out. It doesn't have to just be something done privately, in one's own head. I've found it helpful to interpret the other person's points, and then summarize them in my own words and ask for confirmation if I got it right. If so, the argument can proceed from that new understanding, and if not, then that leads me one step closer to figuring out what the core of the disagreement is about.

But yeah..for some people, there's just no changing their minds. But at least I can understand where they're coming from better.
"I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific."
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