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Really new to this site, I'm hitting a problem I've experienced in other aspects of my life as a student, employee and comedic performer: I'm extremely rude. I don't realize it at the time, thinking that I'm just being blunt, forceful and direct. In the sense that those can all be definitions of similar concepts, then yeah! Well, confidence in myself is a great asset, and I've turned it to positive effect, especially when I need to intimidate someone with a roguish smile and a calm, iron-hard assertion backed up by a blistering intensity (I sound like a Marty-Stu right now. Draco will want his leather pants back.)

But making rationally sound argument should not be about winning. It should be about accuracy, clarity and sanity. If you disagree with me on something I need to remind myself not to automatically fight. What good is being alpha when I'm ignoring my confusion and avoiding my embarrassment at possibly being mistaken. Not to mention that this is an internet forum, so limitations of the medium means attempting to look like a tough guy winds up hollow and sad, like a chocolate Easter bunny that's gone off.

Okay, I'm not one for similes, but I am one for trying to make myself more sane.

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Can you be more specific about the behaviors that come off as rude? It looks like you've identified an important problem (and one that many people fail to notice-- congratulations!), but in a very abstract way.

In myself it's usually a tendency to immediately be infinitely uncharitable to people making bad arguments, which leads to me being sarcastic and/or making fun of them insteaad of doing any useful explaining.

Yes, I made another short post which was about Russell's teapot, but was ostensibly framed around a letter by Sam Harris, and I was more snarky than cooperative with the comments. Well, recognize your errors and move forward, yeah? Thank you for asking for clarification.

If you disagree with me on something I need to remind myself not to automatically fight.

I like to remind myself that if I'm ignoring potentially useful information, I may be fucking myself over. I think that this kinda turns aggressive feelings to my advantage, because they amplify my desire to not do that.

The problem my brother-in-law has is not that he ignores useful information. He evaluates lots of useful information - pertaining to a street fighting situation. Usefulness needs to be specified in more detail. It can be very useful to know your opponent well. It just depends on your goals. If you do not really know your goals your subconscious will evaluate everything with respect to known situation and primary desires..

This more or less cuts to the core of the issue. Would I be better off if I could flip a switch and shut off my aggression entirely? Almost certainly not, since I wouldn't care enough to form a cogent answer to any comments. Would I be well served by immediately jumping to action every time I feel passionate? Evidently not, since in my haste to resolve a perceived insult or problem I could forget to fully think through the issue from the start and form an erroneous or biased response. Essentially I'd just like to learn more patience, so that when something does ruffle my feathers I don't feel the need to instantly answer before I've given careful consideration.

Could you give some more details how this male trait surfaces? By words or movements or appearace or is it only visible via the response of your 'opponents'? I am quite the opposite. Calm and peaceful. But I have an in-law who might be like you. Streetfighter in his youth he is now very controlled and somewhat balanced. But one sudden movement or signal of danger and he will be on his toes or at your neck faster than you can look. He can be the sweetest talker and the controlled arguer as long he has the control. But don't threaten him - he will be your determined enemy. Interestingly he worked in a call-centre and could handle the most escalted clients successfully - possibly because they didn't threaten him and he could understand them (he mentioned once what he would do when faced with their situation and thought their reaction harmless). So do you recognise yourself? Rationality doesn't require that you are nice. It requires that you win - at your utility function. Are you unhappy with your rudeness?

Thank you for asking this. I'm an improvisation actor and comedian, starting the groundwork for a productions company, and I've found that one of my most useful resources is an intimidating presence which allows me to take over a room, often for the entertainment and comfort of my audience. My appearance is part of that, and my body language is strong, but spoken words are the clearest way my dominance is communicated. I am almost impossible to intimidate, and generally I am quite happy with my directness and energy. When it isn't serving my best utility, however, I call that rudeness and note how I might make myself more effective. As far as your in-law, I was also known to be physically violent in my teen years, but these days I don't count myself as an effective leader or confident human if I feel I need to resort to violence. Calm, assertive, confident, entertaining communication skills are my strongest utility, and it is tied to my aggression, so no I am not unhappy with my rudeness. Just want to trim away bad habits while increasing utility.

So what happens when someone in the room refused to be initmidated/taken over/accept your dominance? Do you get into status/dominance fights?

Typically, if they're talented enough to be funny, I just make them part of my performances, since I'm pretty adept at improvisation. If they aren't funny, then they can still serve as a butt of jokes. I've been moving more towards preparations for online videos or other productions, so the extent of dominance struggles will be people leaving nasty comments on Youtube videos, and me ignoring them. Anyway, I want to be clear that when my audience has a lot of energy and I match it with dominant confidence, that is a form of aggression that is far removed from anger. An audience is more comfortable with someone whom is strong, confident and dominant. If I'm up on stage saying "Well, if it's okay with you guys, we might do some comedy sketches or... I dunno, whatever you guys wanna do," Then they'll get up and walk out. Glad to clarify.

I don't realize it at the time, thinking that I'm just being blunt, forceful and direct.

I notice potential solution here. (Do less of that, to the extent that the observed consequence matters to you.)


If your problem is along the lines of treating debates as competitions and getting caught up in winning the argument rather than finding the truth, I can completely relate. What I've found extremely helpful is trying to be mindful of that hazard when debating. If you notice yourself, say, tearing down your opponent's argument over what you know to be an easily fixed flaw, give yourself a bit of negative feedback (no! bad!). On the other hand if you notice yourself acknowledging a flaw in your argument, publicly renouncing a previously held position or otherwise changing your mind, give yourself a mental pat on the head (nice! good job!).

It took me a long time but if I notice myself weaseling around and subtly changing my argument to avoid being wrong I get an instant, intense sinking feeling in my stomach. Likewise, if I say something like, "Wow, yeah good point, I was definitely wrong there," I get a blossoming glow that spreads up my chest. These physical reminders are extremely reinforcing and I've completely flipped from hating to admit fault to really appreciating the experience.

Of course, its still reeeeally easy to push these cues out of your head if you're emotionally invested in a debate even a small amount. Constant vigilance!

But making rationally sound argument should not be about winning.

This website is actually about making rationally sound argument. In real life a lot of situation aren't and it's often better to concentrate on the effects that the words you are saying have on other people than about whether arguments are intellectually sound.

Or perhaps, to reinterpret things Eliezer has said: This website is actually about winning.

I for one would rather learn how to be a better alpha male than how to be more rational. At least, for the next 10 years.


But that doesn't mean someone who isn't already an alpha male shouldn't want to learn to be less so. I am reminded of this.

If you disagree with me on something I need to remind myself not to automatically fight.

The vast majority of the time you should not even admit that you disagree. I think framing it as admission may be helpful.

I hereby pat everybody in this thread onto the shoulder: You have been honest about your aggression and put it to good use instead. Well done. I appeal to the holy brother Eliezer for giving us the absolution. Err, I mean; well; I don't know. Can we make this into a group celebration like recommended in http://lesswrong.com/lw/3h/why_our_kind_cant_cooperate/ ?

Strange that I wrote this. I was in a somewhat tired but lucid state yesterday evening and this thread felt like community. When I reflected it in the morning I thought: "How could you write that! It must have cost you lots of karma. Quick. Remove at least the reference to the holy brother." But no. The comment sits there with 0 points.