Yesterday, I mainly talked about Hufflepuff Cynicism from the cynic's end. However, there's a lot to be said about the receiving end. Hufflepuff cynicism can come off as a very patronizing strategy. Is this a point against it?

In the original conversation where I came up with the idea of Hufflepuff cynicism, I was talking about norms for aspiring rationalists around trying to get other people to be more rational. Maybe we agree that double crux is a good conversation procedure, but should we try to convince someone of that? Should we try to get them to double-crux with us about it? Maybe we believe you should bet or update when a disagreement hasn't been resolved, but what should we do with a disagreement about the bet-or-update rule?

My argument from the Hufflepuff Cynicism side was in favor of chesterton-fencing such disagreements. Don't try to convince others about rationality norms; at least, stop after the first explanation falls on deaf ears. Instead, figure out why the person isn't already following the norm. It seems likely that there's some important reason; if you can figure it out, maybe you can come up with a better norm which would address the concern (in much the same way bet-or-update addresses objections to the simpler strategies "bet on disagreements" or "talk out disagreements until you converge").

To my surprise, not everyone wants to be treated so carefully. Some people find this attitude patronizing or overly cautious, and request that I just tell them what they are doing wrong, possibly telling them more than just one time if they don't get it the first time. This is, more or less, an invocation of Crocker's Rule.

To quote the sl4 wiki on Crocker's Rules:

Declaring yourself to be operating by "Crocker's Rules" means that other people are allowed to optimize their messages for information, not for being nice to you.  Crocker's Rules means that you have accepted full responsibility for the operation of your own mind - if you're offended, it's your fault.  Anyone is allowed to call you a moron and claim to be doing you a favor.  (Which, in point of fact, they would be.  One of the big problems with this culture is that everyone's afraid to tell you you're wrong, or they think they have to dance around it.)  Two people using Crocker's Rules should be able to communicate all relevant information in the minimum amount of time, without paraphrasing or social formatting.  Obviously, don't declare yourself to be operating by Crocker's Rules unless you have that kind of mental discipline.
Note that Crocker's Rules does not mean you can insult people; it means that other people don't have to worry about whether they are insulting you.  Crocker's Rules are a discipline, not a privilege.  Furthermore, taking advantage of Crocker's Rules does not imply reciprocity.  How could it?  Crocker's Rules are something you do for yourself, to maximize information received - not something you grit your teeth over and do as a favor.

(This seems like really just one rule to me, so I tend to call it Crocker's Rule.)

A problem I've encountered, which has reinforced my Hufflepuff Cynicism, is that people can invoke Crocker's Rule and then get upset about feedback I give anyway.

My advice is this: Crocker's Rule is a promise not to punish others for giving you negative feedback. If you don't want to be patronized by Hufflepuff Cynics like myself, don't make that promise unless you're sure you can keep it. Instead, show others through your words and actions over an extended period of time that you are both able and happy to accept negative feedback. Don't make a standing request for negative feedback. Ask for it explicitly again and again, and thank others for giving it to you. If you can't thank them genuinely, you've learned something about yourself and can adapt accordingly.

But, maybe I'm too much of a Hufflepuff Cynic. I don't know. Maybe I should... hold people to their own standards, sometimes...?

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Instead, show others through your words and actions over an extended period of time that you are both able and happy to accept negative feedback.

In order to get better at this, it might be useful to practice not immediately discussing the feeback you just recieved. I notice that sometimes when I get feedback, I feel like I have to either immediately go "Thanks, but here's why your comment doesn't apply" or go "Gee, I guess I'm wrong and have to update."

Take the pressure off yourself and record that feedback mull over the feedback some other time. (note, I have not historically done this, but I think I'm going to try now)

It would probably also be a good idea to let the other person know that you are purposefully not immediately engaging witht he feedback, so they don't mistake you for having dismissed it.

Yeah, signalling that you'll think about the feedback seems like a good way to navigate between defensiveness and over-updating. This also seems likely to make it easier to thank the person, since you aren't yet evaluating the comment as helpful vs unhelpful; you're thanking them for food for thought.

I don't take anyone's protestations seriously when they claim they won't be hurt/offended by anything that might be said to them.

Everyone is hurtable. EVERYONE.

I do think people can sometimes give accurate information about what is more and less likely to hurt their feelings. And they can credibly promise not to retaliate in certain ways. But literally everyone who has told me that they were generally unhurtable was mistaken.

Huh, this post crystalized something about the "people asking for feedback who I don't trust to handle it well" thing.

I like your formulation of "practice to show you can handle it a lot". I'm thinking through an operationalization of "if you want me to give you feedback, here's what you need to do", since I've definitely run into people who I don't really trust to take feedback without getting hurt, or without punishing me to some degree. (Even without anything as extreme as Crocker's rules - simply giving the feedback at all, carefully and gently, can hurt them and/or lead them to actions that make me feel punished)

There's still a catch-22 here, because if I say "I need you to have demonstrated that I can safely give you feedback before I give you feedback", that leads to a chicken/egg thing problem where I (and others, if they follow my policy) don't give them feedback to demonstrate trustworthiness on. Theoretically you can start with mild, low stakes feedback that gradually escalates to more overt, high stakes feedback. But I don't always have opportunity to give low stakes feedback (or to observe other people giving it)

It's also possible to take the gradual approach even if you only have one opportunity to give them feedback, though it is a little outside the bounds of how people normally interact and takes a bit of skill.

Basically, instead of "I need you to have already demonstrated [...] so I can't give you feedback", you can say "I need you to demonstrate [...] before I give you feedback", and then not taking away their opportunity to do so on the spot, if they wish.

There is a difference in experience between saying things that you want to believe/portray vs things that are honest reports of actual simulated experience. The former not only sounds different, but you can often see the emotional response yourself, if you look.

Suppose you ask someone "how would you respond if I told you that your mom died". They might look at it from the outside and make all sorts of guesses and statements about how they might respond. These generally don't mean much, because they rely on the persons self-model, which is often not that good even if they aren't swayed by motivations to pain themselves in a good light. However, another possible way to answer the question is to put yourself in that situation, and let yourself see first hand what kinds of thoughts/feelings/emotions come up. This isn't always foolproof either, since they might be imagining the stimulus a bit differently than it is going to turn out in real life, but at least their responses will be genuine.

Often, people will try to give you the first type of answer ("Words can't hurt me! Sticks and stones! Crockers rules!"), and you're going to need to nudge them towards giving the second type of answer before you can trust what they're saying. The way you do this is by leaning on the potential for it to be a real situation, which they need to actually be prepared for, but without spilling the secret about whether or not it's actually real, so that you can keep it as a (realistically simulated) hypothetical. It's a bit of a balancing act.

While they are too far on the side of "make believe", you can work things towards "real situation" by holding the frame that you can't believe/trust their declarations, or by painting an increasingly detailed and vivid picture and speaking more and more as if it's actually a real thing. If they start to fall too far on the side of "unprepared response to a harsh reality", you can start to remind them that you haven't actually confirmed that it is indeed reality yet, and start to bring them back to the perspective of seeing it as a hypothetical -- at which point it becomes pretty clear that they weren't ready to hear that kind of thing and make you feel comfortable telling them, if it were to be true. Of course, in order to be able to do this second step, you have to be able to credibly say that the fact that you're inquiring about their response to this hypothetical doesn't necessarily mean that it's true. For example, "It's impossible to hurt my feelings" might be tested with "Really? Even if everyone you've ever known and loved told you that they were putting up with you because they didn't think you could handle seeing how they really saw you?", even if the reality is just that you personally think they're pretty cool, but sometimes a little annoying.

In short, what you want to avoid is taking self-statements without confirmation as truth and then jumping all the way from complete make believe to complete truth, without ever stopping to see how they actually deal with things as they traverse from "totally untrue" to "potentially true" to "truth".

Slow it down, and traverse that ground in a controlled fashion, while always allowing a comfortable way out.

Maybe I should... hold people to their own standards, sometimes...?

Noooo! Terrible idea. No matter what standards people claim to have, they don't owe you anything. It's a free world. As long as no laws are broken, every human interaction is a freely chosen trade. Your loss from trading with Bob is on you. Make a different trade next time, or choose someone else to trade with.

(That also helps against your general brand of cynicism. Complaining about your trade partners is clearly absurd. Trade, or don't.)

"Complaining about your trade partners" at the level of making trade decisions is clearly absurd (a type error). "Complaining about your trade partners" at the level of calling them out, suggesting in an annoyed voice they behave differently, looking miffed, and otherwise attempting to impose costs on them (as object level actions inside of an ongoing trade/interaction which you both are agreeing to) is not. These are sometimes the mechanism via which things of value are traded or negotiations are made, and may be preferred by both parties to ceasing the interaction.

This is tangential, but I have a wary attitude toward Crocker's rules. It is truly important to learn to receive criticism well (without feeling hurt or defensive), but it is equally important to learn to deliver criticism well (signalling genuine desire to help rather than hostility). I feel that people / groups who are enthusiastic about Crocker's rules sometimes come across as expecting people to adopt these rules and neglect their own skill of delivering criticism.

Ignoring people's emotions doesn't make a discussion more rational, but the opposite. Making everyone feel safe and comfortable (meaning, not on trial and not in a fight or contest) is what enables rational, impartial discussion.


Is it suprising that the correct answer to something is "it depends on the person"? Shouldn't that be the default assumption?


It's also entirely information-free, which means that as an epistemic aid it's rather... lacking.

If someone provides honest feedback when asked, then people can stop asking if they find this painful.

In Interstellar it is pointed out that there are more than two options: "90% honesty" I think the phrase was.