Crosspost from Medium; relevant to LessWrong in general and possibly to specific ongoing cultural tensions of the past four months or so. Proposes a simple tool for improving culture-clash dynamics and offers some specifics about the cultural diff between the author and other people. 30min read.

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I use this technique sometimes (my lead-in phrase is the deliberately silly "Among my people..."), but it has a couple of flaws that force me to be careful with it.

Most importantly, this framing is always about drawing contrasts: you're describing ways that your culture _differs_ from that of the person you're talking to. Keep this point in the forefront of your mind every time you use this method: you are describing _their_ culture, not just yours. When you say, "In my culture, we put peanut butter on bread", then you are also saying "in your culture, you do not put peanut butter on bread". At the very most you are asking a question: "does your culture also put peanut butter on bread?" So, do not ever say something like "In my culture we do not punish the innocent" unless you also intend to say "Your culture punishes the innocent" -- that is, unless you intend to start a fight.

Relatedly, you have to explicitly do the work of separating real cultural practices from aspirational ones -- this framing will not help you. When you write "In my culture we do not punish the innocent", probably you are thinking something like "In my culture, we think it's important not to punish the innocent", since mistakes do still happen from time to time. But statements like "In my culture we put peanut butter on bread" do not require this kind of aggressive interpretation, they can just be taken literally, so your listeners might reasonably take "In my culture we do not punish the innocent" as a (false) statement of literal fact. Clear and open communication is unlikely to follow.

(If you feel like you grasp these points and agree with them, here's an exercise: can the section of the OP that starts "In my culture, we distinguish between what a situation looks like and what it actually is." be productively rewritten, and if so how?)

Overall, although I do like this technique and use it from time to time, I don't think it's well-suited to important topics. For similar reasons it's easy to use in bad faith. That's why I present it in such a silly and sociological (instead of formally diplomatic) way.

Most importantly, this framing is always about drawing contrasts: you're describing ways that your culture _differs_ from that of the person you're talking to. Keep this point in the forefront of your mind every time you use this method: you are describing _their_ culture, not just yours. [...] So, do not ever say something like "In my culture we do not punish the innocent" unless you also intend to say "Your culture punishes the innocent" -- that is, unless you intend to start a fight.

Does this also apply to your own personal culture (whether aspiring or as-is), or "just" the broader context culture?

Because in my (aspiring) culture simple statements of fact are generally interpreted at face value and further evidence is required to make less charitable interpretations. This is especially true for interpretations that assume the speaker has made some kind of judgement.

So, let's go meta here and see whether I intended to say "Your culture generally makes less charitable interpretations of statements than mine." I guess the answer is yes, though I would like to point out the distinction here between personal culture and broader context culture, hence my question at the beginning. [Writing this I'm also realizing it's really difficult to disentangle statements about culture from judgments. I'm noticing cognitive dissonance because I actually do think my culture is better, but I don't like myself being judgmental.]

Now why did I write the comment above? Because in my culture-as-is the language used in the OP ("always", "do not ever") is too strong given my epistemic status.

Again, we can analyze the intent of this "In my culture"-statement. Here my intent is to say "your culture uses language differently from mine" OR "My epistemic status is different from yours."

Not a direct response to your comment, but related and gives background to my initial question: In my aspiring culture a straightforward question (whatever that means) is by default meant and interpreted (primarily) as an expression of genuine curiosity about the answer.

Thinking about and writing this comment, I've realized that my own culture may be a lot more idiosyncratic than I thought. I also found it really interesting to see my initial prompt to write this post (an immediate gut reaction of "I don't agree with that") dissolve into an understanding of how the disagreement can be due to either cultural or epistemic differences.

NB: There is some entanglement here between intentions, interpretations and responses. In describing a "perfect" culture intentions and interpretations can be freely interchanged to a large extent because if everyone has the same culture they will make the correct assumptions about other people's intents and states of mind. So saying "In my culture people say X because they want Y" is equivalent to saying "In my culture when someone says X people know that that person wants Y". And then there is to an extent a disconnect between the epistemic status of your interpretation of the other person's state of mind and your own reaction, because different reactions entail different costs. Even if an uncharitable interpretation has the highest probability of being correct it often makes sense to act under the assumption that a more charitable interpretation is correct.

Does this also apply to your own personal culture (whether aspiring or as-is), or "just" the broader context culture?

We're talking about a tool for communicating with many different people with many different cultures, and with people whose cultures you don't necessarily know very much about. So the bit you quoted isn't just making claims about my culture, or even one of the (many) broader context cultures, it's making claims about the correct prior over all such cultures.

But what claims exactly? I intended these two:

  1. When you say, "In my culture X", you're also saying "In your culture plausibly not X".
  2. For some values of X, this will start fights (or hurt feelings, or sow mistrust, or have other effects you likely don't want).

It seems like you came to agree with point #1, so I won't belabor it further -- let me know if I misread you and we can circle back. For point #2, I definitely agree that, the more charity the listener extends to you, the smaller the set of hurtful Xs is. But if you rely on that, you're limiting the scope of this method to people who'll apply that charity and whom you know will apply that charity. I picked "punishing the innocent" for my example value of X because I expect it to be broadly cross-cultural: if you go find 100 random people and ask them whether they punish the innocent, I expect that most of them will take offense. If you also expect that, you should build that expectation into your communication strategy, regardless of what your own culture would have you do in those kinds of situations.

Now, the better your know the person you're talking to, the less important these warnings are. Then again, the better you know the person you're talking to, the less you need the safety of the diplomatic/sociological frame, you can just discuss your values directly. That's why I feel comfortable using all that highly absolutist "always/never" language above; it's the same impulse that says "it's always better to bet that a die will roll odd than that it'll roll a 1, all else held equal".

Thinking about it more, I suspect the real rule is that this method shouldn't be used to talk about cultural values at all, just cultural practices -- things that have little or no moral valence. That phrasing doesn't quite capture the distinction I want -- the Thai businessman who won't shake hands with you doesn't think his choice is arbitrary, after all -- but it's close. Another rule might be "don't use these statements to pass moral judgement", but that's hard to apply; as you saw it can be difficult to notice that you're doing it until after the fact.

Oooooh, I like this a lot. In particular, this resolves for me a bit of tension about why I liked the above comment and also disagreed with it—you've helped me split those reactions out into two different buckets. Seems relevant to common-knowledge-type stacks as well.

Strong appreciation for this comment/strong endorsement of the warnings it provides. However, I do nevertheless continue to think it's well-suited to important topics, having seen it productively used on important topics in my own experience.

"Important" was not the right word, I agree; I took a slightly better stab at it in the last paragraph of my reply to ZeitPolizei upthread. Vocabulary aside, would you agree that there's a class of cultural values that this framing doesn't help you talk about?

I want to think further and also want to answer you now, so: knee-jerk response without too much thought is something like "there's a class of cultural values that this framing is insufficient to help you talk about, but it feels to me like a piece of the puzzle that lets you bridge the gap."

i.e. I agree there are ways this can be counterproductive for whole categories of important communication. But I'd probably route through this thing anyway, given my current state of knowledge?

Would not be surprised to find myself talked out of this viewpoint.

I like this comment.

In case it wasn't clear from the bit at the end: I am deeply interested in other people offering expressions of elements of their culture via writing comments here or on Medium or FB, to the extent that that feels like a fun or interesting or valuable thing to do.

I have been thinking about this, but it's taking awhile to solidify. (I don't think I've precisely experienced a "culture clash" precisely in the recent times, although I've observe others appearing to have a culture clash, where Person A clearly cares a lot about X, Person B clearly cares a lot about Y which is in tension/conflict with X, and to me neither X nor Y are sacred but I can see why you might care about them).

[strong upvoted parent mostly because I think having it higher in the comment tree will lead to more interesting and useful conversation]

As noted elsethread, there are some distinctions between

  • my "culture-as-it-is" vs my "culture-as-it-aspires-to-be"
  • my "personal-culture" vs the "culture-I-am-and-want-to-be-part-of"

i. Common Knowledge and Robust Agency

In my culture (both the culture-that-is and culture I aspire to), we attend to what is common knowledge and what is not. My culture includes (by necessity, not necessarily choice) people who are coming and going all the time. The walls are not secure enough to ensure that everyone inside has common knowledge of all the most important things, and basically can't be.

Sometimes, something is important (and tractable!) enough that we spend a bunch of coordinating effort to make sure there is common knowledge of it's importance and that everyone is in fact reliably working towards it (with some punishment for defection, and buy-in for enforcing said punishment). Most of the time we don't bother, and instead make little work-groups with higher standards when higher standards are necessary.

Meanwhile, we model what is common knowledge (within my-culture-at-large, and within whatever conversation is going on)

Also meanwhile, we are aspiring to be robust agents together – we are each trying to adopt policies that will work at different levels of scale, with different levels of understanding and skill on the parts of the people participating. And we help each other to do so. [Edit: Because of the aforementioned insecure walls, the policies must also be robust against occasional, actively adversarial behavior].


ii. Emotions-as-object

In my culture-as-it-is, if I say something and someone says "that makes me sad and/or angry", I generally do expect some combination of punishment, or a bid for me to change my behavior. Having this not be the case takes work on the part of the person, and on anyone else in the conversation – I need to trust that they have emotional skills necessary to not hold a grudge, that the people listening will not over update (either against me, or possibly against the person who made the claim, in a way that creates more work for me.)

There are cultures where it is more taken-as-default that people are building the skills to take-emotions-as-object, enough so that one either can trust that they have that skill, or that they're earnestly building the skill and it's okay to take emotional risks in the service of helping everyone build the skill.

I think the skill is important. In my culture (my aspiring culture), we definitely spend at least some time building the skills necessary to have tricky conversations that take charged-emotions as object. But, because in my aspiring culture, there is still a mix of people with different skills working together, this is not taken as default. Every time that it is not common knowledge that everyone has the requisite skills, the default assumption is that we can't rely on people having them.

So if you want to talk about tricky emotionally charged things you need to put in extra work that scales with the number of people you're having a conversation with.


iii. Distributed Teamwork vs Specialization/Systems

I've changed my beliefs somewhat (although they are still in flux) over the past year. My culture used to take as obvious that the way to get things done was to get a critical mass of people who were paying attention to each other's needs and to the surrounding environment and working together to improve them, to fix obvious failures, and to attend to each other's emotional needs.

I still think that is all quite good, I still aesthetically prefer a world where that is how a lot of stuff gets done. But I know have more awareness of

a) sometimes specialization is just better

b) sometimes you can just eliminate a task completely, and it's often better to look for solutions that don't require everyone to continuously spend attention on a thing.

So in my culture we try to check early and often for how to resolve a thing without coordination.

(an uncertainty of mine is that I think you often will suddenly need the skills of how to do things via distributed teamwork and coordination, esp. when you're starting a new house or organization, so it's important to build the critical mass of that skill even if you try to resolve any given thing without it)


iv. Improving our ability to think clearly

In my culture, we have a responsibility to improve our ability to think - both to avoid bias, and to generate useful/creative thoughts.

You also have some responsibility to do your thinking in a way that helps others around you improve their thinking. This, in part, means, thinking transparently so that others can both inspect your thinking and learn from it.

[edit: It also means not doing too much of other people's thinking for them. Try to give people space to think, and sometimes optimize asking questions or answering questions in a way that's optimized for helping other people to learn to figure out the answer on their own, instead of solving it for them]


v. in my culture, we type "nod."

(I recently was texting with both rationalist friends and non-rationalist family in NY, and there were brief, jarring moments where they said "wait, did you just type the word 'nod?' Is that a thing you do now?" and I said "I... suppose I do?")

Put a slash in front, and it's a character emote, very recognizable by old-school MUDders and MMORPG players. /nod is unremarkable in some groups. Also documented in "the jargon file" as common hacker culture as early as the 1970s:

When I have heard people use this "in the wild", it has at times come off as *extremely* insulting or condescending. In particular, when both participants are part of the same culture, it feels like one participant is making an extremely aggressive conversational move, something along the lines of "I understand this culture/community better than you and I declare that you are Out Of Bounds". It is precisely in heated/tense situations where this most seems to backfire, which makes me skeptical of the utility of this technique "in the wild".

I note that most of the examples you give seem innocuous and legitimate and in fact things I'd like to see more of - but somehow in practice this often seems to backfire in the most important instances, at least when I've seen it done.

Did you see Zeit Polizei's comment above? That was super productive for me, on this axis. For instance, taking into consideration (both before and after attempting to make this move) the degree to which the other person's culture is one that leans toward uncharitable or defensive interpretations of what the other person was saying.

Also, it seems in your description of people getting heated that there's no clear distinction being made between claims about one's personal culture and claims about the context culture—the "I understand this community better than you" is triggerable by this tool if you're not careful, but it's not actually the claim I'm making if I say "in my culture."

(To put this another way: it seems like you missed an important part of the thesis of the piece*, which is that there are no interactions between two people with the exact same culture. While it is in fact the case that some people work differently (e.g. Scott's discussion of high-trust vs. low-trust cultures) and will reliably hear you to be making claims about the context culture if you're not extremely exact, and therefore it's important to be clear and careful and say a few more words to delineate your claims about the context culture from your claims about your own personal sense of what-is-ideal ...

... while it seems true that you should take that into account, on a practical level, it seems that if you have done all that work, and someone reacts hostilely to you as if you are making some other claim ...

... as far as I can tell, in the Berkeley rationalist context culture, the one that most of us agree upon so we can get along with each other, the person who sort of ... refused to believe that I meant what I said? ... is the one who's doing something hostile.

Or at least, it seems to me that there's a principle of "don't claim you understand better than others what's going on in their heads" in the shared context of people you and I hang out with. But maybe I'm mistaken? Maybe this is not the case, and in fact that is just another piece of my personal culture?

*or you didn't miss it yourself, but you're pointing out that it's subtle and therefore it gets missed in practice a lot

To be clear I'm not making the claim that what I described above is an endorsed or correct experience, just how I've actually encountered it in practice at times. I'll try and keep track of my impressions when I encounter this sort of thing in the future, and take what you've said here into account.

Or at least, it seems to me that there's a principle of "don't claim you understand better than others what's going on in their heads" in the shared context of people you and I hang out with. But maybe I'm mistaken? Maybe this is not the case, and in fact that is just another piece of my personal culture?

My read on the context-culture is that this isn't very agreed upon, and/or depends a lot on context. (I had a sense that this particular point was probably the thing that triggered this entire post, but was waiting to talk about that until I had time to think seriously about it)

[Flagging: what follows is my read on the rationalist context culture, which... somewhat ironically can't make much use of the technique suggested in the OP. I'm trying to stick to descriptive claims about what I've observed, and a couple of if-then statements which I think are locally valid]

A founding principle of the rationality community is "people are biased and confused a lot, even smart people, even smart people who've thought about it a bit". So it seemed to me that if the rationality was going to succeed at the goal of "help people become less confused and more rational", it's necessary for some kind of social move in the space of "I think you're more confused or blind-spotted than you realize", at least some times.

But it's also even easier to be wrong about what's going on in someone else's head than what's going on in your head. And there are also sometimes incentives to use "I think someone is being confused" as a social weapon. And making a claim like that and getting it wrong

My observations are that rationalists do sometimes do this (in Berkeley and on LW and elsewhere), and it often goes poorly unless there is a lot of trust or a lot of effort is put in, but it doesn't feel like there's much like a collective immune response that I'd expect to see if it were an established norm.

This makes sense to me.

Similar caveats as Ray's re: this is more fraught, since here I am trying to describe my observations of the context culture, as opposed to things I'm relatively sure about because they live inside my head. These are not normative statements/shoulds, they're just "in my experience"s.

it's necessary for some kind of social move in the space of "I think you're more confused or blind-spotted than you realize", at least some times.

Strong agree. It seems to me that the additional bit that makes this prosocial instead of a weapon is something like:

I notice that I've got a hypothesis forming, that you're more confused or blind-spotted than you realize. I started to form this hypothesis when I saw X, Y, and Z, which I interpreted to mean A, B, and C. This hypothesis causes me to predict that, if I hadn't said anything, you would've responded to M with N, which would've been miscalibrated for reasons 1 and 2. If I saw you doing G, I would definitely update away from this hypothesis, and certainly G is not the only thing that would shift me. I want to now be open to hearing your response or counterargument; this is not a mic drop.

... where the two key pieces of the above are:

1) distinguishing between a hypothesis and a fact, or between a claim and an assertion. It seems non-rude and at least possibly non-aggressive/non-invalidating/non-weaponized to say "I'm considering [your blindness/biased-ness] among many possibilities," whereas it seems pretty much guaranteed to be taken-as-rude or taken-as-an-attempt-to-delegitimize to just flatly state "Yeah, you're [blind/biased]."

2) creating surface area/showing the gears of your hypothesis/sticking your neck out and making what you've said falsifiable. There are hints of cruxes not only in G, but also in X, Y, and Z, which someone may convincingly argue you misunderstood or misinterpreted or misremembered.

In the swath of the EA/rationalist community that I have the most exposure to (i.e. among the hundred or so Berkelanders that I've interacted with in the past year) the social move of having a hypothesis is one that is acceptable when used with clear care and respect, and the social move of claiming to know is one that is frowned upon. In other words, I've seen people band together in rejection of the latter, and I've heard many different people on many different occasions say things like my fake quote paragraph above.

This also seems to me to be correct, and is part of what I came here for (where "here" is the rationalist community). I notice that my expectation of such (in swathes of the community where that is not the norm) has gotten me into fights, in the past.

Random additional note: introspection is a skill, and extrospection is a skill, and part of what feeds into my "it seems like this is complicated" belief is that people can be good or bad at both, and common knowledge about who is good or bad at either is hard to establish.

I quite appreciated the cultural tool here. I'm not sure whether I'd want to implement with the precise phrasing of it's original inventor (I have a vague sense that prefacing every discussion of this reference class with "in my culture..." could get weirdly grating. But, I think invoking the spirit of that concept is quite a nice idea and look forward to trying it out).

"In my religion..."

"The way it works in my head is..."

"For me personally, situations like this..."

"Maybe this isn't generally true, but I found myself..."

A lot of it is pretty NVC/circling norm stuff. But I think there's something uniquely strong about the "in my culture" frame that might make it worth ... saving that actual exact phrase for the top 15% of use cases?

For my personal usage, the way I could imagine using it, "in my culture" sounds a bit serious and final. "Where I'm from, we do X" is nice if I want something to sound weighty and powerful and stable, but I just don't think I've figured myself out enough to do that much yet. There might also be a bit of confusion in that "in my culture" also has a structurally similar literal meaning.

"In Robopolis" seems to fix these problems for me, since it more clearly flags that I'm not talking about a literal culture, and it sounds more agnostic about whether this is a deep part of who I am vs. a passing fashion.

"In my culture, saying 'in my culture' sounds serious and final." :P

That was my draft 1. :P

(I'm not sure I've ever actually read this post the entire way through, but the "In My Culture" framing device has been occasionally useful.)

For this reason, I wouldn't want this post included in the 2019 highlights. I just looked at this for the review, and the part which some people report finding useful is in the brief description of the concept at the very beginning. The bulk of the post is a freeform, rambling exploration of the concept and its implications which I mostly couldn't bring myself to focus on; this exploratory style seems totally appropriate for a personal blog post, but it's not the sort of thing I'd want to read if I were looking back at a curated list of the best stuff from 2019.

(I strong upvoted this comment because it is wise.)

[+][comment deleted]00

In the spirit of "how could this post be improved, such that it makes sense to include in a 'Best Of', or otherwise enter into Lesswrong's longterm memory", my suggestion would be "publish an summary version which is just an abridgment of the current piece's introduction plus maaaybe a few selected paragraphs from deeper in, probably no need to bother writing any new words."

(note: it'd actually be helpful if you re-posted this as a Review comment so that our system for checking which posts have been reviewed at least once can notice it)

I would probably include this post in the review as-is if I had to. However, I would quite prefer the post to change somewhat before putting it in the Best Of Book.

Most importantly, I think, is the title and central handle. It does an important job, but it does not work that well in the wild among people who don't share the concept handle. Several people have suggested alternatives. I don't know if any of them are good enough, but I think now is a good time to reflect on a longterm durable name.

I'd also like to see some more explicit differentiation of "aspiring culture" vs "culture-that-is".

Someone else suggested splitting off the second half of the essay. I'm not sure I endorse that. On one hand, the first half of the post does feel sort of complete and standalone. But I think it is actually pretty useful to have an example of what such a culture looks like, so people can more easily  see what their own might look like. Perhaps an optimal version of this post includes a few different cultures at the end? (Maybe less comprehensively?)

FWIW, I would be willing to cut it, if it makes the cut overall, such that the essay is shorter and primarily about the core concept and includes only enough Duncan-specific stuff to get that core concept across.

This was really interesting. It was also very long, and if it were split in two, it might be more clear whether reactions are to the first part ("here's this cool thing") or the second part ("here's how things usually work").

So...I actually happen to have converged upon the same insight, and have actually tried to use this exact phrase in the wild.

Unfortunately (being an immigrant) people understandably often assume I was talking about nation-level differences involving my country of birth, rather than my particular family and the specialized microcosm of friends that I surround myself with. Any ideas for making the wording more precise so as to avoid this?

(I've tried modifications like "in my family" or "the way I grew up" or "how I was raised" but more or less the same problem occurs. "Among my friends and I" sort of works, sometimes? But mostly I've just given up on trying to reference culture in navigating misunderstandings.)

My closest answer would be something like "in my version of utopia," although maybe that's too strong? Or perhaps (depending on how nerdy the group is) something like "if I were having this meeting with five clones of me..."?

Another clunkier version is just to port over the WHOLE concept, of not only personal culture but also context culture: "I mean, there's a sort of thing where we kind of have norms and customs about how to communicate, and maybe they're a little different from what any individual wants or would do, and that's good, I'm not trying to say the group norms should exactly match my individual preferences, but like in my own little one-person culture, X, and I imagine maybe some people here didn't know that."

I expect that if you abbreviate that to "Hmm. In my own one-person culture, X", you'd probably accomplish most of the thing.

I notice as I reflect on this that I have separate buckets for "my culture as it actually stands" and "my aspirational culture that I'd like to be true but isn't actually yet", which seem differently important.

My closest answer would be something like "in my version of utopia," although maybe that's too strong?

I think this implies way too much endorsement. I often find myself editing a document and thinking "in American English, the comma goes inside the quotation marks," even though "in programming, the period goes outside the quotation marks".

I don't think the current implementation of this post is ideal (the phrase "In my culture..." doesn't seem to always translate with the intended connotations, in particular online in low-context settings). 

But, I think the general problem this post was trying to solve is quite important, and I think it's at least an incremental improvement over the status quo to have this concept-handle.

I think of "how to navigate divergent cultural expectations" as one of the central coordination (and rationality) problems we face. I think it's significant that it's cultural, rather than simply "a set of personal practices" because I think humans are largely built out of culture, and even imaginary cultures have weight. And as Malcolm Ocean notes in Reveal Culture, it often matters a lot that there be shared cultural assumptions.

Meanwhile, there are competing access needs that different cultures can attempt to resolve in different ways. Archipelago is good, even if it's leadership bottlenecked. So, having tools that are specifically for resolving cultural clashes seems pretty important.

I like the transparency and effort at NOT claiming universality. The use of the phrase "my culture" doesn't resonate as strongly for me. It still seems to be claiming some larger context of one's expectations, and can be taken as pressure to conform to that cultural expectation.

I prefer "for me", or "in my mind", "my initial reaction ", or more self-deprecatingly "in my naive interpretation". This still makes it transparent and clear where the miscommunication or conflict is, without claiming any outside authority for my interpretation.

I agree that "in my culture" works if and only if there is *also* a common-knowledge understanding that we're in the metaphorical diplomatic setting and that it's not a bid for changing that diplomatic setting's context culture. I also agree that a lack of intent to apply pressure doesn't always equate to a lack of perception of pressure.

I have a friend who advocates "in my religion" as the superior phrase for that reason—we already have clear common-knowledge boundaries around how religion is personal and sort of self-aware/known to be something other people won't pick up. I feel a little squidgy around that one myself, though, because it seems *too* self-deprecating in populations with a high percentage of atheism.

Interesting. Most of the discussions where I want to use this mechanism are atheist, but tolerant and curious enough that I'd expect to immediately sidetrack into "what religion is that, and how does this interpretation relate to those teachings"?

I think "in my mind", or "my initial reaction" will remain my go-to phrasings for this kind of identification of miscommunication.

I do think that "in my mind" and "my initial reaction" gets a lot of the value. I'm curious if you ever run into people who are uncertain whether you mean "Dagon is expressing a personal thought?" or "Dagon is making a bid to change our broader conversational API"?

For me, that was the biggest thing that I got, once my colleague started doing this—the distinction between their culture and their bids to change the norms.

Uncertain whether you mean "Dagon is expressing a personal thought?" or "Dagon is making a bid to change our broader conversational API"?

Also interesting - I'm happy to be having this exploration! I think I use this phrase in both cases, and also when I'm unsure whether either is true! It's mostly a bid to open the meta-level discussion about how the communication is happening, separate from whatever it is that we're (failing to) communicate.

The post attempts to point out the important gap between fighting over norms/values and getting on the same page about what people's norms/values even are, and offers a linguistic tool to help readers navigate it in their life.

A lot of (the first half of) the post feels like An Intuitive Introduction to Being Pro Conversation Before Fighting, and it's all great reading.

I think the OP wants to see people really have conversation about these important differences in values, and is excited about that. Duncan believes that this phrase is a key step allowing (certainly Duncan) to have these conversations, and I am happy that this seems accurate for some number of people.

There are many perspectives on why people avoid having conversations about value differences. Scott has written a lot trying to encourage people to have actual conversation about values differences, such as Guided By the Beauty of Our Weapons and Fundamental Values Differences Are Not That Fundamental. I think often there are forces that try to delegitimize honest talk about values differences in favor of just punishing those that don't share their values, in an attempt to gain power. I think it's also the case that many people have a kind of learned helplessness of values talk – they're scared because they expect those forces are out to get them, and that phrases that attempt to move the conversation there are just scary.

The post doesn't address this much, and in that regard it feels a touch naive to me. That said, I think we can build our own small, walled garden here and have trust in each other to have real conversations. And for that purpose, this sort of "laying out the basics and offering a linguistic tool" has a lot in common with how much of the sequences provided value.

I haven't ever used the phrase myself. One way to update on that would be "this is evidence that it's not the right phrase", but on reflection I feel more like "I regret not doing so and would like to make an explicit effort to try using it 3 times".

I think overall it's very clear and is valuable as a post for many to read. I expect to vote for it with somewhere between +2 and +4.

I think if it's included it would probably be good to include some of the comment section which was also good.


P.S. For me, while I liked the post, I didn't really get the phrase until I saw it being used in the wild a bunch of times. I think I would've grokked the phrase sooner if there was a concise instance early on of how both sides of the conversation go. For example, I think (?) that in most interactions, it's good for both people to use the phrase in my culture and explain what norms they think are right, and then decide which norms they're going to coordinate on together.

From a practical standpoint whenever I hear that kind of talk, I nod to signify comprehension, understanding and tolerance and say something such as "Noted. That's very interesting, but unfortunately that's not the culture that I (or preferably "we" - if the context will allow) happen to operate in." It's equally as silly and does a nice, quick job of reversing the burden of the proof.