"Bashing" and Human Nature

After a lot of talking with the editors over on Space Cynic, and a bit of thinking, I think I’ll leave them up on my blog roll. They make good points, even if I don’t like the delivery. After all, I leave Rand’s site up on the blogroll even though I disagree quite strongly with his foreign policy views.

I think there’s a valuable lesson here for all you out there who have advanced academic degrees, lots of experience, or who generally think you’re smarter than the rest of us (especially if you really are smarter than the rest of us). Pride is one of the biggest obstacles to learning that exists, and delivering a point in such a way that doesn’t get people’s prideful hackles up is a lot more likely to actually help people to learn.

On my mission we had a term we used for when you were trying to brow-beat someone with your superior knowledge on the topic: “Bible Bashing”. Let me just say, Bullwinkle, that trick never works. Once both sides are pridefully ignoring each others points, offended, and angry at each other, almost all potential for learning is gone. I have actually met a few people who were humble and teachable enough that they could take a condescending, arrogant harangue, and actually internalize it and see if there was any truth in the argument, and then act on it. But they are rare individuals indeed.

There’s a reason why ideas like this get coved in books like “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Human nature hasn’t changed in however many millenia you believe we’ve been around for. People still don’t like being brow beaten, condescended, insulted, or picked on. People’s logical functions still tend to shut down when they get angry, overly emotional, frustrated, or desparate.

So, if your actual goal is to get a point across, to help someone learn, using a bit of humility, persuasion, tact, politeness, and friendliness is the way to do it. You may even find out in the process that the other side actually has a point too, and that you really didn’t know everything.

Just a thought. I feel better now.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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One Response to "Bashing" and Human Nature

  1. John Hare says:

    The reasons for ressistance to pushy people goes a bit deeper than ‘human nature’. There are practical reasons to dismiss the pushers.

    You will have to make judgement calls on people, products, and situations on a regular basis if you are to live a productive life. You almost never have all the data on the calls you have to make. Someone that cannot be bothered to even be polite probably does not respect your actual position enough to be fully informed about it. Pushy people (including myself) are usually far more interested in what they have to say than your opinions or background. Being uninformed makes them a clearly less reliable source of information.

    A second problem is that it sometimes seems that people are agressive in inverse proportion to their actual capabilities. Spencer vs Guth for an extreme example. I seldom see Henry push a point past the civility barrier.

    Living in the ‘bible belt’, I used to frequently encounter the bible bashers of many different denominations that couldn’t even agree with each other. They mostly tend to interpete disagreement with ignorance. They not only don’t tend to win people over, they set up a counter flow to their own goals. I ended up learning counter strategies to cut them off to avoid multi hour lectures from them on subjects I was already familiar with. I have never had to use those counters on you.

    Some people tend to say that you can’t judge. I say you must. I will not hire the incompetant if I can help it. They will drag a company down very fast. I will not buy products that will clearly fail to do the job. I will not hire molesters to babysit. And so on. The problem is that one must judge without becoming too judgemental. As one that has fallen off both sides of that path, I can say that it is more complex than it might seem at first glance.

    I need to stop before I Mook a post here, I could go on for a while.

    John Hare

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