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Pre-Scripted Discussions

People in conversations usually just say their own (largely pre-determined) stuff, following their own script, because that’s all they know how to say.

They know something, and they are proud to know anything at all, and they go into the discussion planning to talk about that knowledge they do have, and they try to stick to that.

This is why they are so non-responsive when I say things that require off-script responses. They don’t know how to think on their feet and actually address a question. They can basically only answer a question if they already read/heard what to think about it in advance.

Some things this comes up with:

  • Meta discussion (e.g. any kind of proposal about how to organize the discussion, like to switch forums, use quotes, or go slower with smaller steps).
  • Asking them to engage with critics or rival ideas instead of just present their positive case.
  • Any questions they didn’t expect or which seem a bit off topic to them. it doesn’t matter if you have a reason for asking and it’s actually relevant, they don’t know how to answer because it doesn’t fit their script.
  • Any criticism that doesn't fit the script, e.g. about their writing being too unclear and failing to communicate. Dealing with misunderstandings isn't part of their script or pre-knowledge.
  • The people who seem to be talking to themselves or doing a monologue more than they are having an interactive discussion.

This is unnatural and unintuitive to me because I learn during discussions.

Elliot Temple on July 28, 2018


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