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Disagree constructively

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 25 November 2019



Disagree constructively
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 233
Posted DateMonday 25 November 2019 11:27 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen

Disagreement is an inevitable part of life. We mostly do it badly. Paul Graham's disagreement hierarchy provides a structure for thinking about doing it better. There are seven levels.

  1. Name-calling.

    This is the lowest form of disagreement, and probably also the most common.

  2. Ad Hominem.

    An ad hominem attack is not quite as weak as mere name-calling.

  3. Responding to Tone.

    The next level up we start to see responses to the writing, rather than the writer.

  4. Contradiction.

    In this stage we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom.

  5. Counterargument.

    At this level we reach the first form of convincing disagreement: counterargument.

  6. Refutation.

    The most convincing form of disagreement is refutation.

  7. Refuting the Central Point.

    The force of a refutation depends on what you refute. The most powerful form of disagreement is to refute someone's central point.
Only from level four upwards (contradiction) do we reach the first form of a convincing disagreement. Take a look at any difference of opinion on Facebook or other online discussion forums - rarely does a disagreement exceed level three. Far too much name calling and ad hominem attacks.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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