thinking for yourself

“How do you know?”

“How do you know?” is a really useful question.

People often assert things very confidently, without giving a reason. Sometimes it’s easy to respond to their confidence automatically, and believe them without thinking about it. Which can lead to a lot of mistakes.

The question “How do you know?” can be very helpful. Sometimes it’s something you can ask directly — some people are very receptive, and will think about their reasons and give you a good answer. Sometimes they know their reasons; sometimes they haven’t thought about it before and do think about it when you ask the question.

Some people don’t respond well to that kind of question, and asking isn’t always a good idea. But you can still ask yourself the question. Sometimes thinking to yourself “How do they know?” helps. Sometimes thinking to yourself “How do I know whether or not that’s true?” helps.

For instance:
Therapist: My client is engaging in a lot of attention-seeking behavior.
You: How do you know she’s doing it for attention?
Or you to yourself: How does he know she’s doing it for attention?
Or you to yourself: How do I know if he’s reporting her motivations accurately?

Or: 
Teacher: This shard of pottery shows a king walking a dog. We can learn from this that dogs were associated with high status.
You: How do you know that it’s a king in the picture?
Or you to yourself: How do we know whether crowns meant kings?
Or you to yourself: How do I know if the teacher is right about this being a picture of a king walking a dog?

tl;dr Sometimes it can be easy to believe someone because they sound confident. One way around this is to get into the habit of asking “How do you know” or asking yourself “How do they know?” or asking yourself “How do I know if they’re right?”

Ideological predators

Content note: This post is about adults exploiting teenagers on the internet for validation. It’s about the ideological form; not the sexual form, but a lot of the underlying logic is similar. This is likely to be a difficult post for anyone who has an emotional connection to this issue.

Some some predators use vulnerable people as validation objects to make their  flawed ideologies feel true. This can happen between people of any age, but it’s particularly common for adult predators to do this to teenage victims they meet online. Adults with bad ideas manipulate teenagers into praising them. They offer false respect to teenagers who are starved for respectful adult attention. They make teenagers depend on them emotionally in completely inappropriate ways. Then they lash out when the teenagers start to notice flaws in their ideas. Teenagers can get hurt very, very badly by this.

From a teenage perspective, relationships with ideological predators can feel really good at first before the predator starts lashing out. As a teenager, you’re often at the beginning of noticing that there’s a lot wrong with the world, and that you and others have the power to make it much better. But seeing yourself as powerful enough to change the world isn’t the same as knowing how to do it. Changing the world is hard work that requires skills that are difficult to acquire. It also requires connections with others doing the same work, which can be really hard to build for teenagers without much control over their lives. And teenagers who want to make the world better are often surrounded by adults who think their desire to do so is cute, and certainly not something to take seriously. (And who may not be taking the teenager seriously on any level). That’s degrading, and very, very hard to cope with.

And then a predator shows up online. At first, they’re this really interesting adult who at first seems to take you much more seriously than anyone else does. Their ideas seem amazing, and they seem to be opening all kinds of possibilities for making the world better. They’re willing to spend endless hours talking to you. They listen to you when you are sad and lonely, and they tell you that you’re amazing and brilliant and that you deserve so much more respect than anyone is giving you. It feels really good to be exposed to an exciting new idea, and it feels even better when it’s coming in the form of conversations with an apparently experienced person you respect. And, support from an experienced person who really does respect you is an amazing thing. Sometimes teenagers get the real form of this online. And sometimes, a predator fakes respect in ways that end very, very poorly.

An emotional relationship with a predator falls apart at some point, because their ideas aren’t actually very good, and their respect for you wasn’t real. It turns out, they weren’t listening to you, they were using you as a mirror. They didn’t want respect and conversation, they wanted you to admire them. When you start noticing flaws in their bad ideas, you stop being useful as a mirror, and they stop wanting to support you. All the vulnerabilities you shared with them turn into weapons they wield against you. It’s excruciating, and it can be very, very hard to recover from.

Teenagers deserve to have adults in their lives who respect them and spend time talking to them about the world. Ideally, this should happen both on and offline. Ideological predators who want validation seek out teenagers who aren’t getting real respect from adults, and seduce them with fake respect. This shouldn’t happen to anyone, ever, but it’s unfortunately really common. (It’s not just teenagers this happens to, but teenagers are often particularly vulnerable because teenagers are often both very isolated and inexperienced with evaluating the merits of ideologies, political views, and effective approaches to activism.)

One of the most important red flags for ideological exploitation is: Do they respect your right to consider other perspectives, or do they want you to believe everything they say without question? 

Nobody is right about everything; it is never reasonable for someone to want you to believe their ideas without question. You have the right to think for yourself. It is never ok for someone to be mean to you for asking questions or for reading about other perspectives. (Even if they’re right and the other perspective you’re reading is a dangerously bad idea that has hurt them personally.) No one has to be willing to talk to you about everything; they do need to respect your right to think for yourself. If someone is trying to persuade you to agree with them, they should expect that you will want to think about it and ask questions. That’s how conversations work when you are explaining something.

No one is the boss of your reading or your other media consumption. You get to decide what you want to read (and what you don’t want to read, and you don’t have to justify your reading choices to anyone. It’s a red flag if an adult tries to monitor your reading or aggressively tells you not to read people they disagree with. Or if they try to dictate who you are and aren’t allowed to talk to.
It’s also a bad sign if they refuse to explain to you why they disagree with a particular position, especially if they’re encouraging you to see them as a mentor. “Why do you think that?” and “What’s wrong with that?” or “Why is that idea harmful?” or “Why is this important?” are reasonable questions, and it’s not ok if they lash out at you for sincerely wanting to know.

(Even if they regularly get asked that question insincerely as a form of harassment, they still shouldn’t lash out at you. You aren’t doing that. You’re asking a question because you want to understand. It’s not your fault that mean people do something superficially similar. If they’ve spent hours and hours talking to you and saying how insightful you are, then they know you well enough to trust your sincerity. It’s not ok if everything they know about you suddenly flies out the window when you ask an uncomfortable question. Also, if they’re presenting themselves as a mentor figure and want you to trust them in that role, then it *is* their job to educate you, and part of educating people is answering their sincere questions respectfully.)

Which is related to another sign to watch out for — trustworthy people with good ideas are able to disagree with others respectfully. If someone is only willing to talk about ideas they agree with and ideas they have withering contempt for, that’s a really bad sign. Reasonable people have some positions they disagree with respectfully, and they also know that people can mistakenly be attracted to bad ideas for good reasons. No one has to be willing to respect all ideas or treat all positions as honorable; everyone has to be able to tolerate *some* disagreement respectfully. Reasonable people know that they’re not right about everything, and that sometimes they will find that people they initially disagreed with had a point.

If they can’t tolerate disagreement with anyone else, what they’re feeling for you is probably not real respect. They’re probably using you as a mirror; expecting you to reflect everything they say back to them, using your sincerity and enthusiasm to make it sound true and important. But you’re not a mirror; you’re a person. Even if everything they’re saying to you right now sounds amazingly true; eventually you will disagree with them about something you both care about. (No one is right 100% of the time, and it is normal for people who care about things to have some degree of disagreement.) Their talk about how insightful and wonderful you are will very, very likely melt away when you stop agreeing with them about everything. If they could tolerate disagreement, they’d be tolerating it from other people too.

Tl;dr Some adult predators use teenagers as ideological validation objects. They offer false respect to teenagers who are hungry for genuine respect from adults. The teenage victims are expected to become mirrors, enthusiastically reflecting back whatever the adult says, making it sound true and wise. Inevitably, eventually teenagers figure out that the adult isn’t 100% right about everything, and they start questioning their ideology. The adult predator then lashes out, and withdraws all of their false respect, leaving the teenager they have isolated to pick up the pieces. This is a horrible an inexcusable thing to do to someone. People have the right to think for themselves, and to ask questions. Adults who take it upon themselves to teach teenagers about the world have a particularly strong obligation to support them in thinking for themselves. If someone effusively praises you at first and then lashes out at you for questioning them or disagreeing, something is really wrong. It’s not your fault, and you’re not alone. People should not treat you that way.

Aftermaths of social skills lessons

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

I’m autistic, I went to a group that was supposed to help me with autism-related issues, and they gave me some social skills advice that I honestly think was terrible. And the group was pretty terrible in general.

I ended up quitting for various other reasons, but it’s still sorta bugging me ‘cause what if they’re RIGHT.

The advice went like this: It’s okay to disagree with someone, but it’s never okay to explain WHY, because that’s pushing your opinion on them and that’s wrong.

realsocialskills said:

That rule is way too oversimplified to be useful. It’s true in some circumstances, and completely wrong in others — and completely useless at helping you to understand when it is and isn’t ok to contradict people.

The truth about social skills is that all rules are approximations at best. And often, as in this case, rules taught in social skills classes are completely useless and misleading.

Learning to be good at social interactions isn’t a matter of Learning the Rules; it’s a matter of learning to develop your judgement. Approximations and rules of thumb can help with this. They can’t replace the need to think for yourself and rely on your own judgement.

Social skills classes often teach people really destructive things about themselves and about social interaction. Here’s one way that can happen:

  • They tell you that autism (or whatever else) is preventing you from understanding social situations
  • They tell you that there are rules and that everyone else knows the rules naturally
  • They give you some simplistic rules and tell you to always follow them
  • The rules might sometimes be plausible-sounding or half-truths
  • Following the simplistic rules does not actually get the results they claim it does (because life is more complicated than that)
  • This can be really confusing
  • If you express this confusion to them, or say that it isn’t working, they attribute it to your autism and tell you to try harder or trust the process or something
  • They sometimes say this in a harsh way, they sometimes say it in a gentle or encouraging way. That difference is mostly aesthetic.
  • Either way, it amounts to the same pressure to believe them unconditionally and stop thinking for yourself

I suspect that something like that is going on here. The rule itself is useless. There’s no way to use it to tell whether or not it’s a good idea to explain your reasoning to someone you disagree with.

But it sounds just-plausible-enough to fuel self doubt, because there are some situations in which it really is mean to explain things to someone. (An example that’s been circulating on Tumblr recently: It’s ok to dislike Minions. It’s not ok to hassle kids about liking Minions or try to convince them that it’s bad and they shouldn’t like it.)

It can be hard to remember that these tiny kernels of truth aren’t actually meaningful. But they’re not. Kernels of truth in a simplistic rule don’t make it useful — and they don’t make the people pushing simplistic rules right.

Also - people who are wrong aren’t always wrong about everything. They may have told you some things that were true. They may have told you some true things that you didn’t know. And they may have told you some true things that you *still* don’t know. That doesn’t mean that their overall approach was ok, and it doesn’t mean you should trust them or doubt yourself.

I think, push come to shove, you have to think for yourself and develop your own judgement about these things. And sometimes that will mean that you make social mistakes — but they will be *your* social mistakes, and you will learn from them. It’s ok for autistic people to make social mistakes. Everyone has to learn this stuff, not just us.

tl;dr Social skills groups can really undermine your ability to trust your own judgement. They give you simplistic rules that are impossible to follow, then blame you when it doesn’t work. It’s not your fault if this happened to you, and it’s not your fault if you’re having trouble recovering.

knowing what you think - tools for thinking for yourself

Anonymous said to :

When I’m around people who disagree with me, I have trouble remembering that my own thoughts and opinions are valid, and I start thinking I must be wrong about whatever they disagree with me about.

Do you know any ways of getting more confident about disagreeing with people?

realsocialskills said:

To an extent, it’s a matter of practice.

Learning to distinguish between what you think and what others think depends on a few different skills. Some of them will likely take time and practice to acquire.

Some thought about what to work on:

It can help to get into the habit of noticing when your opinions change suddenly. If you’re susceptible to excessive influence by other people, it’s likely that this happens way more than you realize. Even just noticing it can make it easier to tell what’s your opinion and what’s someone else’s.

Eg, let’s say Susan and Jane are eating out together, and they’re looking at the dessert menu:

  • Susan: I want chocolate ice cream.
  • Jane: Chocolate is a disgusting flavor and it’s way too high fat. Raspberry smoothies are a million times better.
  • Susan: Ok, that does sound better. I’ll order that.

In that instance, Susan wanted chocolate ice cream, then suddenly changed her mind when Jane said it was bad. If Susan does this a lot, she may not even have noticed that it happened. Noticing this kind of sudden opinion change could help Susan to realize when it’s happening against her will.

That leads to another skill that can help: Remembering the question “Why?”:

If you just changed your mind suddenly, why did it happen?

  • Did someone say something you found persuasive?
  • If so, what?
  • Are you responding to the force of someone else’s personality?
  • Are you afraid?
  • Did you hear a new idea that sounds like it might be right?
  • Do you need time to think about it?
  • (It’s ok to not know right away.)

Asking other people “Why?”:

  • If someone says something, you don’t have to agree
  • And you don’t have to assume they have a good reason
  • If they’re saying something that is your business, it is ok to ask “Why?”
  • (Sometimes it isn’t your business and “Why?” might be a rude question. Eg, if someone says that they feel sick when they drink milk.)
  • (But if it’s something like: “Republicans are evil”/“Democrats are ruining America”, “Why?” is a completely ok question.)
  • Getting in the habit of asking for reasons can help you to understand and to think for yourself
  • Some other ways to ask for reasons: “What makes you say that?”, “Can you say more about that?”, “I hear a lot of people saying x, but I don’t really understand why they think that… Would you be willing to explain?”

Remembering that it’s ok to need time to think about things:

  • Sometimes you hear a big idea or an unfamiliar perspective and it makes things feel different
  • Even just knowing that someone thinks something can make the world seem different
  • (Or meeting someone who thinks something)
  • That can feel really weird and confusing or disorienting
  • That’s ok. It’s ok to be disoriented and need time to think. Some words that can help (either by saying them or thinking them to yourself):
  • “I never thought about that before.”
  • “I never thought about it that way before.”
  • “That’s interesting.”
  • “I’ll have to think about that.”
  • “Thank you for telling me that.”
  • “This has given me a lot to think about.”
  • (Sometimes it feels like people are asking you to immediately agree with them when what they’re really asking is for you to listen to them. Saying one of these things can help in that situation.)

Paying attention to fear

  • Sometimes people are afraid to disagree with someone else’s strongly held opinions
  • Sometimes it’s because they’re afraid someone will hurt them
  • Sometimes that’s because they’re afraid doubting someone would make them a bad person
  • Sometimes it’s both
  • It’s actually ok to think for yourself. Reflexive agreement out of fear doesn’t help things.
  • Even when there’s a clear right side and wrong side, it’s *still* important to think for yourself and understand things
  • Agreeing reflexively won’t get you the kind of understanding you need to meaningfully be on the right side of an important issue
  • (And you can’t know what side that is without thinking about it, anyway)
  • Thinking about it until you understand will make your agreement much more meaningful (and actionable)

Paying attention after the fact to what you think:

  • Some people have personalities that loom very large
  • Some people are very good at sounding right
  • It can be very hard to tell what you think in the presence of these people
  • Sometimes it may be hard to tell what you think in the presence of other people
  • The effect tends to wear off after you’re away from them
  • If you’re having second thoughts after you’re away from someone, take those second thoughts seriously
  • Sometimes you will have really good reasons
  • (And even if you ultimately end up agreeing with them, it was *still* important to take your second thoughts seriously so that you can understand for yourself)
  • If you know that you have that reaction to someone, try to avoid agreeing to anything binding in their presence.

Remembering “maybe”:

  • It’s ok not to be sure what you think
  • It’s ok not to be sure what you want
  • Saying “maybe” can be really powerful.
  • If you get pressured into things a lot, it might help to default to maybe
  • It’s usually a lot easier to say “Maybe”, or “I need to think about that” than it is to say “Yes”, and then “I thought about it and I changed my mind”.

Journaling or blogging can also help:

  • If you write things down, it can be easier to track changes in your opinion
  • It can also be really helpful as a way of processing and figuring out what you think
  • (Tumblr *can* be good for this, but it can also attract hostile attention that makes thinking for yourself harder. Sometime more private like Livejournal or Dreamwidth might be better.)

Another thing that can help is paying attention to how people are treating you:

  • Are there particular people you’re afraid of contradicting?
  • If, so, why?
  • Do they treat you badly when you contradict them?
  • Do they treat others badly in your presence?
  • Do they spend a lot of time aggressively mocking people for not understanding, for disagreeing, or for asking questions?
  • If a lot of people in your life act this way, thinking for yourself can be really hard.
  • Seeking out people who treat you and others better can help a *lot* in making it possible to figure out what you think.
  • Not everyone with passionate opinions or commitments is a jerk
  • (Related: It is entirely possible pursue justice and other important causes without being horrible to everyone who disagrees with you or has an imperfect understanding or things.)

Learning to hold on to your thoughts and sense of self is going to be hard at first. Realizing that it’s going to be hard can make it more possible. (Especially since some people are really, really skilled at making people feel that their thoughts are invalid.)

As you get more experience intentionally paying attention to what you think, it gets easier. It will still be hard and confusing sometimes, but it won’t be as hard and confusing all of the time.

tl;dr It is important to think for yourself even when you’re uncomfortable or others don’t want you to. There are a lot of reasons this can be hard. There are some skills that can make it easier. Scroll up for concrete suggestions.

Getting social feedback without losing your ability to trust your own judgement

xulsigae asked:

Is it common to feel a lack of inner ‘social ground’ to stand on with Aspergers?

I’ve kinda lost a sense of knowing when something I do is actually right or acceptable after years of thinking what I did was right, but then finding out it was inappropriate. 

I know I have a strong moral compass, but my social one is wonky. Now I rely on the feedback of others to know when I’m doing okay. 

Are there any ideas for how to create an inner knowledge of what is right without using others?

realsocialskills said:

That’s complicated. I’m making a lot of guesses about where you’re coming from which may or may not be correct.

It sounds to me like maybe you’re figuring out that it’s important to get feedback, and having trouble figuring out how to do that without losing yourself.

I think part of what would help is to keep this in perspective:

  • Everybody makes social mistakes.
  • Social learning is a lifelong process for everyone (including people who are not autistic)
  • One of the most important social skills is figuring out how to get good feedback from others, and how to learn from what they tell you
  • This is true of everyone. Needing feedback is not a flaw. Everyone needs feedback.
  • Not everyone knows they need feedback; your awareness that you need feedback is actually an important social skill you’ve learned

Also, people who say that you’ve done something inappropriate probably aren’t always right. It can be hard to keep that in mind when you know that you make a lot of mistakes, but it’s important. The point here is to develop and improve your own judgment, not to abdicate it.

Learning how to manage feedback can be hard. Here’s a basic outline about some ways feedback should work:

  • You realize that you’re not sure about something
  • You figure out whose perspective you’d value about that thing
  • Or someone else tells you what they think about something you did
  • You ask them about the thing
  • They tell you what they think
  • You listen to what they think
  • You think about whether you agree
  • You might decide that you agree, or that you disagree
  • Or that you partially agree
  • Or that you need to process more
  • All of those are fine

Dealing with feedback involves several skills:

Noticing situations in which someone else’s perspective might be helpful, for instance:

  • If people are reacting in ways you don’t understand, it might be worth getting someone else’s perspective on what’s going on
  • If you’re saying things that aren’t being heard, it might be worth getting someone else’s perspective 
  • (eg: Is the problem that the people you’re talking to are jerks? Are you saying things to them that are invasive? Are there ways you could be communicating more effectively? Do you need to find different people to interact with?)
  • If you’re really uncomfortable with something that’s happening, it might be worth getting someone else’s feedback on what’s going on (sometimes this is really helpful in realizing that it’s ok to object to something or have boundaries)

A more concrete example of a situation in which it might be helpful to look for feedback:

  • You’re having trouble understanding what you’re supposed to do at work
  • When you ask your boss questions, you don’t get helpful answers.
  • You might ask a friend or coworker who you respect what they think is going on
  • (eg: They might tell you that the boss hates email and that you need to ask questions in person, or vice versa. Or that the boss doesn’t know how to answer that kind of question and you have to find the answers elsewhere. Or any number of other possibilities.)

Figuring out whose feedback is valuable:

  • Not everyone’s feedback is valuable; it’s important to figure out for yourself who you want to listen to and when
  • Some people know what they’re talking about and can tell you valuable things about how you’re interacting with others
  • Some people really, really don’t know what they’re talking about and will give you terrible advice
  • A lot of people have good feedback on some things but not others
  • Some people are really good at sounding right whether they know what they are talking about or not
  • It can be hard to figure out who to listen to, especially if you’re new to realizing that you need feedback

Listening to feedback, and evaluating it seriously:

  • If you value someone’s opinion, it’s important to listen to what they have to say
  • And to figure out why they think it
  • It doesn’t mean you have to agree; no matter how much you respect someone, they will be wrong some of the time.
  • It does mean that it’s important to listen to them, and to make sure that you really understand what they’re saying and why, before you decide what you think

Avoiding some feedback-avoidance defensiveness pitfalls:

  • Some feedback is hard to hear
  • It can be easy to react defensively, as a way to avoid engaging
  • One way to be defensive is to immediately say “no, that’s not true” or “no, I’m not the kind of person who would do that” without first listening to the person
  • Another way of avoiding painful feedback is to panic-apologize out of fear. 
  • That can be a way of avoiding the feedback too because you can feel like you’ve dealt with it by apologizing even if all you’ve really heard is that someone is upset with you

An example of not listening:

  • You: So, I was telling Mary how great my awesome dog is, and she looked really angry. What gives?
  • Them: Mary’s dog just died. It was kind of insensitive to go on about yours.
  • You: But I was just trying to be nice!

Another example of not listening:

  • You: So, I was telling Mary how great my awesome dog is, and she looked really angry. What gives?
  • Them: Mary’s dog just died. It was kind of insensitive to go on about yours.
  • You (without really understanding the problem): Oh. I’m a terrible person. I can’t believe I would be so insensitive.
  • (If you just emote about guilt without figuring out what they think the problem is and whether you agree, that’s not listening; it’s a defense mechanism)

An example of listening:

  • You: So, I was telling Mary how great my awesome dog is, and she looked really angry.
  • Them: Mary’s dog just died. It was kind of insensitive to go on about yours.
  • You: Really? I was trying to be nice and connect around a shared interest.
  • Them: When people are mourning the loss of a pet, they don’t usually want to hear about how great things are with someone else’s. It can feel like rubbing it in.

Sometimes it can feel like everyone else has it all together, that everyone else knows how to act, and that only you make major mistakes. That’s not true. Everyone is getting things wrong; everyone has social skills they could improve; that’s not unique to autistic people.

It might help to keep in mind that you don’t have to be socially infallible to be ok. You have a moral compass, and you know a lot about how to interact with people. And you also make mistakes sometimes, and have areas you could improve on. That’s an ok way to be, and feedback can make learning and improving easier.

Meanness can conceal bad arguments

Sometimes people use being mean to sound right. (Intentionally or unintentionally).

When you’re afraid of someone, it can feel dangerous to disagree with them. (Sometimes the danger is real, sometimes it isn’t.)

If you’re afraid to disagree with someone, you might find yourself coming up with a lot of arguments in favor of their position, and feeling like they’re more credible than they really are. 

It can be worth noticing you’re afraid, and thinking through whether you’d still agree with them if you weren’t afraid.

For instance:

  • Susan (in a mean, not-quite yelling tone): Implausible hounds are real! I can’t believe anyone thinks they’re not. I’m glad all my friends get it.
  • Susan’s friend Bob isn’t sure whether or not implausible hounds exist, but doesn’t want to get yelled at, doesn’t want Susan to stop respecting him, and doesn’t want to be a bad friend
  • So Bob might ignore his doubts about implausible hounds and try to convince himself that they definitely exist by ignoring all the arguments he can think of that implausible hounds are implausible.

This can happen subconsciously, so it’s worth trying to notice when it’s happening:

  • If someone is saying something forcefully
  • And you find yourself agreeing 
  • And you feel really bad about agreeing
  • Or you feel really bad about doubting them
  • It’s worth asking yourself whether you’re agreeing out of fear, and whether you’d agree with them if you weren’t afraid

This can happen for other reasons; sometimes learning a new thing can feel bad (eg: if you realize you were being a jerk). It’s worth considering whether you’re agreeing out of fear, and also worth being open to the possibility that you’re agreeing because you’re actually convinced. It always takes thought to figure out which it is. 

tl;dr When people are mean or scary; it can make their arguments seem better than they really are. If you’re afraid, feeling awful after agreeing with something, or feeling awful about doubting someone, it’s a sign that you might be agreeing out of fear rather than having been persuaded. When that happens, it’s worth pausing to think through things and figure out whether you’re agreeing out of fear, or agreeing because you’ve actually been persuaded.

remembering to ask questions

rossbennett:

realsocialskills:

Some phrases in academic argument are used to assert that an argument has been successfully been made. If someone’s really good at using them, it can make their arguments feel better than they actually are.

One countermeasure is to learn what those phrases are, and to use them as indications that it’s time to check to see if you agree with their argument.

A few examples of phrases that often work this way:

  • “It is clear that…”
  • “We have seen..”
  • “Now it is evident..”
  • “It has been demonstrated…”
  • “It follows from…”
  • “It goes without saying that…”

If you get into the habit of reading things like this as  questions, it becomes much easier to tell what you think the answer is.

eg:

  • Do you think it’s clear?
  • Have you seen the point being made? Do you agree with it?
  • Do you think it’s evident from the evidence the author brought?
  • Do you think it has been demonstrated?
  • Do you think it follows from that?
  • Do you think it goes without saying? Do you think it’s true at all? 

tl;dr Some rhetorical devices make arguments feel better than they are. Getting into the habit of seeing them as indications that it’s time to ask a question makes it easier to evaluate arguments on their merits.

rossbennett said:

Some particular fields (and journals) consider these to be “weasel words” and will get your paper bounced back faster than Netflix ships discs. 

In academic papers these tend to mean either, “I can’t be bothered to go get the citation,” or “If you don’t follow the logic here, I relying on you to let it slide instead of risking looking like the only idiot in the group who doesn’t see it.”

These little linguistic barnacles, along with “the fact that,” can be eliminated without changing the meaning of what’s around them. What remains will be better.

realsocialskills said:

Sometimes people use stuff like that essentially as punctuation. It can mean “I want to change the subject now” or “I’m moving on the my next point”.

It’s definitely better not to write that way. It’s just not always lazy argument - sometimes it’s not knowing good stylistic ways to indicate transitions in your writing.

remembering to ask questions

Some phrases in academic argument are used to assert that an argument has been successfully been made. If someone’s really good at using them, it can make their arguments feel better than they actually are.

One countermeasure is to learn what those phrases are, and to use them as indications that it’s time to check to see if you agree with their argument.

A few examples of phrases that often work this way:

  • “It is clear that…"
  • “We have seen..“
  • “Now it is evident..”
  • “It has been demonstrated…"
  • “It follows from…"
  • “It goes without saying that…"

If you get into the habit of reading things like this as  questions, it becomes much easier to tell what you think the answer is.

eg:

  • Do you think it’s clear?
  • Have you seen the point being made? Do you agree with it?
  • Do you think it’s evident from the evidence the author brought?
  • Do you think it has been demonstrated?
  • Do you think it follows from that?
  • Do you think it goes without saying? Do you think it’s true at all? 

tl;dr Some rhetorical devices make arguments feel better than they are. Getting into the habit of seeing them as indications that it’s time to ask a question makes it easier to evaluate arguments on their merits.

You are allowed to think for yourself

People pointing out problems with things are not always correct.

Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re wrong.

The fact that someone is yelling at you, using social justice terms, and calling it a call out, does not in itself mean you have done something wrong. It just means that someone is angry at you, for reasons that may well be justified, and may well be completely off base, and may well be partly right and partly wrong.

Sometimes people calling you out are right, and sometimes they’re wrong.

The only way to figure out what’s true is by thinking about it. There’s no algorithm you can use to mechanically figure out who is right. You have to think for yourself, and consider using your own thoughts whether you think the things someone is telling you are true or not.

The basic problem with social skills education

Human interaction is really, really complicated.

No one understands it all the way.

Almost every rule has major exceptions. Anything stated in a clear way is going to be oversimplified in some way. 

There aren’t rules so much as cultures and traditions that everyone finds their own way to work with.

The most anyone can really say most of the time is “this is sort of how it works a lot of the time” or, “this is probably going to be the case for almost everyone, if not absolutely everyone”. It’s hard to be honest about that, especially when you’re talking about an extremely important area of interaction like physical boundaries.

In addition, people will tell you all kinds of things they wish were true. One example is how people will teach kids “tell an adult” even in situations in which adults are unlikely to care about bullying. Or “tell them it hurts your feelings” because they want that to work.

Writing this blog, I understand more and more why people do things like that. It’s hard not to. But, it’s important. Everything is more complicated than I’m describing; even when I’m mostly right. (And sometimes I’m not.)

I’m saying things that I think are true, as well as I can describe them. But, don’t just believe me. And, particularly, if you think it’s more complicated than I think it is, don’t assume that I’m right and you’re wrong.

tl;dr Social skills are skills, and they’re complicated and to a large extent different for everyone. All descriptions, and especially all rules, are approximations are best.

Your brain is not a democracy

Your brain is not a democracy.

You get to decide what you believe. You can think things that no one else agrees with. You can also like things no one else likes.

You can and must think for yourself.

For instance:

If someone calls you out for something, it’s important to listen to them, and to think through whether or not you think they are right.

If a teacher or therapist tells you that something is socially inappropriate, it’s important to think through whether or not you agree.

If everyone tells you that a TV show you like is awful, it is still ok for you to decide whether you like it

If everyone tells you that something you like isn’t age appropriate, it’s still ok for you to decide you like it.

Your thoughts and tastes are yours. You are the one who should decide what you like, believe, and spend time doing.