22 Comments
Feb 20Liked by Michael Woudenberg

So what you're saying is other people are always right and I'm always wrong?! Well that's rich. I can't believe you did that! So disrespectful. You're the reason we have climate change. Nazi!

Thanks for a great strawman vs. steelman reminder!

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Lol. Sounds just like 90% of online engagements. Well done!

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Feb 20Liked by Michael Woudenberg

I am the Human "Internet Repository."

Sadly, not the good kind.

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Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

Hi Michael,

I enjoyed your article and well done. I think of strawman as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz where the Scarecrow didn't have any brains and is seeking to get some. From a neuroscience point of view the more we try to define or narrow things down, we are more caught up in left brain activity. To reestablish balance between our contriving configuring part of the brain with all the other rich inputs from other areas, openness to other perspectives, or input from other collaborative parts of the brain--sometimes thought to be more right brain hemisphere. The intellectual activity of better defining or a honing personal points of view is moving away from broader perspectives but we do need a balance between the straw man and the super man or losing both in the spiritual essence of being both and all.

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Feb 18·edited Feb 18Author

Good points. I think one difference between Strawman and Scarecrow is that scarecrow knew he didn't have any brains and was looking. Strawman already thinks they're smart.

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Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

I loved that movie, The Wizard of OZ, as I got to play the cowardly lion in the 6th grade. The lesson perhaps is that the brainless Strawman or Scarecrow, was stuck perhaps with reality that there was straw instead of wise intelligence, but when approached and invited to join the journey with others to find something to be more complete, with the acceptance and collaboration of the others, led to a journey of discovery and enlightenment—and the path of wonderment on the yellow brick road.

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Excatly.

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Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

Excellent! That interview is classic. It showed me that statistics can be dangerous and to be wide-eyed when people use them as starting points. In her case it was that very few women are CEOs or something like that, therefore...

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It's almost a parody without trying!

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Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

As soon as I read parody I also heard parity & parroty. I love it when words show up like little sing-songy birds from the morning sky and talk to each other.

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Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

I'd hadn't see this particular clip of the infamous Cathy Newman interview of Jordan Peterson.

It's pretty shocking when you see the line of questioning like this.

In reality, Jordan Peterson got amazing publicity out of this interview but much of that was precisely because he was being misunderstood (probably wilfully) and characterised as some kind of misogynist.

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My little brother had a negative view of JBP based on his political leaning and I asked him "have you ever even listened or read JBP?". He said, "No." I then shared the full BBC interview and he saw all the things he's heard said by Newman and the Jordan being much more nuanced.

I don't think it changed much but he did get a an amazing example of bad faith arguments.

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Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

Talking of bad faith “interviews” what was the reaction in the US to Tucker Carlson’s escapades in Moscow this week?

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Honestly, exactly as you'd expect. Doesn't change anything.

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Brilliant! Thanks Michael. The point you make about strawmanning not allowing you to know if you’re wrong, is such a good one. As you point out, Steelmaning is crucial in conversation, because it ensures we are actually engaging in the conversation at hand. Rather than a misrepresentation of the conversation, as strawmanning does.

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Thanks for the great feedback and yes... It forces us to listen fully understand the other's perspective.

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Feb 18·edited Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

This is a great post, Michael!

I have written an article about listening as a skill and the steelman persona resonates with me a lot.

Here is a video by Simon Sinek on the art of listening, which I think is very useful for every steelman: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpnNsSyDw-g). A great quote from the video is: "Replace judgement with curiosity".

PS If we look at how much iron is in steel, it’s around 95-99%, so it’s almost like being Ironman.

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Great add and yes, curiosity is crucial. Glad you enjoyed it.

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Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

I would certainly draw upon the imagery of the Wizard of Oz here! Great little examples today, Michael.

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I thought about it but went for more of the superhero motif. The difference between Strawman and the Scarecrow from Oz is that the Scarecrow knew he didn't have brains and so he was activly searching. Strawman doesn't do that very well.

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Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

True, the analogy kind of falls apart after a while. Still... so tempting to envision Strawman as Scarecrow, and Steelman as Tin Man.

Are we Oz?

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Feb 18Liked by Michael Woudenberg

I need to do this a lot more. It's not easy though!

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