While reading Think Again: How to Reason and Argue by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, I was introduced to a set of timeless principles known as “Rapoport’s Rules.”
Originally conceived by the mathematical psychologist Anatol Rapoport and further explored by Daniel Dennett in his work, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, these rules are designed to facilitate healthier and more productive conversations and debates. Here they are:
1: You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
2: You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
3: You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
4: Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
Imagine the profound shift in the quality of our life conversations – from family dinners and classroom discussions to business meetings and beyond – if we adopted these rules. How would our interactions change if we approached every conversation with such respect, humility, and openness?
Rapoport’s Rules are more than just guidelines for conversation - they are timeless tools for improving the quality of our interpersonal connections. By applying them in our daily interactions, we can foster a deeper understanding of others, encourage constructive dialogue, and continually enhance our own perspectives.