What we are speaking into?

Contemplate some of your speech acts from when you were young, say 10-20 years old.

Many of the ones you remember you probably would not say again if you could go back to that time. The core reason is now that you are older you realize that your understanding of what you were speaking into is different today than your understanding at the time you spoke.

When you were fifteen, your limited understanding of speech and its effects may have led you to slant your words in ways that were likely to be misunderstood. For example, you may have made a clumsy bid for sympathy by complaining about someone with words that were too strong, producing a counter-effect to what you wanted. Or you may have self-deprecated too much, thus leading an important adult to misunderstand your real abilities.

Another way to see this is consider the times you did not say anything, believing that your silence would be understood. You might have said nothing when wronged because you imagined the person who harmed you would see their mistake on their own though they did not. Or you might have said nothing when you thought you deserved something because you believed the other person would see it on their own though they did not.

Now that you are older you probably know that you have to be more careful with what you say; sometimes you need to be more explicit and other times it’s best to say as little as possible. How will you feel about your speech today ten years from now?

The same sorts of questions can be asked and valuably considered about how we listen and have listened to others. Problems with speaking and listening are constant and lifelong and will never go away if only because of time constraints, though there are scores of other reasons why people misunderstand each other.

Notes

  • All motivation and action is based on an assessment of “reality”.
  • Public assessments include the sciences, mainstream psychologies and religions, various traditions such as the arts, sports, work, etc. The general elements of these assessment are agreed on by many people. This makes them sort of satisfying within a limited sphere of thought. They can hold a good deal of psychological water, but not all of it.
  • Private assessments are usually neurotic (mistaken) because even if shared with others, they tend to contain many unfounded assumptions. These assumptions often appear true to the individual but don’t hold up well if exposed to other views or better evidence.
  • Not only do neither public nor private assessments of reality as described above completely satisfy, but even when combined, they fail to fully satisfy. This is because the problem of interpersonal ambiguity cannot be answered in those ways.
  • FIML practice provides a means for partners to reach a reasonable assessment of reality that includes both wholesome public and wholesome private components. The private components are made wholesome through FIML practice because partners actually have the means to achieve satisfying mutual understanding, to remove ambiguity.
  • FIML partners should feel that they can say what they want to each other. They should also feel that they can refrain from saying things they don’t want to say.
  • Most people tend to see other people as being on some sort of scale–they might be seen as “normal” or “crazy”, “responsible” or “irresponsible”, “reliable” or “unreliable”, etc.
  • These scales are always a mixture of public and private components as described above.
  • FIML partners, in contrast, need only ask how is the non-FIML person adapting to ambiguity? What standards have they chosen or forced on themselves? What standards do they use to assess “reality”?
  • Their standards will always be skewed one way or the other. To simplify, they will either be fairly strict adherents to a public code or fairly eccentric adherents to private neuroses, or most commonly, a mixture of these two.
  • Even Buddhist practice can fall victim to this problem. Insofar as Buddhist practice is nothing more than an imported public standard, it cannot satisfy for long. Buddhist practice plus FIML will satisfy because FIML allows partners to establish mutual interpersonal standards that both of them can understand and agree upon completely. These standards are not the imported standards of someone else, but self-generated, mutually generated standards created by the partners themselves.
  • If you don’t fill the void of interpersonal ambiguity, you will have to compensate by compartmentalizing your life, importing standards from the public sphere, or generating your own neuroses (mistaken interpretations). This point may seem obvious or trivial, but it is huge. Emotional suffering, delusion, the First Noble Truth all stem from this problem.

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This essay was first posted May 7, 2012

 

Using truthful statements to lie

A recent paper explored the effects of using truthful statements to deceive others.

The authors of the paper call this behavior paltering and define it as “the active use of truthful statements to convey a misleading impression.”

The paper, Artful Paltering: The Risks and Rewards of Using Truthful Statements to Mislead Others, says:

…we identify paltering as a distinct form of deception. Paltering differs from lying by omission (the passive omission of relevant information) and lying by commission (the active use of false statements). Our findings reveal that paltering is common in negotiations and that many negotiators prefer to palter than to lie by commission.

The paper tests the effects of paltering during business negotiations, but paltering can happen in many other contexts. Examples of paltering by public figures can be found in the news every day.

The concept of paltering is also interesting psychologically. I am going to speculate that individuals often palter to themselves concerning their own internalized autobiographies and reasons for doing many actions.

If we use our inner voices to palter to ourselves—that is use the best “truthful” description of our actions that also just happens to place those actions in their best light—then we are not living with full integrity even in the privacy of our own thoughts.

At the same time, we have to be careful about how we assess our own paltering. We might be right to use the best version of events because that really is the correct version.

The problem is there is no good standard for an individual alone to decide what is objectively right or wrong.

For example, if someone smokes pot in a state where it is illegal are they paltering by telling themselves the law is stupid so why follow  it?

FIML partners will want to avoid paltering at all times but especially in the midst of a FIML query. Properly done, FIML can help with internalized paltering because this sort of subject matter lends itself well to FIML discussions.

As with all moral questions, where we draw the line is not always easy. The more tools we have the better. Awareness of paltering and its effects on others is good tool to have.

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First published 12/16/16

Uncertainty in human social interactions

All human interactions entail some uncertainty and most entail a lot.

To deal with uncertainty, humans use heuristics (“rules of thumb”) that generally are based on what they perceive to be normal or required in the situation at hand. These heuristics come from experience, from role models, from organizational structures, beliefs and so on.

A recent study—Uncertainty about social interactions leads to the evolution of social heuristics—explores:

…an evolutionary simulation model, showing that even intermediate uncertainty leads to the evolution of simple cooperation strategies that disregard information about the social interaction (‘social heuristics’).

This study uses simulations to tease out how social heuristics and social cooperation evolve in very simple game scenarios.

If social games have rules, we can change how much uncertainty they contain and how best to cooperate within them.

This is essentially what FIML practice does. FIML greatly reduces interpersonal uncertainty between partners while increasing cooperation by having a few fairly simple rules.

When uncertainty is lowered and cooperation increased between partners, psychological well-being and understanding is proportionally enhanced. This happens because social interaction and communication are basic to human psychology.

The study linked above employs simulations to show a sort mathematically forced evolutionary outcome arising from initial settings. I believe FIML is similar in this respect, though the FIML game involves complex humans rather than simple sims.

I often wonder why no one has discovered the rules of FIML before. So many great thinkers, but not one found these key rules for optimal communication and psychological understanding. I believe there are two basics reasons for this: 1) FIML requires developing dynamic metacognition during real-time real-life communication events and this takes practice; and 2) most great thinkers that we know about today and hence could learn from also had great status, and this prevented them from noticing the deep flaws in interpersonal communication that FIML corrects.

Interpersonal pragmatics in real-time

Interpersonal pragmatics are absolutely fundamental to human psychology.

Understanding interpersonal pragmatics in real-time is the holy grail of human psychology because there is nothing else that reveals as well how human psychology actually functions.

Pragmatics “is a subfield of linguistics and semiotics that studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning.” It is the study of why we say what we say when we say it and how that is understood by others and vice-versa.

Real-time interpersonal pragmatics are highly idiosyncratic. This means that psychological generalizations can be and often are seriously misleading when applied to real-time interpersonal pragmatics. And this means that you will never figure out your own psychology or anyone else’s if you do not have a method for understanding real-time interpersonal pragmatics.

One day AI will help us with this task and when that day comes, our understanding of human psychology will change completely. After that day, people in future will have a very hard time understanding how and why we are so limited today in our comprehension of human psychology. They will see that, yes, we functioned, but Lord what a mess we make of it!

The way to understand interpersonal pragmatics in real-time today is FIML and I do not believe there is any other way. At least I have not found one after over ten years of searching.

The following comments are for readers who already practice FIML and/or those who are contemplating doing it or just getting started:

  • It is very important to fully grasp the difference between knowing that real-time communication details are extremely revealing of something else (how your mind functions) and becoming lost in the emotions of those details.
  • It is very good to be passionate about wanting to understand the minutiae of real-time communication but very bad to get embroiled in the emotions of those small, originating exchanges.
  • FIML works with small bits of data because only these can be reliable isolated and viewed analytically.
  • To lose perspective and become emotionally embroiled in these bits of data because they are being focused on (for FIML reasons) is to waste time and create unnecessary problems. Don’t do it. Be smarter than that.

Arm’s length communication can be dangerous

By arm’s length communication I mean “our deepest levels of meaning, emotion, and intention are either implied or more often concealed from the person(s) we are speaking with.” (see: Communication at arm’s length)

When we do arm’s length communication too much, we retard both psychological and sociological growth. We harm both ourselves and others.

Arm’s length communication is often a type of “sociological communication.” That is, communication that holds cultural, sociological or historical assertions above individual psychological experience. This can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing.

It’s good when it helps us see and bad when it blinds us. Bolsheviks were blinded by sociological fantasies that led them to murder tens of millions. It is good for us to understand that today, especially as our society is being torn apart by arm’s length fallacies.

I will now present an example of this tragedy as it is playing out this morning. What happened is Trump allegedly asked an intelligence analyst of Korean extraction, “Where are you from?”

As someone who has extensive experience with East Asia and Asian-Americans, I am aware that this question drives many of them up the wall. One example:

This makes my blood boil. It must have been so awful to be standing there having her expertise invalidated and trivialized. (Source: asianamerican)

As an ordinary American, I am also aware that this question with precisely that wording was extremely normal well into the 1980s and beyond. A younger friend I discussed this with this morning said she still considers it to be a normal question.

“Where are you from?” means what is your ancestry. When most Americans ask this of each other it means what is your ethnic background, what ethnicity or mix of ethnicities do you identify with or feel close to. It does not mean I think you are a bad person or are not an American. In a nation of many immigrant groups, it is a normal thing to ask. Indeed, it is the quintessential American question. Or used to be before SJWs came along.

Information about your ancestry or ethnicity says something (arm’s length) about your psychology and some levels of your “identity.” Isn’t it ironic that a commenter on an Asian-American site would be incensed that the president asked someone about their identity and then proposed that that identity might well-serve US national interests?

Here is another comment from a South Asian that says the opposite:

Being a Chinese speaking South Asian that type of response isn’t surprising. (Source: AZNIDENTITY)

Having lived in East Asia for a long time, I am well-aware that “Where are you from?” is almost always the first question anyone asks me in that part of the world. Chinese, Japanese, Australians, Europeans, other Americans all ask it. It can become boring to answer when the query is rote arm’s length stuff coming from someone who obviously does not care, but that is nothing to be offended by.

We are in a semiotic pickle and I don’t know what to do about it either. There are many other examples of the above, most of them stemming from identity politics in one way or another.

What is happening is that arm’s length identity concepts are being idiosyncratically defined by identity groups and then the demand is made that those definitions be known and accepted by everyone else or “blood will boil.”

Friendship, reality, psychological health

Psychological health depends on at least one good friendship which is itself based on shared reality.

This shared “reality” is the reality of how the two (or more) good friends actually function. How their speaking, listening, thinking, and feeling actually function and interact in real-time.

They have to know this about each other and even more importantly, they have to want to know this.

If you have or have had that, you will be or become psychologically healthy. If you have never had that, you will not be psychologically healthy.

This “shared reality” is not static and can never be static. It is always changing, adapting. It must be dealt with honestly.

“Aristotle describes three general types of friendship, that of utility, that of pleasure, and that of good or virtue.” (Aristotle on Friendship)

The perfect form of friendship is that between the good, and those who resemble each other in virtue. For these friends wish each alike the other’s good in respect of their goodness, and they are good in themselves; but it is those who wish the good of their friends for their friends’ sake who are friends in the fullest sense, since they love each other for themselves and not accidentally. (same link as above)

If during your formative years, your parents, teachers, and friends did not wish for your goodness for your sake and you have not since formed a good or virtuous friendship, you will not be psychologically healthy. This does not mean you are doomed, it just means you are not psychologically healthy.

To achieve good health, you have to have a “good or virtuous” friend and you have to be that back to them. There is no other way.

If you have an Aristotelian friend of pleasure, you can upgrade this relationship to a good or virtuous one by doing FIML practice. FIML is essential in today’s world because semiotic interactions are so complex, far more complex than in Aristotle’s day.

Good or virtuous friends need FIML to maintain their shared reality.

On rereading, the above sounds harsh to me. But when I consider the world as it is, it also sounds true, realistic. Earth can be a very bad place but it can also be very good.