8/07/2008

08-07-08 - 1

I really hate nagging and being passive-aggressive and making people feel stupid, and I've been trying for a long time to cut it out or at least reduce it, but the fast is it's one of the few ways to make people actually change. If you just nicely say "hey I don't really like this thing you're doing, can you stop?" they may listen and try to cooperate, but they won't. People's natural tendencies to do something are very strong and they don't change easily. You need a strong force to fight it, and one such strong force is embarrassment. For example, if an employee or student of yours makes a mistake, you can make them feel stupid, like the mistake is so dumb and obvious, they will feel embarassed, and try very hard not to make a similar mistake again. Similarly with nagging. Nagging works just because it's so annoying and unpleasant, that if you constantly nag about some item, people will give in just to make you shut up. If you just ask nicely once, you're ignored. It's not the actual asking them to stop - it's the fear of future nags which makes someone actually behave differently. Both of these work even stronger in a group situation; if a group uses nagging and mockery to create embarassment, it can cause changes in behavior very quickly. I believe this is tapping into some fundamental monkey group behavior genes, where we naturally don't want to stand out and want to be accepted by the group and go with the flow and all that.

Most peer groups of hyper-intelligent guys teach each other this way. 2+2 is very heavy on the mockery, which is very useful on a public web forum because it makes the dumb people shut up so the posts tend to be high quality. Like if you just tell people "please read the FAQ" they don't do it, but if all the smart guys you admire go "wtf are you retarded? that's so basic it's in the fucking faq" then you shape up. Caltech was similar; not that you would be openly mocked, but you just had the feeling everyone was judging you and laughing inside if you asked a stupid question, so you tried to be very careful.

Of course the bigger issue for me is probably not *how* I try to change people but rather simply the fact that I do try to change people.

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