to steel-man


to defend an opponent

STATISTICS

IN THE PRESS

"Now More Than Ever, We Need 'STEEL-MANNING' – When considering an opposing argument, a 'steel man' is much more productive and effective than a 'straw man'."

Vaughn B. Baltzly - Discourse Magazine (4 May 2020)

Did you
know?

to steel-man (steel man)
phrasal verb

- to repair the flaws in an argument before analyzing it critically

- to represent an opponent’s argument in its strongest form before attempting to rebutt it oneself


ORIGIN

The verb “to steel-man” was popularised by the philosopher Daniel Dennett in his 2014 book: “Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking”.


AGREE BEFORE YOU DISAGREE

The practice of steel-manning goes far beyond “Yes, but…(then the counter argument)”.

With steel-manning, we not only demonstrate that we understand the other person’s point-of-view, but we try to strengthen it with better evidence or argumentation. At no point do we say “That’s wrong, or stupid, or irrelevant.”

This seemingly paradoxical technique allows our counterpart to save face and gives us time to consider that we may be wrong ourselves,… or even to discover a completely different, and maybe more attractive opinion!

Dan Dennett’s 4-step steel-manning process:

(1) Attempt to re-express the other person’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that they say, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

(2) List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

(3) Mention anything you have learned from your counterpart.

(4) Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.


MEDIATION SUPPORT

I specialise in advanced mediation tools for business. If you would like to discuss interpersonal coaching or training for your company or team, just drop me a line at: paul@smith.de


SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“British philosopher John Stuart Mill may well have used STEEL-MANNING back in the 1850s. In his book, ‘On Liberty’ he said, 'He who knows only his side of the case knows little of that.' ”


HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

https://donorbox.org/please-become-a-friend-of-owad-3

and,

Paul Smith, IBAN: DE75 7316 0000 0002 5477 40

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