Offending People's Minds

David Musick (
Thu, 22 Aug 96 17:42:03 UT

When I wrote about the benefits of offending people, I forgot to clarify what
I mean by "offending" them. I certainly don't mean insulting them personally
or ridiculing their beliefs. This usually closes minds beyond much hope of
opening. I was meaning that sometimes it is good to present one's ideas very
bluntly and matter-of-factly, with no sugar coating. If the other doesn't
share your ideas, this will usually create an intellectual offense at your
ideas. They will be offended, not because your ideas are bad, or you are
being rude to them, but because you are presenting them with ideas which may
seem ludicrous at first or frightening, or simply very different than they are
familiar with.

And because it is more of an intellectual offense than an emotional one (not
that there's a clear-cut difference between the two), they will tend to use
more of an intellectual defense, to rebutt what you're saying. An emotional
defense would be to block out or marginalize what you are saying, and one
should avoid triggering another's emotional defenses too much when sharing
one's ideas with another (and this is much easier to do through text, where
the participants aren't face to face, or voice to voice).

The offense is intended to provoke an intellectual response and get the other
*thinking* about what you're saying, not necessarily to *accept* what you're
saying. One must trust the rational faculties of the other to reach their own
conclusions, rather than simply inserting your own ideas into their mind as a
belief. The trick is to get them thinking in the first place. Unless they've
thought about your ideas for themselves, their "agreement" with your ideas is

Of course, some care must be taken when spreading memes, not to be too
offensive (otherwise the recipient will just close up), and not to present the
ideas too sweetly and innocently (otherwise the ideas won't challenge their
mind enough to get them to *care* about what you say).

I'm not an expert on effective communication (although I'm very interested in
becoming so), but I think that some amount of offense (not insult) can be very
good in the communication process, especially when spreading Extropian ideas,
which encourage people to think for themselves. If you're just interested in
slipping ideas into people's minds, then a very quiet, non-offensive technique
is probably the best. But I'm interested in getting people to THINK and not
be so comfortable with their ideas, to continually question and doubt. And for
this, there must be some serious boat rocking.

We need a world of thinkers, not a world of believers (no matter how good the
belief is), and I'd rather have someone question what I say than believe it.
At least I know they're still alive.

- David Musick