Showing all posts tagged #interpersonal:


Language is like choosing which side of the street to drive on

Posted on November 17th, 2018

A debate I’ve come across again and again is whether language is objective or subjective. It tends to crop up in moments like when dictionaries update the word "literally" with contradictory definitions or when people argue that Ebonics isn't "correct" English. The working definitions we'll use:objective: something that can be correct or incorrect, i.e. really out there in the world independent of whether or not you perceive itsubjective: so...

A steelman for tradition

Posted on June 3rd, 2018

Epistemic status: High confidence about the pros/cons discussed regarding my own experience, fairly low confidence about the parts I heard secondhand. Epistemic effort: Low-to-medium effort. I realized these things were connected while I was in the shower last night, then I spent two hours stream-of-consciousness writing to get them onto the page. I then read it over once for minor editing and shared it with a friend to sanity check. 1. "Bik...

Re: Flaking

Posted on February 13th, 2018

Dan Wang emailed me with some interesting additional hypotheses regarding the question of flaking that I raised last week: I liked your piece on flaking. When I moved to New York, I found that flaking declined dramatically. So I think that any piece that talks about flaking in SF has to explain why it happens less in NY. Here's what I'd offer: SF is made up more of tech people, who like to spend long periods of time on their own, and aren't o...

Special snowflakes and canonical examples

Posted on February 9th, 2018

I’m proud to be a beginner! But when it comes to the concrete steps of learning something new, I often feel undue shame about my approach. At first, I thought it was a fear of not knowing things or, more likely, a fear of other people seeing of me as a beginner. This doesn’t add up though. I don’t hesitate to ask questions when I’m stuck, and I pride myself on my love of picking up new skills and learning new things. In fact, going from zero ...

Teach a girl to fish

Posted on February 5th, 2018

My favorite aphorism might be "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". It's a useful idea to incorporate into your life philosophy, both for yourself and others. It's nice to offer help to someone with a problem that you can solve, but far better to teach them how to do it.* On the flip side, when there's something you don't know how to do, I encourage you to find someone who will bot...

Why is flaking so widespread in San Francisco?

Posted on February 2nd, 2018

In an email exchange with Brian Lui, he asked me an interesting question about the rate of flaking in San Francisco: I had a brief question too. I've read that the rate of "flaking" in San Francisco is really high, because everyone is so busy and there is so much to do. But then I thought, wouldn't that lead to an extra strong norm against flaking, because your time is too precious to get flaked on by someone? Apparently this doesn't happen an...

Other people are just as multifaceted as you

Posted on February 2nd, 2018

Most people seem to think of themselves as “at the edge" of several communities rather than defined by a single identity. It’s easy to think of yourself as special and that other people are more singularly defined, but that’s a bias stemming from the fact that you’re mostly seeing people in the context of just one of the communities they’re a part of. It can be hard to remember: you just don’t have visibility into their other thoughts and othe...

Empathy for the Devil

Posted on October 8th, 2017

History is too often reduced to stories of good versus evil. We get the impression that we are somehow different from the people who were bad, and we take for granted that we would never make similar choices. We should learn to empathize with those who make terrible choices — not to pardon their choices nor to deny ourselves the right to grieve, but to recognize when we might be heading down a similar path. If we see them as people and underst...