Problem with the Socratic Method

(oops this turned into a dumbass rant, feel free to ignore or embrace!)

To me, the Socratic Method is my way of not being a dick in the real world of stupid idiots who are bad at agreeing with me and who want to do things that are wrong and will hurt everyone, including themselves.

Dealing with an incompetent boss is the most frustrating challenge that is beyond what I thought possible when I went to college. College needs to talk about this, but probably never will. My boss’ boss is on my side, and he and I speak frankly about the matter. That, shockingly, does not matter.

There will be someone in my daily world who constantly does things wrong and with whom I MUST constantly disagree.

I could scream as loud as I can, “A problem will result from your actions!!!” “We can not handle this workload!!!” “Some customers might dissapprove!!!”

Screaming those things has proven to be ineffective. I tried screaming louder and I am almost sure that screaming louder had a worse effect.

I had a large suitcase filled with weapons ready to go before I realized something so simple, so many thousands of millions of years old, …I put away my suitcase filled with sharp rocks and remembered one of our all time favorite men:

Socrates approached debate by building the foundation simply by asking questions. That is what the Socratic method is about.

You can be saying the most obvious things. The most obvious STATEMENTS right into your boss’ eyeballs, screaming them: Everyone hates this policy and it accomplishes nothing!


What exactly will this policy accomplish? “Well derp… once we know our goals and we write them down, then people will be dedicated to our goals… because we wrote them in this new database”

OK What did we fail to do in the past that we will ONLY NOW be able to do, as a direct result of your plan? “Well… when we do my plan… we might see long term effects of my plan?”

Should we maybe focus on the short term effects, or are you even certain of the long term effects? “Doh!”

What would happen if we did everything that I said, in direct opposition to everything you said? “Well uh I think that that would be bad uh… so what would happen… it would be uh…”


Only answer this post with a question.

What could ever go wrong if every single debate in all of history was only approached by each side asking a question of the other side?


What if both sides only ask each other questions, and one side doesn’t trust the other side to actually come up with a proper answer?

What if everyone who was such a pushover that they relied on asking questions was just immediately destroyed by forceful masters?

Does the ability to exert force really coincide with the ability to produce better ends?

If I thought people were disciplined enough for such exchange, I would think it would be great. But then if they were so disciplined, there would be less need for it.

Socrates used, not merely questions, but preposted answers to his own questions so as to show a flow of thinking that he wanted to expose. That method works pretty well, but requires imagination on the part of the speaker and usually, in today’s environment would get no respect anyway… again, a discipline issue.

As far as getting to your boss… there is a much easier way;

Try to understand something;

Keep that thought in mind for a while and then slowly let your boss know that you believe it. He will listen more carefully to someone who he thinks doesn’t really care yet is bringing up an issue over someone who tries to control everything.

One casual issue at a time, a whisper.
When he doesn’t listen, which he at first will not (deal with it), he will learn to listen by his own errors. But if you and others do not let him make those errors, he will not learn and you are not helping, but rather distracting him from the only way he has to learn.

Either be his/her friend and show the truth of that in your acceptance of their need to see on their own, or accept that you really are being an enemy keeping them from being able to get it right through your hammering.

Now if you want to get into the psychology of this issue (some of which you might not like to hear)… put it on the other forum. :mrgreen:


He needs to manage three different worlds of which he knows nothing. Consumer 1 uses our product, we have a specialist for that. Consumer 2 puts a machine in his business so he can get money from that consumer 1; I make sure they can do that. Ultra-consumer number 3 decides whether or not Consumer 1 gets a ton of free money to spend at consumer number 2 at their mandate and we have a few people who make that happen.

I know that my boss only marginally knows about how to sell Ultra consumer number 3, and in the wake of a year-old executive PURGE (about half our workforce and literally 80% of our wage expenditure[I’m young]) this new mini-boss is plain old not experienced and not good at his job.

But it would have to be a lie! It is my world! I know everything! He is not an expert in this field! He knows nothing! (exaggerated for effect but also true)

This advice is so very good. I am glad to hear it from another long time ILP poster, as well as my boss’ boss, who understands me, but can’t just fling careers around.

Please suggest how I should frame this discussion in regards to psychology, because I will go right over there to discuss my insanity. I don’t think I need anything more than a google search to find out what is up with my insanity; and if a Google search can’t do it, then it should NOT BE DONE. nod

I did kinda want this thread to be like a philosophical exploration of what would happen if everyone just asked everyone a question. Like we disagree, and both sides only ask the other side a question, in order to force the other side to answer in a self-implicating way. Like:

So you think people driven crazy by their own boss have only themselves to blame for not being capable of tolerating a bad boss?

Oh. It is Your world. It is your business; your risk to benefit ratio; your money; your managers that you hire to run your business?
If that is the case, then just hire someone who knows better to run your business for you… problem solved.

Thanks, but it isn’t actually good advice if you don’t actually take it. Good advice is advice that also sounds so good that it is taken. :mrgreen:

Hmm… an odd confidence in Google.
I would suggest that you merely repost almost the exact same “rant” like OP and then ask, “what’s wrong with me?”. I would think a number of people would respond. Then you can pick and choose. :sunglasses:

There is something called Rational Debating or Resolution Debating in which any question asked of either opponent must be addressed before further discussion. It is a very strict manner of debate including other rules, but it makes progress very quickly to a final resolution.

The general psychological response to “he is driving me crazy” will be something like; “Stop letting others drive your car” meaning that how crazy you get is really your own doing… stop grasping for what you can’t reach, else frustration leads to anger which leads to “the crazy, get a gun, and end your life as you knew it” syndrome.

Of course people grasp for such things for a reason that they can seldom just turn off. It takes a little practice and… here it is again… discipline. :mrgreen:

It seems to me the story was not the point, but I don’t think the Socratic method should be used in every conversation. It is a problem solving tool. AS for the Socratic method being used to not insult the less intelligent I disagree. We all know Socrates was the wisest man in athens, but it was because he knew his wisdom was worthless. Basically he knew he didn’t know everything. That’s why he started by asking questions weather it was to clarify or to learn, but I wont deny that he was also very intelligent.