Top positive review
Reviewed in the United States on September 21, 2019
This is an incredibly important and timely book. Peter Boghossian follows up on techniques he developed for his previous book, "A Manual for Creating Atheists", designed to help people have meaningful conversations even in our current climate of division. In particular, Boghossion wants to allow people to reach out to people they disagree with - and see them not as evil to be beaten, but as different perspectives which can make for a rich conversation. This is an incredible message, and I wish this book could be in every classroom.
In short, Boghossian and James Lindsay are developing Peter's idea of "street epistemology". This is an adaptation of the Socratic method - or learning to question people's assertions. Through asking asking questions, and showing genuine interest, Peter believes you can achieve more in a conversation.
Suppose you're talking to someone, and you find out they have a political belief you don't like. Maybe you voted for Hillary and they voted for Trump. You could call them an idiot, but most likely all that's going to do is reinforce their preconceptions about what Hillary supporters act like. Instead, you could ask them sensible questions - such as "Why did you vote for Trump?" or "Was there a specific issue you felt Trump was stronger on?". Now you're having a real, honest conversation. Peter's belief - backed up by tons of readers trying his methods and reporting their results - is that these conversations are how you change minds and grow communities.
In an era of so-called cancel culture, where being perceived to hold an incorrect belief can lead to the loss of your social circle or even your job, the authors are hoping to bridge the divide and make a space for people to talk. I think this is massively important.
"How to Have Impossible Conversations" is well-written, clear, and to the point. This isn't a thousand-page self-help book where a note card worth of ideas is stretched out to an entire novel. This book gives a chapter to each of its points, introducing concepts and giving you specific examples of how to apply them to conversation, and it moves on. This is essentially another field manual from Boghossian, designed to be put into practice today. I love it, and I wish more authors would learn from the format.