September 09, 2014
My current LivingSocial cohort Shane Warden shared an article the other day titled “The steel man of #GamerGate”, which isn't really about #GamerGate but about steelmanning, “the art of addressing the best form of the other person’s argument, even if it’s not the one they presented.”

Which was timely, because the most recent This American Life features a bit where producer Alex Blumberg got to pitch a startup idea to Chris Sacca, and Sacca expertly steelmanned Alex:

At a certain point, Chris drops the pretense that this is an actual investor meeting and just starts coaching me on my pitch, feeding me questions, and then correcting my answers.

“Give me a second and I'm gonna give you your pitch back.”

And then, right there, not far from the freeway overpass near Pico and Bundy, he steps into the role of me, starts giving the pitch I should be giving.


Alex Blumberg: That was amazing!

Chris Sacca: That's your story, right?

Alex Blumberg: That is great. Holy [BLEEP]. I thought I was a storyteller. Now I feel bad about my job.

I'm thinking, oh, if he pitched my idea that well, he must be into it, right? He's going to invest. But then he goes on.


At this point, I have no idea what to think. I'm drained, my pits are drenched, and Chris Sacca has just given me two completely convincing cases in favor of and against investing in my business. Whatever shred of conviction I had about this process at the beginning is gone.

Audio for this portion starts around the 24 minute mark, though this story is the first in the episode, so you can also just listen from the beginning.

This also overlaps with the conflict resolution skills my wife and I were taught and what we also use when working with other couples, to endeavor to repeat back to another person what was heard, to make sure a problem is mutually understood before attempting to rectify anything.