Prepare for your fearlessness. You will need to use it frequently.
Let's say our goal is to accomplish Kaveh's list. Assuming he has some experience in academic research, then each of these statements are equivalent:
- His priority is not really to have his work accepted, but actually about not being misunderstood (the actual premise of the question is about having productive feedback)
- For him she is just stating the obvious (the upper part of the list), and telling him to do things he is already doing (the lower part)
- She needs him to accomplish the list, but he cannot do that if she accuses him for doing the thing he didn't do
- The problem of convincing her that he is not a crank is reduced to the emotional and misunderstanding problems
I think that in all discussions about cranks the overwhelming assumption is that he is hubris. This is, unfortunately, one-sided, because the actual emotions should be guilt and frustration . He is guilty for worrying he is hubris, and frustrated for her misjudge that he is hubris. With all my respect, think most experts lack the necessary experience to give an efficient advice.
Because this answer doesn't attempt to answer the problems that most established experts want to address, it is basically a frame challenge answer.
The rest of the answer is just an elaboration on how to deal with emotional reactions and misunderstandings in each specific case. Here is the table of content for this answer:
- Dealing with your emotions
- Dealing with their reactions
- Other problems
- For those who want to help
You can also read an answer for a generalized question (what challenges one may face during the project, not just how to convince the experts). I will assume that your platform to get feedback on your work is Reddit, but it's not a big deal.
Dealing with your emotions
First, there are two things to begin with:
- Epistemologically, it seems that in order to solve a hard problem, you need to be aware to the solution a priori
Epistemology is a field in philosophy studying about the nature of knowledge and how we acquire it. I haven't read much about this though.
- Psychologically, when you are aware of yourself, these self-conscious emotions will evoke: pride, shame, guilt, and embarrassment
Because doing research is to prove that you are wrong before proving you are right, a natural thing when you think you know something is have skepticism about yourself. So alongside with the specific problem you are working with you will ask these self-conscious questions:
- Am I claiming a thing that I haven't proved it yet?
- Am I claiming that I know better than the experts, when I lack formal education?
Since the answers to those questions should be yes, they will evoke self-conscious emotions, drifting you from the one and only thing you should focus on: the problem you are working at. You will enter a feedback loop of questioning yourself: the answer for those questions is the reason you questioning yourself at the first place. The real answer lies in the work you are researching, not about whether you are sane or not.
To deal with fantasy (a kind of pride), try to imagine how a life of a famous person would actually be. For every kind of success you are dreaming of, there are people who have already got it. So say you dream about the Nobel prize, ask yourself this question: how did Einstein live with his fame and money? When you realize that in fact all famous persons are annoyed for being famous, then your fantasy is cut. By being able to put yourself into their shoes, you can detach to your emotions, and get back to reality. At that time, if you still wonder what you will do when you become famous, then the only thing you want is a dark and quiet place to have a dreamless sleep through it.
Please be aware that you may have messiah complex. You may not have grandiose delusion, but the thinking that (1) only you can provide a solution that no one seems to see, and (2) in other to deliver that solution, you have to overcome the skepticism regardless how harsh it is, can develop this complex. People may also accuse you for performing gaslighting as well. All of these will make the guilt about yourself even stronger.
To distinguish them with true psychological problems, whose root is insecurity, I will call them as "intellectual messiah complex" and "intellectual gaslighting".
Because the fear that you are delusional only continue when in fact you see that you still have fantasy, so when you have successfully cut it, then the fear itself will disappear. You will not feel shame, guilt or embarrass about your work anymore.
In general, the emotions are only intense when your research is still at the vague phase. The more knowledge you acquire, the less frequent they show up.
Dealing with their reactions
In my experience, there are these types of unproductive response: labeling and sarcasm.
When they tell that you are crank, just give them this crackpot index, list all the points that may apply to you, and explain how they are wrong. If they accuse you for being arrogant, tell them that confidently walking into a storm with a smile is different to seeking for attention. If they think that you are insane (walking into a storm with a smile is insane obviously), it would be much easier if you can have the conversation face-to-face. Only by seeing how your eyes are determinate but your mind is not closed at all, that they can assume that you are not. Don't be embarrass for telling them how you have prepared for the project.
Let's discuss more about insanity. I think it is best to "help" them reach the conclusion that you are insane, because it is no longer a label on your behavior, but a label on your rationality. When you reach that stage, they will have a strong motivation to continue the conversation, and your evidences will be listened carefully. If you can create a cognitive dissonance in their mind, then their pattern-matching will be silent, and they will not be locked in their perspective anymore.
Respond to their labelling (crank, arrogant, insane, stupid, high, bias, spam, word salad, not even wrong, woowoo, pseudoscience, time- wasting, etc.) by giving the definition of the word and show why it doesn't apply to you. Have a note listing all your prepared answers for each label, so that you don't need to rely on your poor memory. To deal with skepticism, you need to immediately form perfect combination of words, and your brain will put you down. (More details later.)
If they simply making some jokes, it may be true that it is actually funny. In that case, perhaps it is best to continue the joke. Seeing how you actually enjoy their jokes will make them see that it doesn't affect you at all. Like if you are a fat person, then joking on your fatness will make them see that you are aware of your shortcoming, and it's just that you don't have time to solve it yet. If you are a blind, then having a joke involving your disability will make the non-blinds astonishingly surprised. They will perceived you as invincible now.
If it's really hurt and you can't think of a clever thing to say, then perhaps it's best to remind them that they are in a place that mocking is not acceptable. Like a smack down show, they literally see you as the arrogant prideful guy who need to be taught. Note down links to comedic shows, where making fun of others is the goal, like WWE shows, higaniga conspiracy theory videos, or mocking subreddits, and show them how hilarious their actions are. For example, you can say:
Wow, r/Buddhism becomes r/WWE now?
Or you can invite an authority to deal with this:
I don't think this behavior is appropriate. I'll report the mods/I believe others don't find this appropriate as well.
In short, be clever when dealing with ad hominem. The problem is that you can't be clever when your mind is clouded with anger. So you need to prepare for clever moments. When you can do that, then their next response will likely be productive again.
But in all, don't interact with them because you feel misunderstood, but because of the knowledge they have. Try to convert questions about your identity/self (e.g. "am I crank?") to question about definition (e.g. "what is crank?"). Show how you possess a rigid body of knowledge of what they are trying to convey, with phrases like "psychologically speaking", "what you are talking about is called ______ in philosophy", "in the field of informal logic", etc. They are relevant interesting academic fields that they don't know of. If you think that they have knowledge on what you need, only focus on that, and ignore any unreasonable critique at you.
When you have solved all of the emotional problems, then 90% of the conversations now are productive. But there will still other problems.
You may have wasted so much time to read about crackpotism, conspiracy theories, delusion, etc. You may have wasted so much time on conversations that at first people strongly disagree with you, but after some talks it turns out that they don't really disagree with what you actual mean, and all of this is just misunderstanding. Take note on every evidence that that make you feel you are on the right track. Don't let your research about your sanity gone.
The problem of being unable to explain yourself is because of tacit knowledge and the tip of the tongue phenomenon. When you have a very strong evidence that you are not a crank, then after a week or so what is left is just a feeling that you are not. Lacking the evidence, you will be dragged into the loop again. You need to immediately make a perfect combination of words to get out of this.
Even when miracle happens (they spend their time and energy to analyze what you say), there will be a very strange phenomenon that you just can't understand: you always feel that they implicitly agree with what you say, but you two can't settle to a consensus, and thus just going circular.
I think, all conflicts in the world come down to the problem of priority. Usually the situation is like this: person 1 can see that problem A is more important than problem B, and person 2 see that B is more important than A. The problem is that, most of the time both A and B have to be solved together, or else none of them can be achieved. But because both insist that their point is more important, both will miss and pass each other point. Both will feel the conversation is unproductive, and sooner or later one will drop it.
When this happens, it is just a blind leading a blind, or worse, a blind fight. Investigating the nature of this phenomenon and how to deal with it is my research interest. My advice to deal with misunderstanding is to use negation, not explanation.
Egocentrism is not about being selfish or have a huge ego, but about being unable to differentiate your mind with others' minds. When you find something interesting, then you will automatically assign that others will find it interesting as well, and will be confused when in fact they don't really care. However you remind yourself about this, this tendency will still activate.
Don't assume that they will assume that their feedback is wrong. You may be open minded, and they are too, but in practice both of you can't. If you assume that they are curious to know why they are wrong (a kind of trust), then you will tend to give explanation. But in fact they just see that you are defensive. They accuse you for things you have never done, and then either passively drop the conversation or actively block you from further explanation. I term this as "intellectual silent treatment".
When an idea pop up and you feel wonderful, your gut will still tell you that there are much more fields you need to read carefully. Although you don't mind spending more effort on researching, you just want to ask for feedback because it would be much more efficient. Your egocentricism assumes that people will get what you get too. If you want to finish the project as soon as possible to move on to other important things, then your urge to share it will be higher. But STOP! Posting it now will only receive harsh, unreasonable critiques. Listen to your gut, and read all the fields you need first. Good questions only come when your mind is in the ignorance stage, which is the result of understanding the field as it is.
Having said that, at some point you will see that there is no point to ask questions, and you just want them to read your work as it is. If you have the necessary requirements (literary review, inline citation, methodology, etc.), then you can now submit to an academic journal, and you don't have to be afraid for being misunderstood as a crank anymore.
In case your first and foremost audience of your work is the popular audience, making your writing style necessarily un-academic, then the situation will be complicated, because your most important audience is the academic one. (Yes, sometimes the important thing is not the one you should prioritize – see the Eisenhower method.) Because your work has to serve two different kinds of audience, who have different background, knowledge and expectation, you will have mixed feelings when receiving their feedback:
- Popular audience cannot provide useful feedback, but their excitements indicate that you have touched a big problem that they are looking for
- More knowledgeable readers or even academics from distant fields can give useful knowledge, and can play the role of initial gatekeepers. But once they say good luck to you, you know that they cannot help you anymore
- Academics from relevant fields will feel it's vague or wishy washy, because they expect your work to truly be presented in academic form. But if you explicitly say that this is just the phase to capture what you have in your mind, then their attitude will flip 180 degrees
Let's talk more about the last point. In your mind, having no literary review, methodology or dataset is not important, because you already accept that you don't have one. Therefore, you must say explicitly that the article is just a cursory research to sketch a roadmap for your study, and list all of your shortcomings as best as you can remember. Without this part their expectation will lock their minds, and any of your explanation from now on will be perceived as defensive.
For those who want to help
Here is my advice for those who want to help. Hopefully it can reduce wasted effort, and bring you maximum happiness:
- Always assume that the person you are talking at has something interesting that you can learn
- Be conscious that although they may not know what they are talking about, you may not know what they really want to convey either
- Confirm their correct observations before address your concerns
- Use Socratic questioning
Don't feel threaten when they show signs of crankiness. The fact that they accept to be labeled as crank indicates that they have something more important to do. Like you, they are rational creatures, and they have already run cost-benefit analysis before starting the project. When you want to give them advices, you may want to frame it like this:
- I don't think there is another option to do X / The best way to do this is Y. But since it seems that you know this too, can you explain why you don't think it suits you?
- I don't think you understand concept Z as it is. In my opinion, Z is about a, b, or c, and perhaps c is closer to what you mean. Is that correct?
You may want to learn about conceptual metaphors if you want to know why sometimes serious ideas are hilariously crazy. I recommend the book Metaphors we live by by Lakoff and Johnson.
Kletische has some good articles about this:
You can also read my research: A theory of perspective. It discusses about various things, two of which are intellectual betrayal, and cold gaze, which are relevant to this answer.