I wanted to take a moment to personally address a common problem that I see here on A|N with people getting upset, emotional, and confrontational in discussion forums.

We are all here to share our experiences and knowledge, and to learn from one another. I for one have really enjoyed my time and experiences on A|N, and I have learned so much and have been exposed to a lot of new information and ideas by other members.

Do I like everyone here or see eye to eye with them? No, of course not. None of us do; but that does not mean that we must be at each other's throat over issues.

There are some best practices, in my opinion, that I think each of us should consider using. I'm just making these up, so please comment and add any you might have. I'm not suggesting that we must all be Polly Annas and tip-toe around one another, but we could all learn how to communicate better:

1. Give people the benefit of a doubt. If something sounds borderline flippant or mean or angry, it may not be. It may just be a poorly worded comment. Reply to the comment if necessary, but wait to see if it is a recurring theme before getting bothered by it. If in doubt, simply ask: Your comment sounds angry, but I'm not sure if I'm reading it correctly. Are you angry about this?

2. Don't criticize people for who they are because you don't like their views; no name calling. You came to your conclusions based on who you are, your education, your experiences, your insight, etc., and so did they. Give them some credit for that, too. If you don't understand their take on something, then try to understand where they are coming from and why they believe what they do. I'll grant that some people don't think critically about what they choose to believe (case in point: the religious), but instead they usually take up their opinions or beliefs because someone told them to, or because "that's what my father believed, and it was good enough for him." However, you can't easily determine that in a comment or two, so give it time before coming to this or that conclusion. Consistency is a good measure by which to judge a person's views.

3. Don't be too sensitive. Understand that all people may know of you is what you write here. Don't take their comments too personally.

4. Don't be a jerk. You can't expect people to discuss topics with you if you are confrontational and bellicose.

5. Learn the difference between opinions and facts. Feelings, BTW, are facts. If something makes you feel uneasy, that is a fact. It is better to talk about facts than opinions in many cases. But if you are stating an opinion, say so, and back it up with the appropriate data or experiences.

6. Choose your words carefully. I'm not sure is better than No fuckin' way. I don't understand is better than You aren't making any sense. Have I made myself clear is better than Do you understand what I'm saying. Sometimes is better than Always. Perhaps is better than Without a doubt.

Also, Please and Thank You and May I suggest and Have you considered area always nice, too.

7. Keep an open mind and try to consider the subject from their point of view. If you disagree with it, is it still without merit, or are their some aspects of it that you can understand?

8. Don't feel like you must always be right, or win every argument. This is about the exchange of ideas and information, not winning a battle.

9. Try to find common ground.

10. Avoid name calling and four-letter words. Cussing is fine in silly or sarcastic remarks and posts, but not beneficial if you are seriously trying to present a good argument. Avoid them.

11. If you get out of line or say something you regret, then apologize for it later on when you've cooled down.

12. If all else fails and you can't get along with a member here, then just ignore the person. You can also block them from sending you messages if you so choose.


Far too many good people have left A|N because of the animosity generated between members. Let's cut it out and learn to listen to one another. Nobody with different opinions is going to force you to change your mind on issues. Just listen to what they have to say, and then decide if their argument has any merits or not.

Tags: atheist nexus, best practices, communication, debate, discussion, membership

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Thank you Quentin. Did you see my invitation on your homepage, btw?
Very good point, John. That is easy to do, and I am guilty of that. A person leaves a comment and it leads us down another path, though often a good one. Sometimes new discussion threads stem out of comments like these, however.
Again, well stated. I see you didn't waste any time.
I think these are rules that we should all use all the time, not just on the internet. However, I do have to disagree with you on one minor, insignificant point: I don't think Have I made myself clear is better than Do you understand what I'm saying. The former just sounds too much like a teacher or parent reprimanding a child! I'm not that keen on the latter, either. I prefer Does that make sense because it implies that I'm the one who may not be speaking clearly. Like I said, a very minor point, but I thought I'd bring it up to see what you think. :)
I think that is a very good point, and you are absolutely correct.
I agree. I like "does that make sense" and use it often because I'm not always sure I'm getting my point across.

In addition to sometimes is better than always, some is better than all or most when referring to groups of people.
Good suggestions. Thanks.

Teehee, this is off-topic, but I just remembered: Did you know that when you refer to groups of people you should, in most cases, refer to groups of persons? People is a political term which is really used in legal matters, but the actual plural of person is persons. Wrong: There were 12 people present. Eleven left leaving one people. Correct: There were 12 persons present. Eleven left leaving one person.

Okay, okay, John D. Don't get on me for getting off-topic. :)
Weird. That's just weird. That may be grammatically correct, and I am one that normally likes to be grammatically correct, but when does common usage take over and change the rule? I mean, who really uses it that way anymore? Grammar should be a little more fluid.
I'm not sure I understand, could you elaborate?

Just kidding.

I'm sure if I knew that at one time it has long been purged. :)
Hear, Hear!
I am really having a hard time finding anything to disagree with you about here Dallas.

I particularly like #3 and #8, as I feel that those are often at the root of a disagreement*.

Nicely stated.

* Of course you are completely free to disagree with me about this.
Thanks, Jay.

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