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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I'm not going to pretend to be Miss Innocent here, but another thing:

If you find yourself consistently feeling worked up and hostile/defensive, there's no harm in taking a break. Sometimes, getting away from a forum is the best way to purge yourself of the tar beast.
Sage advice, Creature. I miss seeing your contributions. Glad you're back.


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