Pro-tips for Internet Discussion

Nouveau

Well-known member
#1: Try to find and acknowledge something in your opponent's post that you agree with.

It shows that you are listening to what they are saying, and making a genuine effort to see things from their point of view, rather than just instantly dismissing everything they say. It will make your opponents feel that their views are being considered, making them more likely to respond reasonably in return, and will also better help you to recognize any flaws in your own position that you might otherwise have overlooked.

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So the point of this thread will be to collate more simple and uncontroversial advice of this sort. Feel free to add your own, or debate the merits of advice given. But I recommend following the above template, i.e. a short and simple statement of the advice, followed by a brief explanation for why it is a good idea. I'd also recommend trying to frame each one in a positive way (i.e. Do X, rather than Don't do Y). I'll try to add a new pro-tip each day until I have run out of constructive suggestions.
 
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SteveB

Well-known member
#1: Try to find and acknowledge something in your opponent's post that you agree with.

It shows that you are listening to what they are saying, and making a genuine effort to see things from their point of view, rather than just instantly dismissing everything they say. It will make your opponents feel that their views are being considered, making them more likely to respond reasonably in return, and will also better help you to recognize any flaws in your own position that you might otherwise have overlooked.

----------------------------------------------------------

So the point of this thread will be to collate more simple and uncontroversial advice of this sort. Feel free to add your own, or debate the merits of advice given. But I recommend following the above template, i.e. a short and simple statement of the advice, followed by a brief explanation for why it is a good idea. I'd also recommend trying to frame each one in a positive way (i.e. Do X, rather than Don't do Y). I'll try to add a new pro-tip each day until I have run out of constructive suggestions.
So, even though we have previously demonstrated that what they're claiming is false, we're to agree with them?
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
So, even though we have previously demonstrated that what they're claiming is false, we're to agree with them?
No, that is not the suggestion. I'm not saying you should claim to agree with something you don't actually agree with. That would be lying.

Do you have any tips to offer? For achieving constructive respectful discussion?
 
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Torin

Active member
Good thread idea, @Nouveau, although I have my doubts about how cooperative the rest of the forum will be.

Personally, I would settle for:

#2. Try not to assume everyone who disagrees with you is a cartoonishly evil monster bent on destroying America, Western Civilization, God, Minorities, and/or Precious Little Children.

I think even this is a bit over most CARMites' heads, though, honestly.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
Good thread idea, @Nouveau, although I have my doubts about how cooperative the rest of the forum will be.

Personally, I would settle for:

#2. Try not to assume everyone who disagrees with you is a cartoonishly evil monster bent on destroying America, Western Civilization, God, Minorities, and/or Precious Little Children.
If conservatives would learn that one, we'd have a lot more productive discussions on here.
 

Gus Bovona

Active member
#3. Reply to the substance of what was said, and disregard any insults, rhetoric, and the like.

Admittedly, #3 can be taken too far. My own approach is that, when I've had enough and it's difficult to ignore the insults, I just end the conversation. I try to give my interlocutor every chance to rise to the occasion, but it shouldn't be an unlimited free pass.
 

Gus Bovona

Active member
#4. Steelmaning. This is the opposite of strawmannirg in which you take a caricature or easily refuted perversion of your opponent's ideas so you can slap them down easily. Steelmaning, to the contrary, takes the very best, strongest version of your opponent's ideas.

If your ideas can win against the strongest version of your opponent's, then you know you're on to something good.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
#5: Be honest.

If you have to lie about what someone has said or what you've previously shown or answered, then this is a sign that your own argument or position is not as strong as it should be. It means you are at that point protecting your own ego instead of learning from the situation and improving your own ideas. Also, your reputation will determine how others perceive and respond to you, and reputations are fragile. A few recent lies will have more impact than a thousand previous honest posts. You also might not be fully aware of a dishonest response, so to guard against making false claims about what you've done, or what others have said to you, always try to look back and directly quote or link to the relevant material to make sure your own memory and bias isn't leading you astray.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
Good thread idea, @Nouveau, although I have my doubts about how cooperative the rest of the forum will be.

Personally, I would settle for:

#2. Try not to assume everyone who disagrees with you is a cartoonishly evil monster bent on destroying America, Western Civilization, God, Minorities, and/or Precious Little Children.

I think even this is a bit over most CARMites' heads, though, honestly.
Perhaps a more generalized version of this would be:

#2: Be charitable and try not to assume the worst of your opponents and their motivations.

This is closely tied to the notion of steelmanning. If you demonize those who disagree with you, even if only in your own mind, you are likely to end up with a biased perspective of what they are actually saying, possibly missing out on valid points that may help you improve and strengthen your own position. Also, even where your opponent's don't have the best of intentions, responding with a a more charitable interpretation of where they are coming from may actually induce them to move more in that direction themselves. Conversely, assuming the worst of others can become a self-fullfilling prophecy, dragging the discussion down on both sides.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
#1: Try to find and acknowledge something in your opponent's post that you agree with.

It shows that you are listening to what they are saying, and making a genuine effort to see things from their point of view, rather than just instantly dismissing everything they say. It will make your opponents feel that their views are being considered, making them more likely to respond reasonably in return, and will also better help you to recognize any flaws in your own position that you might otherwise have overlooked.

----------------------------------------------------------

So the point of this thread will be to collate more simple and uncontroversial advice of this sort. Feel free to add your own, or debate the merits of advice given. But I recommend following the above template, i.e. a short and simple statement of the advice, followed by a brief explanation for why it is a good idea. I'd also recommend trying to frame each one in a positive way (i.e. Do X, rather than Don't do Y). I'll try to add a new pro-tip each day until I have run out of constructive suggestions.
I agree that's wise. It also highlights that even an opinion one considers wrong will contain elements of truth, since most people are reasonable and don't just hold ludicrous views for no reason.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
#6: Admit your mistakes

It can be tempting to want to hold on to every piece of ground in debate and to try to show strength by refusing to acknowledge any errors or mistakes. But we should resist the urge to deny, ignore, or downplay our mistakes, because doing so only gives the impression that we cannot be reasoned with, and makes people less likely to invest the time and effort in trying to reason with us further. By instead acknowledging our errors we show that we are open to correction and worth engaging, and when we later do stick to our guns on something, people will know it is because we really aren't convinced we are wrong, rather than because we are trying to save face.
 

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
#6: Admit your mistakes

It can be tempting to want to hold on to every piece of ground in debate and to try to show strength by refusing to acknowledge any errors or mistakes. But we should resist the urge to deny, ignore, or downplay our mistakes, because doing so only gives the impression that we cannot be reasoned with, and makes people less likely to invest the time and effort in trying to reason with us further. By instead acknowledging our errors we show that we are open to correction and worth engaging, and when we later do stick to our guns on something, people will know it is because we really aren't convinced we are wrong, rather than because we are trying to save face.

Putrid and overly officious pablum. How about presenting some examples of your own admissions of mistakes.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
#3. Reply to the substance of what was said, and disregard any insults, rhetoric, and the like.

Admittedly, #3 can be taken too far. My own approach is that, when I've had enough and it's difficult to ignore the insults, I just end the conversation. I try to give my interlocutor every chance to rise to the occasion, but it shouldn't be an unlimited free pass.
#7. Only attribute behaviors/events/ideas to people you can either link/quote directly, or are otherwise reasonably present in the conversation.

It's pretty common to attribute a specific event to an entire demographic, such as a terrorist attack to a religion or ideology, or a legislative effort in one state to an entire political party. This is little more than an effort to insult everyone who identifies with that religion/ideology/political-party, and is a good way to get people to treat you personally with hostility or contempt - independent of whether you're making a valid point or not.
 
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