Be Polite. Having your views challenged is not unfriendly or uncivil. An unwillingness to have our own assumptions or arguments questioned might be the first and best clue that we might be wrong. Treat the person to whom you’re talking as an individual – not a part of your general perception of the group you may be consciously or unconsciously lumping them in with. Likewise, avoid divisive language, emotionalism, innuendo, and other thinly veiled insults. Show respect for your fellow members by carefully considering the tenor of your language, formatting, and punctuation before posting. Angry, hyper-emotive, and otherwise provocative displays make people uneasy and unwilling to interact with those around them, eventually driving them and other members away.
Lighten Up, Francis. Refrain from lecturing. Declaiming and holding forth as though others are just not as educated, informed, or thoughtful as you are is profoundly alienating. Also, don’t over-react to perceived slights – you could be wrong. Give the benefit of the doubt and remember that subtle emotions and meanings do not come across easily in writing. Satire, sarcasm, and humor are particularly hard to transmit, often coming across as rude and contemptuous. Even if you’re certain of another member’s intent, try not to take the bait. Someone has to be the bigger person and it might as well be you. The best response to disrespectful and disruptive posters is none at all.
Invest Some Time. Do the research rather than demanding that others do it for you and verify your facts. Consistently relying on suspect information undermines credibility, causing people not to take you very seriously. Take the extra time required to make large, sprawling posts smaller and more concise. You might be surprised how many more responses you’ll get! The use of white space enhances readability and descriptive subject lines encourage people to read your posts and comments. Used sparingly, quoting the relevant portions can help clear up ambiguity. When quoting, clearly indicate where information has been cut and try to avoid misrepresenting their original intended meaning.
Give a Hoot – Don’t Pollute. Straying off-topic and engaging in banter is natural, but try to gauge whether or not it is distracting from the original topic for those members who are interested in discussing it. Publicly disclosing information about another member without their permission is rude at best and could potentially do damage to that member. Intentionally disrupting discussions, swamping the site with a large volume of new Topic Posts or comments is discourteous. While seemingly innocent, posting the same material in multiple locations at once or creating an inconsequential comment (e.g. “Bump!”) within a post solely for the purpose of elevating that Topic Post’s rank position subvert the natural function of the site. If a thread is languishing, let it die to make room for active threads.
Gain Agreement. Many discussions fail because one or both sides fail to appreciate or acknowledge errors in their logic, are blinded by preconceived notions, or are using different definitions for terms common to the discussion. Remember a thing can be true, even if the reasoning that leads to it is bad – vice versa if the premises are false. Avoid "loaded" words or phrases with baggage, and generalizing. When in doubt, try to summarize the other argument in your own words to determine whether you’ve understood what they’re trying to say. If they disagree with your summary, ask for clarification.
Critical Thinking is Critical. First, attack the argument, not the arguer. Next, brush up on common logical errors. Entering a political discussion without a grasp of basic reasoning skills is like entering the proverbial gunfight with the proverbial knife. Try to understand your own bias and how it affects your interpretation and selection tendencies. Rather than referencing another sources as evidence, explain it in your own words. If you can’t do that, you might not be as right as you think you are.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due. Acknowledge when another member makes a good point or successfully demonstrates a weakness in your own points. Remember that the praise we get for presenting good arguments can be undone by refusing to allow that we might have put up a bad one. The surest way to gain respect in a debate is by publicly admitting mistakes. If you feel like the people you’re discussing issues with have been especially patient with you, thank them and be sure to return the favor.
Keep it Legal! Illegal activity, which might include but is not limited to direct or implied threats against other people, encouraging suicide, advising a dangerous courses of action, or inciting illegal behavior, cannot be tolerated. Likewise, violations of US copyright law,* fraud, or posting illegal material such as child pornography are forbidden. Please see our Content & Language Standards below. If the situation warrants it, we may involve the authorities.