Yesterday, I ended up in an Internet debate with another blogger and it started me thinking on the Do’s and Don’ts of Debating in general, but especially debating on the Internet. These are the things that I try to keep in mind when I find myself in a debate. It wasn’t always this way… I used to be an emotional, reactive debater and I would walk away from the debate just feeling angry and drained and hurt. No fun.
DO remember that the person typing the words is a real person; DON’T assume they will understand your ascorbic wit as humor. I can be sarcastic and sarcasm does not translate well over the Internet. Many times in Internet debates we say things that we really would not say to a person’s face. Basic rule, if you wouldn’t say the statement to them one-on-one, don’t type it out.
DO debate to offer an counterpoint; DON’T debate to change or convert the person to “your side.” Most of the time the person with whom you are debating is as fully ensconced in their position as you are in yours. If your goal is to change their mind, you’ve failed from the outset. Make your goal to offer a logical counterpoint for them to consider.
DO counter cited facts with cited facts, personal opinions with personal opinions; DON’T counter cited facts with personal opinions. If you are making a statement of documented fact, have the data to back it up. In the same vein, generalized statements are just that… general and rarely back the point you are making. If something is of your opinion, preface it by saying “In my Opinion…” When stating something as fact, really consider your source: Medical Journal? Most likely credible. Page Six of the New York Post? Not so much.
DO debate with passion; DON’T debate with emotion. This may be a fine line, but you know when you’ve crossed it because when you start debating with emotion, you may trigger your “fight or flight” response. Your respiration and heart rate will increase and you will most likely start stating irrational things in an effort to get your point across. If you are debating in full “fight or flight” mode, it is no longer your prefrontal cortex talking, but rather your limbic system. And that reptilian brain of ours wants nothing more than to WIN!
DO challenge the point at hand; DON’T attack the person. Challenge your debaters statements, but refrain from attacking their character. This goes well with #7.
DO end the debate by thanking your debater; DON’T just stop responding. Just because you are on the Internet doesn’t mean that manners go out of the window. There is nothing more rude than just walking away. You wouldn’t walk away from a discussion in person, so you shouldn’t do it online. Now, if you are a parent and you are debating, sometimes you are pulled away abruptly. In that case, type out a quick “BRB” (be right back) to let your debater know that you are not just walking away leaving them hanging. When you think you have exhausted the topic at hand, thank your debater for the discussion and taking the time to chat with you.
DO treat your fellow debater with respect and dignity; DON’T name call. Once you begin the name calling, the whole point of the debate is gone and you’ve dissolved into an argument with will do nothing but leave you both with hurt feelings.
Be sure to head over to Conversion Diary to read more Seven Quick Takes and to add yours!