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The Internet is a wild frontier with no laws and everyone has a weapon: their words (or really nasty hacking skills Russian Hacking Gang Captures 1.2 Billion Credentials: What You Should Do Russian Hacking Gang Captures 1.2 Billion Credentials: What You Should Do Read More , if you want to get technical, but this article isn’t about that…) At MakeUseOf, we’re all about polite discussions Chill, Bro: 5 Tips For Calming Down On The Internet Chill, Bro: 5 Tips For Calming Down On The Internet An angry online sentence can ruin a perfectly good day. It can do more than that by bruising egos and damaging careers. Our communication should be more intentional and polite. Here are five tips. Read More and bringing words worth saying to the table, so most of us believe that being civil often leads to stronger, smarter arguments.

Below are five concepts that will make your online arguments stronger, all focusing on the civility of discussion rather than manipulation. Read through them, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Hurtful Words Are Useless

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I’m the worst person in the world when it comes to mentally telling myself, “That person is a complete and total dumbass.” 

Obviously, it’s a rude thought in general, and I’ve often found myself translating such thoughts into hurtful comments online. But let’s be real: what good does this even do? In the midst of an argument, the ultimate goal is to typically provide your point and persuade the opposing side to at the very least consider it. By covering up what may very well be a highly educated statement with harsh insults 4 Types of Blog Comments That Make You Look Like a Troll [Opinion] 4 Types of Blog Comments That Make You Look Like a Troll [Opinion] One of the most fascinating things about writing professionally on the Internet for nearly a decade now is the progression of "commenting" that has evolved alongside the blogosphere. I was first introduced to the whole... Read More , you’ll effectively miss out on this.

In most situations, people are going to pay more attention to hurtful words rather than what you really are trying to say. Anything else is just chaff.

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Ignorance Isn’t Equal To Idiocy

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Guess what: people aren’t always going to know everything you know. They may haven’t been provided with the proper resources, and their opinions may be based on incomplete information. As a matter of fact, your opinions are probably based on incomplete information at least to some degree.

So keep that in mind when you’re doing the whole “hey man, you’re wrong” thing. Be gentle with your input, but never deny yourself the right to speak your piece.

Sometimes You Can Be Right, And… Well, They Can Be Right

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One of the most frustrating things in the world is to realize that your opponent is partially right (if online arguments even deem the term “opponent” necessary). You don’t want to give them any extra credibility, but at the same time, refusing to acknowledge where they are completely and totally correct could make you look pretty dumb.

Well, let’s just say that it takes a big person to separate the goal of discovering what is right from the goal of being right. It’s okay to acknowledge when others are correct – else, you end up arguing over virtually nothing. It’s also okay to divide up where you believe they are right and where they are wrong into separate statements!

Your Words Should Benefit Everyone – Even Your Adversary

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When you go into an argument with a positive attitude, try to use it as an opportunity to both educate and learn. Try to give something as well as take something. Granted, it’s obvious you won’t always be able to take something (and in many cases, regardless of what you think, you may not be able to educate either).

It’s also important to consider the fact that you may be educating your verbal adversary. Try to help them leave the discussion with the feeling of, “Man, I’m glad I learned that!” rather than “What a jerk…”

You Could Be Wrong

You don’t know everything, and once you accept this truth, it’s so much easier to embrace the world of online interaction. It’s very easy to go into an online discussion convinced you are absolutely correct and that there are no other alternatives, but it takes a very strong individual to accept the reality that this may not be the case. Oh, and there’s nothing bad about being wrong – it’s only when you refuse to consider changing your point of view that it becomes an issue.

What other tips do you have for increasing the value of your online arguments 4 Unexpected Ways To Make The Best Of Powerful Online Discussions 4 Unexpected Ways To Make The Best Of Powerful Online Discussions There are places online where you can find serious discussions that are well-moderated and more meaningful than the usual drivel. When you encounter such threads, how can you make the most of them? Read More ? Have you ever made a regrettable mistake while making an argument online?

Image Credits: Southern Arkansas UniversityJacob Bøtter, Peter, winnifredxoxo, SUNV.

  1. Robyn
    August 23, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    1. Ask questions to further the discussion; they help to show that you are genuinely interested in an exchange of views, not a contest.
    2. Paraphrase what you think they said before you refute it. Ask them to correct your understanding if you got it wrong.
    3. Understand that some people argue with you and attack your intelligence because that's how they get their jollies. Leave them alone. The more they upset you, the more they enjoy it.
    4. Understand that most people who cling to a belief of any kind reach a point where they are incapable of reason when they think that belief is being attacked. Work on recognizing that point so you don't continue to beat that poor dead equine.

    • Kelsey
      August 24, 2014 at 12:01 am

      I totally agree, Robyn.
      1. Usually if I'm reading the comments, I'm trying to glean valuable insight from the commentators, not spark a revolution. So I do tend to ask questions because I am ignorant and I know it.
      2. Paraphrasing is a fantastic rebuttal device! Often when a person's words are repeated back to them with emphasis where YOU see emphasis, it makes very clear the displayed said ignorance from point 1. And usually they edit their outlook.
      3. TROLLS. Schoolyard bullies who don't realize everybody is laughing AT them...not WITH them. They need a check up from the neck up.
      4. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree. Why waste the energy?
      This reminds me that I really enjoy a Chrome extension I use: Shut Up. One click and all comments on any page are hidden, tra la la!
      Vastly reduces the drama in
      -mah-
      -sweet-
      -little-
      -life-
      :D

  2. Gabor
    August 23, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    One thing to realize that it is very unlikely that the person you are arguing against will change their opinion. The target really isn't that person at all; it is the others who happen to read both arguments.

  3. Saikat B
    August 23, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    One of the critical skills all of should learn is the 'art of persuasion'. You can't argue for long against a persuasive argument.

    There's another way to look at our own attitudes -- Either we argue to learn or we argue to win. More often than not -- being humans -- it's the latter. But then we stop our learning, because we "go for a win", rather than understanding his point against our own, and then take the best of the two opposing views.

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