The Internet is a wild frontier with no laws and everyone has a weapon: their words (or really nasty hacking skills, if you want to get technical, but this article isn’t about that…) At MakeUseOf, we’re all about polite discussions 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
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, 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.
Ignorance Isn’t Equal To Idiocy
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
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
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? Have you ever made a regrettable mistake while making an argument online?