The Rules of Engagement: The Lost Art of Debate.

These days I’m more of a moderator on my own Facebook page than anything else. In a way, I like that. It’s great seeing people engaged in discussion about various topics that are viewed differently through the eyes of different world views. Atheists, Christians, Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Veterans, Moms, Dads, and more are all represented on my Facebook page pretty often. It makes me happy. Not because I get 40 likes or 40 comments, but because people are engaging in issues that are incredibly important. Now I realize that Facebook is a pretty limited medium but you know what? It’s a start. If people start talking about it, they start thinking about it, and any action first starts in the mind of a person. If all I do is plant seeds and they get watered elsewhere that’s fine with me.

Sometimes though, the conversation gets heated, the conversation gets a little intense, and before you can say controversial, people start name calling and resorting to the vocabulary of a 6th grader. I understand why. It’s easy to get emotionally involved in a conversation, especially one that you are really passionate about. Homosexuality and abortion are two topics that people are very passionate about! I get it completely. I’ve had my fair share of losing my cool and resulted in breaking a keyboard (or two….or three….). But at the end of the day no amount of anger, name calling, and insulting gets your point across does it? The next day when you read what you wrote you think “what was I thinking!”. I’ve been there too and I’ve had to apologize many a time to people that I conversed with through some sort of digital medium.

So to help all of you out reading this, I’ve composed a couple of things that you should keep in mind when debating or discussing controversial topics. Below are Tim’s online discussion rules! Also, if you post on my Facebook frequently I want to first say thank you, and then I want to say PLEASE keep these rules in mind.

1. No name calling, insulting, or personal attacks – Remember you are debating an idea, or a view point, not a person. Argue ideas, ideologies, and anything else you want, but don’t start to insult people. When you do that not only do you look desperate, you automatically lose the person you’re trying to convince of your point. It’s completely self defeating.

2. Choose your words carefully – I can’t read your mind or inflection when I’m reading your response. All I’m reading are words. Because of that go out of your way to explain that you mean this in a polite way and with respect. I’ve been learning myself that when I take the time to explain myself clearly, I’m better heard by the person.

3. Be willing to admit your wrong – Unlike the political world, admit your wrong when you’re wrong. It drives me nuts that in our rhetoric based society NO ON can admit that they were wrong on issues. I’ve tasted my foot many times, and I’m getting used to the taste. I’ve had to apologize to people for making false assumptions or just not knowing the subject as well as they did. It’s ok to admit that you were wrong!

4. Come to the table willing to learn – I’m pretty confident in my beliefs, but that doesn’t mean there are not times that I think “wow that’s a great point that I’ve never thought of”. I try and tell the person this so that way they know that I am open to what they have to say. Try it sometime, open that mind of yours in a healthy way. Don’t have it so open that your brains fall out, but don’t have it so closed that your brain can’t breathe either.

5. If you’re going to get involved with a discussion, know how to defend your point when asked – Nothing is more frustrating then asking someone a straight forward question and getting riddles in response. If you can’t really defend your position well then research it more before you start typing away furiously on that keyboard of yours.

There you have it. 5 things to keep in mind when entering the wonderful world of internet dialogue, discussion, and debate. Also let me just say that I appreciate so much all of you who take the time to engage in the discussions that happen on my Facebook frequently. I purposefully keep it open and public so people can really get different perspectives on some of the issues on our time. Thank you for participating in that discussion. – TW

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One response to “The Rules of Engagement: The Lost Art of Debate.

  1. This is good stuff. I would add, “Cool down” or some form of that phrase. If something gets you heated, get up and walk away from your computer. Walk around the room, breathe, meditate, whatever you need to calm down and reply with a retort that is well-reasoned. Heated replies are more emotional than logical, and this is where you get so many insults.
    Apply all these rules to marriage and you can cut the divorce rate in half!

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