Tips on how to remain civil while debating

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otseng
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Tips on how to remain civil while debating

Post #1

Post by otseng »

The overriding principles of this forum are respect and civility. Discussions are most productive and meaningful if all participants respect others and maintain a civil attitude.

I would like to offer a few tips on how to remain civil while debating:

If someone posts something inflammatory or attacks you, the best response is to report the post to a moderator and ignore it. Do not attack back.

If you do have the need to respond to an attack, take it offline. Send the poster a PM and work out the differences between yourselves.

Do not make any negative comments about a poster or a post. For example, do not say, "Your post demonstrates your total lack of understanding on the subject matter." However, you can say, "You have failed to consider this piece of information..." Do not say, "That is the most ludicrous post I've ever read." However, it is acceptable to say, "From my research on this topic, your viewpoint has some discrepancies with the evidence at hand."

It is advisable not to appear to be too dogmatic about a matter. When you present yourself with an open mind and willing to consider the opposite viewpoint, you will gain a receptive ear to your viewpoints.

Aim to be a moderator on this forum. We are always on the lookout to see who will be good candidates to be added to the moderating team. And those who are extremely civil rise up fast to the short list.

Finally, civility does not come naturally to most people. It is a skill and an art that is acquired through practice and self-control. And I hope this forum will provide a good environment for anyone to develop and practice civility.
Last edited by otseng on Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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mrmufin
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Mai too sense

Post #2

Post by mrmufin »

Here are some of the things that I think are key in maintaining civil debate:

Take a break. Cool off. Go for a walk. Spend time with friends and/or family. Chill out. Listen to some music. Play with the dog. Watch TV for a little while. This gives you time to pause and consider your opponent's position and prepare a thoughtful response. If your position is reasonable, it can be presented in a civil and reasonable manner.

Reasonable persons can disagree and maintain both mutual respect and personal dignity. Recognize when you've reached an impasse and respect the perpetuity of much of the subject matter. Many of the topics herein have been argued for ages; this can be viewed as evidence of either a continuous influx of idiots or the validity of a variety of perspectives. Face it, folks, if the opposition didn't make at least some sense at some level, we wouldn't be here.

Don't expect that you will be changing the points of view of your opponents. Expect that strongly opinionated persons participate in online debate forums. Expect that your opponents' positions are, like your own, measured and thoughtful. Reasonable persons are certainly entitled to different interpretations of the same data set. Passions run very, very deep in many of these exchanges, and those passions often blur our perceptions. This is pretty much inescapable, as far as I can tell.

As is the nature of internet discussion forums, their overall quality is dependent upon the input from its participants. Participation is free and nonobligatory, and as we share our thoughts and arguments herein, we become representatives of the type of forum that we would like to have. This is a continuous work in process. Concisely expressed, "Display the level of civility that you expect."

All that being said, I think that as DC&R matures, we're slowly but surely developing a core of thoughtful, measured, and rational regular players. There are several participants herein whose opinions, arguments, and anecdotes I anxiously anticipate reading, and their positions stem from a diverse array of worldviews. We all have something to say; that's why we're here. Hopefully, when we're done spouting our views, we can all shake hands (at least metaphorically) and continue to respect the person behind the views presented. I sincerely believe that nothing can be lost by civil, rational discourse among the representatives of the many worldviews. Exchanges of words and ideas are infintely more valuable than exchanges of fists, stones or mortar rounds. But then again, I've always had a soft spot for the whole "give peace a chance" mentality...

And lastly, as my long-haired, freaky musician friend Frantastic might say, "Take my advice, I'm not using it! :D "

Regards,
mrmufin

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Jose
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Post #3

Post by Jose »

I make the assumption that whoever I'm talking to has actual reasons for their views. Maybe they have thought long and hard, and come up with their position as the best possible choice. Maybe they were brought up in a particular way, and have simply absorbed their views from their associates. Whatever the reasons, they hold these views and believe them to be valid--just as I believe my views to be valid.

If both of us have valid views, but the views are different, then why is there a difference? I see this question as the key to why we're here. It's not helpful to say "you must believe what I believe because I'm right." We're here to explain why our views are valid--the logic behind our views, rather than the views themselves. Hopefully, we may bring others around to our way of thinking. But, how can I bring someone to my way of thinking if they've had a lifetime of holding a very different viewpoint? I need to build my case incrementally; hopefully, the others with whom I'm debating will come to see the parts of my case as being valid. Maybe, in time, they'll see the whole case as being valid. Along the way, I will also gain more understanding of their viewpoint.

This requires a long discussion, not a heated retort that stops the conversation.

Unfortunately, one of the characteristics of our species is that we think that everyone else has a brain that works exactly like our own does. This assumption is wildly wrong. Yet, it is the basis for arguing, "just look at what I said! I already said it! What's wrong with you?" Usually, nothing's "wrong"--we just think differently. We have different experiences to draw from, and we draw different conclusions. We're probably all equally smart--so if your "opponent" doesn't understand what you're saying, look first at your end of the conversation, and try to say it better.
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bernee51
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Post #4

Post by bernee51 »

I agree pretty much with what Mrmufin and Jose have said.

I would like to emphasise respect for the opinion of others and gratitude that it is being offered - even (especially?) when it appears diametrically opposed to my own.

I know from experience this is often difficult , but challenges are there to aid growth.

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Dilettante
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Post #5

Post by Dilettante »

I agree with the above, and I'd like to add a few tips based on the first chapter of the book "Attacking Faulty Reasoning" by T. Edward Damer.

1. Admit that you may be wrong. If you're not willing to do this, there is no point in debating.

2. Put the truth first. Truth comes before pride, so rather than winning the debate our objective should be finding out which position is the best supported.

3. Express yourself with clarity and avoid ambiguous or confusing language.

4. If you're the one who made the claim, you're the one who must provide the evidence or argument supporting your claim.

5. If you have to rephrase your opponent's argument, do so as faithfully as possible, and in the strongest possible version that is consistent with the original intention. If you're uncertain about what your opponent meant, give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

6. In supporting your position, use only those reasons which are directly related to the merit of the position at issue.

7. Attempt to use reasons which are mutually acceptable to your opponent and yourself.

8. In supporting your position, always provide reasons which are sufficinet in number, kind , and weight, to support your conclusion.

9. Attempt to provide a rebuttal to all serious challenges to your position.

10. The best argument wins, not the loudest

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spetey
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Re: Tips on how to remain civil while debating

Post #6

Post by spetey »

I know I haven't always been the most civil debator. In fact, in a moment of weakness and frustration, I have used a phrase almost exactly like the one here:
otseng wrote: For example, do not say, "Your post demonstrates your total lack of understanding on the subject matter."
I think the advice given here is good. I apologize (again) for past insensitivities, and hereby pledge to be a more civil debator.

;)
spetey

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Cmass
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Post #7

Post by Cmass »

Otseng,
This is the dumbest advice I have ever heard. How can you live with yourself?

Actually, it is great advice we ALL should be reminded of from time to time. I have seen even the most civil debaters occasionally lose it. :punch:
I have an idea: How about creating a members only list (like "Does Not Believe In Santa") called "Tries To Be Civil". I think it is important to include "tries" since, as you Christians are fond of saying: We are all sinners. (Well, except for me of course :eyebrow: )
Indeed.

- Chris

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otseng
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Post #8

Post by otseng »

Cmass wrote:I have an idea: How about creating a members only list (like "Does Not Believe In Santa") called "Tries To Be Civil".
However, what does it mean if a person does not join the group, that he does not try to be civil? :-k

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Post #9

Post by Vladd44 »

Then there will be a need for the 'Skate close to the edge' group.

Of course I am sure we could just call it the 'probation' group. :D
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.[GOD] ‑ 1 Cor 13:11
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Post #10

Post by Cmass »

However, what does it mean if a person does not join the group, that he does not try to be civil?
If you don't join "Does not believe in Santa, does it mean you DO believe in Santa? It is really just a lighthearted way for people to remind themselves to stay cool-headed. If you drove around with a bumper sticker that said "I am trying to drive respectfully" it would probably give some people a chuckle but it would also probably remind you to stay on your best behavior from time to time. Not necessarily prevent it, but reduce the likelihood of disrespectful driving.
I think it could be fun for many people.
- Chris

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