I’ve always enjoyed a good debate. I’m talking about elbows to the table, brows wrinkled with thought, finger-pointing and all. I find a good debate to be healthy and I respect someone who not only has a point and defends it, but can do so with flair as well as passion.
When it comes to online forums, decorum is lacking. Are the same people online who will slice through others’ opinions like a knife through fruit as relentless with their friends and colleagues? Is it assumed that because we are online we don’t have to demonstrate the same comradery we’d be more likely to in person?
Let me suggest a few considerations.
There’s no such thing as one-on-one – If you have to click *post*, *submit*, or *send*, it’s not a conversation between A and B anymore. [Recently] I rejoined a group and discovered a discussion I’d posted 9 months earlier, still receiving spirited comments. If you have no concern for the impression others might have of you after your heated comments, by all means care not and post on. If you do, then think well beforehand.
Ask questions – More than once discussions I’ve posted [in LinkedIn groups] have received bitter comments and I’m always glad when they do. I am genuine when I say that. It lends me the opportunity to demonstrate my finesse handling even the toughest critics. Even though I’ve never considered it a strategy, my natural curiosity always leads me to ask questions and that works in my favor.
In one group, for instance, a gentleman tore into me about comments I’d made in a discussion. I responded firmly, stating my views strongly and then left him with a couple questions. He responded, then I did, and back and forth we went. However, at the end we were joking with each other and we both acknowledged each other’s good points and exchanged a few private messages to boot. By asking him questions, I left the door open for further communication instead of shutting him down with a “that’s that!!” stance.
I hate to admit my nonchalance, but I don’t care if I make a friend. Life is short, friends may be few. What I do care about is that we will both be seen as people who can passionately defend our points of view, respect each other’s disagreement and leave the conversation politely.
Don’t be right – When I make a statement, I do absolutely believe I’m right, but I accept that I may be swayed by a good argument or when time reveals new things. Even if not, I remain open to new ideas even while I support my own.
Don’t think you have nothing to lose – You may have checked the profile of the person you’re about to rip into to find he’s *just* a college student, *only* a secretary, or way out somewhere you never expect you’ll meet. None of that matters.
The spirit and tone with which you communicate with others may be viewed by a future employer, business partner, friend, SO or even a client. No one’s going to email you and tell you, “You know I was going to do business with you but after that nasty standoff I witnessed I’ve changed my mind.”
You will never know what opportunities you’ve lost. We must be more than headshots and pretty profiles. Degrees and accolades mean nothing if we are less than a pleasure to deal with.
Witnessing a good debate is much like watching a flower bloom. You know how at first the bud is tight and unrelenting? Then it opens up and relaxes and it’s lovely. Same thing. I have a point, it’s a good point and I’ll show you! Oh . . . you have a good point, too. You’re not a bad guy, I like your style. Wanna have lunch? Same thing.