Last week we asked our Facebook followers to give their advice for online debating. Dozens of people responded. Here is a sampling of the answers:
Kelly F: Ask questions. Whether you get an answer or not, the thought is bouncing around in their minds.
Mary H: Ask questions of the other party so they have to clarify their position. Usually ends up with me being called names after they realize their argument doesn't hold water, but questions tend to keep it more civil for longer.
Michael C: Ask questions to your opponent. Let them figure it out on their own by asking questions. If they come up with the answer on their own it's more likely to stick.
Be calm and polite:
Emily D: Never, ever resort to ad hominem attacks and always keep an even tone. Back up your arguments with logic, reason, and facts.
Toby E: Discuss the ideas, not the presenters. Be polite. Don't regurgitate fallacies.
Respect the other person:
Andie P: Assume the best intentions from everyone. Argue from reason, not emotion.
Jared N: Clarify terms. I'm amazed at how many people don't know what abortion is. Be utterly merciful. Most people are defending family, friends, or themselves who have had an abortion.
Krista W: Look at things from their point of view too. There's a reason they feel the way they do.
Recognize who you're talking to:
Regina G: Argue to convince the observers, not the opponent.
Jenni C: When someone is not going to listen, not share sources and discuss them like adults, only make insults or name call at all: block them and move on. Do not waste your time. Unfortunately that will be 90% of them but you’ll then be able to reach those willing to listen and open minded to change.
JoAnn S: Only discuss when people are honest and not just baiting and hating.
Melanie S: Other people are watching. You may feel frustrated with the person you are talking to, but you can change someone else's mind.
Or maybe don't bother at all:
Sarah E, Connor C, Christopher F, William A: Don't.
Esa H: Avoid it.
Chris L: Don't debate online.
Matthias A: I don't do it. I post my opinions and tell anyone who wants to argue I'll meet them in real life to discuss over a nice cup of tea.
And other advice:
Jeanette H: Throw in a bit of humour where appropriate, add smilies. I've got an accent, and have found debating in an international forum that what I think something sounds like tends to come across as something far worse to those from other countries. Smilies can help clarify the tone you're using.
Julie D: Be committed for the long haul...
Alex B: Point out areas of agreement first. For example, I was there when both of my children were born so I totally agree that women sacrifice a lot to carry a pregnancy to term. I agree that women should have equal access to education and careers. I agree that parenting isn’t for everyone.