I follow a lot of brilliant bloggers who write compelling content and stimulate fascinating discussions. One of those people is Laurie Ruettimann who writes at http://thecynicalgirl.com. But what happens when someone disagrees with the perspective of a blogger? Sometimes there are valuable learning experiences for everyone involved, but often it looks like this:
This outrageous comment was left on a post about whether Homeopathic, Naturopathic, or Chiropractic care should be covered on medical insurance plans. Laurie made the argument that those types of therapies have less scientific backing than traditional medical therapies and therefore should not be covered under insurance plans so that premiums are kept as low as possible. While I may not agree with Laurie’s perspective of chiropractic therapy, I think she opened the door to an interesting/worthwhile debate. However, just because you open the door doesn’t mean everyone will step through it.
Instead of responding with something thoughtful or reasonable, “JF ” (the commenter above) resorts to name calling and logical fallacies. He essentially says “I disagree with you, so you are an idiot and everything you say about any other topic will be wrong too.”
Where do I even begin here? I thought about listing out all of the logical fallacies committed by this individual, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. This kind of response to a healthy debate shows a disinterest in learning, critical thinking, and communication.
When you shut down an argument by insulting the other person and implying that everything else they believe is false, you lose. You lose the opportunity to grow as an individual. You lose the opportunity to influence. You lose the opportunity to educate and/or learn. But most importantly, you lose all respect from the critical thinkers that spend time evaluating the argument, researching information, and questioning conclusions.
Don’t be that guy!
The next time you disagree with something a blogger says, take time to formulate a quality response. Here are a few things to consider before you post a comment:
- Can you find any points of agreement? If so, acknowledge those before you detail the areas in which you disagree. Building rapport leads to more respectful communication.
- Focus on the argument, not the individual.
- State your points clearly and thoroughly with evidence, not insults.
- Remember that we are all limited by our own experiences/biases and no 1 person is right all of the time. This includes you.
- Accept the fact that there are some people who will never change their beliefs/opinions.
- Pick your battles and know when to walk away. You will not win every argument, and not every argument is worth your time/energy.
- Saying “no offense” before you say something overtly offensive does not excuse the offensiveness. Same thing goes for starting an insult with “with all due respect.”
What is the most outrageous comment you have received on your blog or during an argument? How do you handle offensive or mean commenters?
Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.