how to argue on the internet

Originally posted May 26, 2011 by Julia Galef 130 Comments

At least a dozen people have sent this XKCD cartoon to me over the years.

It’s plenty hard enough to get someone to listen to your arguments in a debate, given (biết là) how attached people are naturally to their own ideas and ways of thinking. But it becomes even harder when you trigger someone’s emotional side, by making them feel like you’re attacking them and putting them automatically into “defend myself” mode (or worse, “lash out” mode), rather than “listen reasonably” mode.

Unfortunately, online debates are full of emotional tripwires, partly because tone isn’t always easy to detect in the written word, and even comments intended neutrally can come off as snide or snippy… and also because not having to say something to someone’s face seems to bring out the immature child inside grown adults.

But on the plus side, debating online at least has the benefit that you can take the time to think about your wording before you comment or email someone. Below, I walk you through my process of revising my wording to reduce the risk of making someone angry and defensive, and increase my chances that they’ll genuinely consider what I have to say.

DRAFT 1 (My first impulse is to say): “You idiot, you’re ignoring…”

Duh. Get rid of the insult.

DRAFT 2: “You’re ignoring…”

I should make it clear I’m attacking an idea, not a person.

DRAFT 3: “Your argument is ignoring…”

This can still be depersonalized. By using the word “your,” I’m encouraging the person to identify the argument with himself, which can still trigger a defensive reaction when I attack the argument. That’s the exact opposite of what I want to do.

DRAFT 4: “That argument is ignoring…”

Almost perfect. The only remaining room for improvement is the word “ignoring,” which implies an intentional disregard, and sounds like an accusation. Better to use something neutral instead:

DRAFT 5: “That argument isn’t taking into account…”

Done.  Of course, chances are I still won’t persuade them, but at least I’ve given myself the best chance possible… and done my part to help keep the Internet civilized. Or at least a tiny bit less savage! 

|  g . l . o . s . s  |

  • trip: (1) vấp ngã; vấp vào; 
            (2) say thuốc /get high, stoned, or drugged
  • emotional punctuations: các kiểu chấm câu dễ gây bức xúc
  • sarcastic delivery: phát biểu châm chọc, sarky
  • PHRASE: sắp xếp câu chữ, lựa lời
    eg: to phrase your arguments so as to avoid a triggering of an emotional response
  • emotional response: phản ứng bức xúc
  • second: tán thành /give consent or approval to. eg I second you!
  • TRIPWIRE: giây chăng mìn /wire stretched close to the ground that activates something (a trap or camera or weapon) when tripped over
  • exclamation points (từ tán thán)
  • interabangs: chấm than !
  • double question marks: ??
  • read past ..: đọc tới đoạn eg.> people on the Internet won’t read past “That argument isn’t taking into account…”
  • if they haven’t ..: nếu người ta chưa .. eg.> if they haven’t encountered a personal insult by then.
  • CIVILITY: phép lịch sự eg.>  Civility is no fun when everyone is out of butt-kicking range!
  • rather than: hơn là, thay vì
  • go round and round: nhì nhằng, đi lòng vòng, eg.> So many arguments on the internet just go round and round.
  • URGE: sự thôi thúc  eg. Which brings me back to my original urge to post something about
  • depersonalization: loại trừ tính cách cá nhân
  • go a long way toward (smth): làm được rất nhiều cho việc .., rất hiệu quả trong eg.> While (mặc dù) depersonalization and removal of direct judgement certainly go a long way toward softening such correspondence ..
  • softening: làm mềm mỏng, lảm dịu nhẹ



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