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Posting Etiquette

Introduction » Approaching Discussions and Posting » How to Disagree, Agreeably » How to be Disagreeable » Summary

Discussions on the Internet are inherently difficult. This is because you may not know your fellow posters well, you are unable to detect body language and inflection, and even cultural differences contribute to misunderstandings. But experience suggests the biggest reason for the perception of rudeness is the ease with which many take offense at other's positions when they are different from their own. Often such posts are taken as being talked down to. Of course there is the occasional really rude post. In this article I will take my daily experiences from the last 10 years of running this discussion board and discuss these issues and ways to deal with them.

Approaching Discussions and Posting

Though there are many reasons we come to the discussions there is only one appropriate way to approach them and that is with good humor. Discussions are like get-togethers where friends are mixed with strangers who we hope will become friends or at least colleagues. To come to these in a bad mood or in a defensive posture is to insure things will turn out poorly. If this is how you are feeling, put off posting until your humor improves, or at least until you can feel objective about the post.

Take words at face value, ignore what you might think are the implications of what is being said, often I find members post what they think is a personal implication that I did not read into the post. It helps to remember that though education is usually the point of a discussion, disagreement is often at it's heart. If we all agree, then there is no reason to discuss it. So come to a discussion with the full understanding almost never will everyone, and sometimes no one, will agree with you. That is just the way life is and isn't that grand? It is impossible to learn while angry and defensive. It takes an open mind in good humor to accurately judge differing opinions. It will be up to you what kind of person do you want to be.

How to Disagree, Agreeably

In almost all cases it is enough to disagree by stating your own position clearly and one time, though clarifications are often asked for and perfectly fine. There is rarely a need to specifically point out that you think someone is wrong and never appropriate to make derogatory or denigrating statments.

If you feel it important to address someone else's position consider your words carefully as misunderstanding and hurt feelings are commonly the result, even when this is not your intention. First, look carefully for the truth of the others statements. Often disagreements occur because of misunderstandings over what is being said. Injecting humor can help or hurt depending on the situation and may appear that you are making fun of the poster. Write out a post and if you find it contains either derogatory labels or accusations, postpone it until you can remove them. Find a way to respectfully challenge someone's position. Remember you might be he one who is wrong so make it easy to eat your own words. Some feel it necessary to point out that they have been respectful which may implies the other is not being respectful. So be careful, keep it factual, and leave your feelings out of it unless those are positive statements.

No matter how careful we are you are going to run across the rare, at least rare on these boards, rude remark. There is only one way to deal with demonstrable or perceived rudeness: ignore it. If it is true, you do not need to point out what is obvious and often it is the result of misunderstanding the upsetting post.

How to be Disagreeable

As stated earlier some folks don't realize that the effects of their words are harmful to maintaining a convivial atmosphere. It may be helpful to list common mistakes made when addressing someone else's post that usually result in escalating hostility. Some of these are readily apparent others may be more subtle:

  • Taking a disagreement with your position as a personal assault and responding defensively or with a personal attack. Remember that they are not attacking you, they are differing with your opinion on the topic. after all that is why we are here to discuss differing opinions and hopefully learn new points of view.
  • Using a derogatory label to describe a fellow poster. This is never acceptable and whether the statement is true or not isn't the point. The labeling is demonstrably rude as the purpose of such a post is an attempt to denigrate and hurt the another. Unless the derogatory label is addressed toward DrO this behavior will result in losing your posting privileges, and I have a limit as to what I will take.
  • Claiming that the other person has to have the last word. After all it takes two to disagree and isn't this post itself attempting to have the last word when there is nothing else to discuss? This is just another form of derogatory labeling.
  • Pointing out that your own posts have been respectful. Here the implication is clear: the other has not been respectful. This has often been the real starting point of a rhubarb.
  • Making a post saying they wish this to end or wishing for a better climate but then continuing the harangue. It's like the poster believes the statement for a better climate relieves them of their responsibility for continuing the rant. There is only one way to stop an argument and that is to quit arguing.
  • Using sarcasm as a response. Some think this is a mild way to rebuke another but sarcasm is often interpreted as a caustic remark and comes across very poorly. It should never be used as a tool to run down another's post and can even be misunderstood.

In Summary

By contributing to the discussions you have responsibilities to promote this community both for your and other's benefit. Rude posts hurt the community and it does not matter if you started the rudeness or continued the rudeness. Either way it negatively effects everyone. The community becomes colder, is less open to free discussion, good humor is sacrificed, and many choose to quit participating in the forum so knowledge is lost to all. These attitudes will help you fulfill your responsibilities:

  • Take differing opinions and debate in a light hearted manner. You are here to expand your horse knowledge and help others learn while having a good time.
  • Be on your best behavior and considerate of others. You are in a crowd of both friends and strangers. It helps to remember your post might be left here for years so be sure they will be something you are proud of. When in doubt pause and think hard before you post.

Using the guidelines above, I promise to act quickly to quell rudeness on these boards.
DrO

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