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The Lost Art of Discussion

April 22, 2014

Recently I posted what was meant to be a whimsical, snarky comment on Facebook (Politics by Bumpersticker, as my nephew rightly pointed out, then proceeded to take it seriously anyway).  It turned into a long political rant (137 comments so far).  It didn’t turn into a discussion.

I don’t think we know how to hold a political discussion anymore, and in some cases evangelical conversations.

A discussion is sharing of views.  Cardinal no-nos are:

  1. Making assumptions about the other person’s view (because all liberals/heathens/whathaveyou think the same)
  2. Informing or intimating the other person is stupid, arrogant, full of icky stuff, etc.
  3. Assuming the other person has a clue about what you’re talking about
  4. Dragging in articles, books and documentary support–this is okay in a term paper, but even in a debate, you have to do the quoting, not just put a link and expect everyone to go read it.
  5. Changing subjects when an opposition point is scored.
  6. Not answering questions.
  7. Being snide.

I’m sure there are more.   Discussion yes-yeses are as follows.

  1. Be civil.
  2. Be polite (yes, 1 and 2 mean the same thing; it’s that important.)
  3. Rather than assume, ask real questions.
  4. Listen to the answers and respond to them, even if it’s just “thank you for answering my question.”
  5. Be clear.  This means making sure everyone knows what you’re discussing.
  6. Lay out the problem under discussion.  “We have 3 million illegal immigrants, how do we make that close to zero within 4 years, spending as little taxpayer money as possible?”
  7. Allow modifications before getting started.  “4 years isn’t long enough, how about 10 years?”
  8. Entertain solutions, not rhetoric.
  9. Don’t argue the extremes “illegals want to kill our babies!”  No, the vast majority do not.  If you must bring it up, identify it as an extreme example. “Let’s amend the premise.  How do we get rid of dangerous illegals?”
  10. If the answer is “no,” be gracious about it.  “Ok, we’ll discuss that next time.”

I think I’m going to run an experiment on Facebook when I get a chance.  A structured discussion.  We’ll see how it goes.

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