15 Ways of Disagreeing with Style

Quite often I am subject to or part of some major disagreements and heated debates online. This is partly due to the rapid spread of my SEO 2.0 ideas. People just can’t ignore them anymore.

While I am in Internet publishing for over fifteen years now and have done basically everything, written about every topic, tried every medium and contributed to multiple publications and communities doing it I encounter still the same problems.

Partly they stem from the Internet itself and it’s alienation but a large part of it is people lacking basic social skills. This is astonishing as most people I discuss with are grown ups and often respectable business people.

During my first years online I still assumed that because I was a newbie or still very young people treated me accordingly. By now I realized that it’s not my fault. I’m middle-aged and have a solid background of 10 years as an Internet specialist. Now I perceive rudeness as what it is.

Of course I’m not perfect myself. I still get angry when people make remarks or voice “opinions” that are

  • anti-democratic
  • racist
  • sexist
  • demeaning

and the like. Basically in real life they wouldn’t do it facing me. Phillip of Google Blogoscoped even reprimanded me for insulting people who denounce free speech.

Nonetheless I want to talk about real discussions here, not flame wars.

Disagreement is the foundation of evolving ideas.

Where everybody agrees everything has come to halt. It’s a standstill. This can’t be the goal. The goal is to move on and improve.

Thus I collected 15 basic rules of disagreeing with style, an art which is not very widely spread on the Web right now it seems. When you disagree:

  1. Disagree with opinions and ideas, not people
  2. Explain what you disagree with and why instead of sulking like a 5 year old kid or crying “no” again and again
  3. Be polite, just because you think your opponent is wrong does not mean she or he is an idiot or something
  4. Disagree directly where the discussion takes place, do not discredit someone behind hers or his back in a place you think you got more support by your online buddies
  5. If you’re angry do not send a reply but wait until the next day, if you’re only agitated reply right away
  6. Do not write a two liner in a reply to a full-fledged analysis or thorough article, take your time to read it thoroughly and to formulate a reply
  7. Do not engage in a mob action just because adding some remarks in the slipstream of others feels so much safer
  8. Read the article which started the discussion in the first place, do not just react to the third follow up
  9. Do not pretend to be objective, only God is, people are only capable of being subjective, do not use phrases like “it’s generally known”
  10. Do not assume that customs from your home town or country apply to the rest of the world
  11. Overlook misspellings of your opponent and concentrate on the points she or he made, especially if you discuss with non-native speakers of English
  12. Use your real name and link to your website to establish authority
  13. Do not question the authority of your opponent by citing things she or he did or said out of the context of the disagreement, unless she or he is an axe murderer
  14. Question your opinion. Remember it applies to your own experience while your opponent has probably another understanding of the subject than you have based on hers or his experience, just because you didn’t do or see it yet does not mean it does not exist or it’s not true
  15. Do not try to convince somebody by relying on tradition “we always do that” or the majority “everybody knows that”, new ideas are never main stream at the beginning

That said I welcome you to disagree with me in a civilized manner. Just because we disagree we do not have to go to war. I do not think that the spirit of the Bush administration has been adopted by the US public which is my main audience based on my Google Analytics stats. What the Iranians can, some of them read my blog, you can too.