15 Ways of Disagreeing with Style

Two flamingos see to be in a heated debate. Yet they look very impressive nonetheless.

“I defeat my enemies when I make them my friends” – Dalai Lama.

Quite often I am subject to or part of heated debates online. Why?

My social SEO ideas are often perceived as radical in business circles.

On the other hand I don’t just talk business. I’m a human being first and foremost.

Thus I also sometimes call out people for questionable behavior.

Usually I just give feedback to people without being too critical.

Yet often they react as if I have personally attacked them.

So over the years I learned a lot about disagreeing with style while maintaining integrity.

Why Do People Get Angry Online so Often?

First off: who am I? I am in Internet publishing for over 20 years now.

Over the years I have done basically almost everything e.g.

  • written about almost every topic
  • tried almost every medium and tool
  • contributed to multiple publications and communities

As a content and social media manager I encounter still the same problems.

People get angry at me for expressing opinions outside of the mainstream.

This negativity is partly due to the “nature” of the Internet itself and its alienation but a large part of it is people lacking basic social skills.

This sometimes even antisocial behavior is astonishing as most people I debate 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.

It’s Not Always Your Fault When People Are Rude

By now I realized that it’s not my fault. I’m middle-aged and have a solid background of 15+ years as a social media specialist. Now I perceive rudeness as what it is.

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

  • anti-democratic
  • racist
  • sexist
  • demeaning

and the likes. In real life they wouldn’t do it facing me.

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

You need to be able to debate properly online to make sense as a blogger and social media contributor.

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.

Basic Debating Techniques Everybody Needs to Know

Thus I compiled a list of 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 s/he is an “idiot” or worse.

4. Disagree directly where the debate takes place. Do not discredit people behind their backs in a place you think you got more support by your online buddies.

5. Wait. When you’re angry do not respond right away. Wait until the next day or “until the dust settles”. In case you’re only slightly agitated reply immediately.

6. Think. 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 response.

7. Don’t bully. 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. They’re always biased. 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 focus on the points she or he made, especially when you discuss with non-native speakers of English.

12. Be yourself. Use your real name and link to your website to establish authority and trust.

13. Do not question the authority of your opponents by citing things they did or said out of the context of the disagreement, unless they are serial offenders.

14. Question your opinion. Remember it applies to your own experience. Your opponent has probably a differing experience. Just because you didn’t do or see it yet does not mean it does not exist or it’s not true.

15. Be present. Do not try to convince somebody by relying on tradition “we always do that” or the majority “everybody knows that”. New ideas are never mainstream 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.

Use these basic debating techniques and link to this list so that your online opponents also know about them.