On Argument: Quick Tips


A little advice regarding the nature of discussions in this forum and elsewhere:

If one posts anything publicly, or really anywhere to a broad audience, one must realize and understand that individuals will offer both support and criticism. It’s part of the process and not everyone will view things the same way, for many reasons i.e. Knowledge base, biases, experiences etc. Few things in life are dichotomous in nature, where there is an absolute truth and false. Public discussion in any setting is NOT for the meek of heart. If one doesn’t possess the gumption to handle criticisms or contrarian views, they should perhaps reconsider participation in public discussion. Furthermore, if what one posts is so easily criticized, perhaps one should consider heeding the criticisms offered or at least reconsider the merits of what one one has posted. I would also wager (no empirical data to support this, this is based on the multitude of professional discussions and arguments I’ve participated in) that most people who decide to criticize (especially peers) do so out of genuine concern and a desire to improve.

Now I do agree that there should be some ground rules to discussion/argumentation for the sake of decency and purposeful argument, ex. criticisms should be purposeful, valid and follow a sound logical framework. One should also consider how incredibly difficult it is to change someone’s views on any topic, much less when those opposing are steadfast in believing their views to be true and when argument is done via textual mediums of communication. Being outright rude makes that task even more challenging. Why work against yourself? However, not everyone agrees with the same ground rules as I or anyone else; which one must also understand. However, one doesn’t have to respond to criticisms offered either, there’s always a choice.

You could heed this advice or not and continue to become overly offended and attempt to silence others who offer views that differ or continue to be unprofessional in discussions with peers. Ultimately it makes no difference to me, I will still continue to go about how I have regarding discussions. Just some advice. We accomplish little with categorical and unconditional agreement, iron sharpens iron. However, nor do we with shouting matches instead of purposeful, respectful yet incisive discussion.

Also, one should consider entering discussion or argument under the condition that what they argue may be wrong. One should be prepared to argue their point vigorously but be willing to concede when what they argue is shown to not likely be true. If one is not willing to make that concession, there is little point to engage in argument. This is actually a cardinal rule of formal argumentation. This cardinal rule is also something to consider, before posting publicly or one will have a hard time due to the nature of public discussion described above. One should also consider realizing their limits to the value of their opinion and degree of expertise, ie, acknowledge what you know, what you don’t know and that there are people who might be more versed on a given topic. Quick tip, if I engage with someone, I haven’t encountered previously, I usually do a quick search on who they are so I know who I’m discussing with and if I might be out of my league. That’s not to say that we should view the thoughts and opinions of experts dogmatically but it should be in the back of one’s mind that perhaps their opposition might know a bit more on a topic than oneself.