Essential Qualities to Engage in Online Conversations

Updated on August 30, 2017

Getting started

Human beings are social by nature. We are also emotional beings. Communication has always promoted advancement in our society. From oral traditions and stories, to our modern day use of social media, smartphones, and ongoing thirst for engaging in conversations of various topics; we are driven to share our own thoughts with others. There is a difference between having a discussion with someone face-to-face versus conversations we have online. Therefore, there are certain essential qualities of highly successful ways to engage in online conversations that may be helpful in promoting healthy and engaging discussions on any given topic.

The Flow of Discussion

Discussions are a dialog between people in which the participants are willing to alter their position if it makes sense to do so.
Discussions are a dialog between people in which the participants are willing to alter their position if it makes sense to do so. | Source

Understanding the reason for communication

The essential purpose of all communication is to share information between individuals. It is a manner of having a conversation where information is being shared, processed, and responded to. We are either engaging in ways that are healthy in order to establish relationships through the sharing of information; or, we are engaging in unhealthy ways to secure and manipulate ways to achieve our position over another. When it comes to online conversations, one may tend to forget proper etiquette. It may also appear to be permissible to engage in discussions differently online than the way one may engage in a face-to-face setting.

If we are going to communicate, why not remember and implement essential qualities to promote healthy and quality conversations?

Before we decide to engage in the conversation

One of the first, and most prominent, aspects of essential and quality ways to successfully communicate online is by following a proper flow of discussion. James Pegram developed a simple format that breaks down the essentials.

The first quality of engaging in any online conversation is to determine whether or not one may envision anything that may change one's mind on the specific topic being discussed. This is important to understand. If we are not willing to consider anything that may change our mind regarding a particular topic, then it is not a discussion. Since we may not consider any possibility of changing our mind, then we may benefit from not even engaging in the conversation.

If we are willing to consider the possibility that our perception may change through the conversation, we will want to also consider whether or not we are willing to stop using any arguments that are shown to be faulty. This does not mean we stop using it in the topic of conversation. We no longer utilize the position and argument going forward with anyone. If we are unwilling to move away from using a faulty argument, we again are not willing to engage in an honest discussion. However, if we are willing to stop using faulty arguments, then we are willing to move onto the next stage.

A third quality of successful way to engage in online conversations is to determine our preparedness to abide by basic principles of reason and logic in discussing the topic at hand. What this means is that we are open and willing to consider the position that has a more reasonable and more supporting evidence to be accepted as true. We are also willing to shoulder the burden of proof, or the demonstrating through appropriate means to impart our perception and understanding of the topic and how our position is not only true, how we demonstrate it being true through adequate and supporting evidence. Again, if we are not willing to accept the most sound and reasonable position that has the supporting evidence, we are not engaging in a discussion. However, if we are, then we are ready to begin.

Essential rules to follow and obey

Pegram provides four essential rules to follow and obey as we move toward engaging in any conversations online.

  1. Do not introduce new arguments while another argument has yet to be resolved.
  2. Do not move onto another argument if it is shown that a fact one has relied upon is inaccurate.
  3. Provide evidence for your position or argument.
  4. Do not argue that you do not 'need' evidence.

The first two rules refer to a logical fallacy known as a Red Herring. The last two rules are simple means to express one's support for their assertion as to how they understand their argument to be acceptable and true. One of the most common traits individuals engage in is to make a statement to the effect, "just google it." Again, if an assertion is being made, the person who makes that assertion bears the responsibility to providing adequate support for the reason they believe their assertion is true.

Any breach of these simple rules may end the discussion. What this means is that an individual is deemed to have conceded all opposing arguments up to the point of the present dialogue. In addition, the individual violating the simple rules may also forfeit any right to complain about the discussion. However, if both parties adhered to the simple rules, it is a organic and fluid conversation where ideas and perceptions are shared in relation to the specific topic. It is also deemed to be a discussion based on logic and rational thought.

How have you complied to the proper flow of discussion?

Have you, at any time, violated the proper flow of discussion?

See results

Improving how you communicate online

Writing Relevant Articles
Writing Relevant Comments
Responding to other people
Always write from what you know and understand
Remember proper Netiquette when responding to articles
Remember the proper flow of discussion and netiquette in replying
Provide appropriate support for your assertion
Provide appropriate support for your position
Keep calm and do not take things personally
Avoid generalizations and utilization of logical fallacies
Avoid logical fallacies in responding to articles
Know when to disengage from toxic conversations and feed into the trolling behaviors of others

Neitquette Guidelines

Online communication can, however, have it's pitfalls when general rules of etiquette are ignored. It is much easier to read into something with the wrong tone as there are no body cues to clarify meaning.
Online communication can, however, have it's pitfalls when general rules of etiquette are ignored. It is much easier to read into something with the wrong tone as there are no body cues to clarify meaning. | Source

Follow appropriate netiquette

The term "netiquette" refers to how one communicates online. It is essentially the "do's and don'ts of online communication." There are 10 simple rules of proper netiquette we all may benefit from.

  1. Remember the Human: We all are human beings. While we are all staring at a computer screen, each of us are individuals that come from different cultures, different backgrounds, possess particular values and beliefs, and have a way of understanding and processing information. The way we want to remind ourselves of this is to ask ourselves - Is this something I am willing to say to someone face to face? if the answer is no, then we ought to refrain from being rude.
  2. Follow the same standards of behavior online as you do in real life: We do not want to lower our standards simply because we are communicating online, versus communicating in real life. We want to follow the same ethical principles online that we normally follow in real life situations and conversations.
  3. Know where you are online: Always remember where an individual is at online. We all communicate in different ways. How we communicate with friends and family online is going to be different than how we may communicate with others we have little or no information about. In one conversation, we may engage in gossip about the latest trends, movies, and the like. In another venue, such communication may not be acceptable. Always take the time to review the articles and the current flow of conversation.
  4. Respect other people's time: When it comes to communicating online by commenting on an article, or engaging in an ongoing discussion regarding a topic, we want to always be mindful of the people involved. This begins with understanding that we are not the center of the universe. We also want to respect the opinions and thoughts of others, even if we disagree with them.
  5. Present yourself in a good light online: We all have seen various comments and engaging conversations where there is an atrocious disregard for proper grammar, short text utilization, and other particular low-quality commentary. In real life, we may not have a conversation where we use short text style language. We may not even make personal attacks or rude comments. In other words, we want to protect our anonymity online, while also presenting ourselves in a good light as being knowledgeable. What we say online, how we say it online will be judged. We also want to be impeccable with our word and present ourselves as being knowledgeable in what we are sharing. This is accomplished by reflecting how "I understand this." We fact check our statements and assertions and offer supporting evidence for our position. We also want to avoid swearing or vitriolic vomitry.
  6. Share expert knowledge: When it comes to sharing ideas online, we truly have a desire to share expert knowledge. We want to correct possible errors and flaws in particular argumentation and positions people may have presented. This is where quality and successful conversations come into play. By sharing our understanding and expert knowledge, we continue to participate in the market of ideas.
  7. Disengage from any flame wars - or, keep them under control: In other words, we want to disengage from any knee-jerk emotive response. While it may be frustrating and we want to allow our fingers to angrily tap dance across the keypad, we want to be mindful of our own emotions and not bait people into unhealthy means of conversation. We all are guilty of it. While there may be some healthy component to this, the reality is that when flame wars ignite, it eventually distracts from the ongoing health of the conversation.
  8. Always respect other people's privacy: We do not want to violate someone's anonymity just as much as we do not want others to violate our own anonymity.
  9. Do not abuse power: We simply want to allow ongoing discussion on the articles we publish. However, we do not want to discourage any contrary viewpoints that provide a different perspective. This does not mean we allow people to be abusive in how they respond.
  10. Be ever forgiving: At the end of the day, we all make mistakes. We want to be ever forgiving of others as we hope they are forgiving of ourselves. We want to own up to our mistakes. If someone calls us out on our online behavior, we want to be gracious and acknowledge our behavior for what it is. We also want to be mindful and polite in pointing out any errors.

As long as we remember the appropriate flow of discussion, and engage in proper netiquette, we may be successful in engaging in how we communicate and respond online.


Remember to T.H.I.N.K

Finally, high quality and successful essentials for communicating online is summed up with the acronymn T.H.I.N.K.

T - Is it true? What I am sharing, does it have any supporting evidence to verify it's relevance and truth? If not, then I may not want to make any statements that might be inaccurate or untruthful. This does not mean that I may interpret something wrong, it means I am not willing to post something that is entirely untrue.

H - Is what I am going to provide helpful in continuing the conversation? Is it helpful to bring awareness to other people? Is it helpful in clarifying any missing information? Is it helpful to make a more sound argument that is potentially considerable to the one already under discussion? Is it helpful in educating other people?

I - Does what I have to share and contribute inspiring to others? Does it inspire to promote change? Does it inspire others to engage in conversations with me and others?

N - Is what I have to say necessary and relevant to the ongoing conversation at hand? Is it necessary to provide polite and mindful advice and criticism regarding the presentation? Is it necessary to even engage in the conversation?

K - Is what I am sharing kind towards other people? Do I take into consideration other people's perspectives and position? Am I kind in respecting another person's time and expertise and insights they offer?


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