T Nation

Do's and Don'ts of Successful Discussions


I found this today, and, given the complaints emanating from high above in the Atomic Dog columns about how quickly debates in off-topic devolve into name-calling fests ("Hitler!", "Whore!" "Communist!" oh my...), I thought it would make a most excellent post. While it's not specifically about posting, I'm certain all of you clever folks can digest the main idea and make it applicable. The idea about ravenous monkeys, however, is always applicable. Enjoy!


A Frank Guide to a Cordial Political Discussion

Most often people will disagree on issues of the day, but just because someone doesn't think like you doesn't mean you should call him evil and kill him. That's what Islamic extremists and the majority of posters at Democratic Underground would do. Instead, following these steps you can have a nice discussion with someone with different viewpoints and both come out of it smarter.

DO consider the merits of viewpoints different to your own.
DON'T throw out your own principles just to be agreeable. No one gains from that.

DO listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Try to understand their different viewpoint.
DON'T use the time while the other person is speaking as just an opportunity to formulate your own rebuttal.

DO try to find areas of agreement no matter how much you differ on an issue.
DON'T compare the other person's views to Hitler. Hitler was a bad man, and no one likes being compared to him.

DO keep on topic. You're more likely to learn from each other if you keep the talk focused.
DON'T kick the other person in the groin when he strays. He might forget what you were talking about in the first place.

DO make all disagreements in a friendly tone.
DON'T follow all disagreements with putting the other person's head through drywall. That gives who you're talking to no time to consider what you said. Also, it's hard to repair the drywall and paint over it perfectly to cover up the hole.

DO agree to disagree when reaching a stopping point.
DON'T declare an intifada and blow yourself and the other person up so you can get 72 virgins. You both lose if you do that, and you should focus on finding one nice girl (or guy) in this world.

DO stick to your principles while still considering what the other person says.
DON'T pile drive the other person into a folding table when you find a topic you vehemently disagree on. Though it would be cool, it's just not civil.

DO back up your statement with facts when necessary.
DON'T punch the other person through the chest, pull out his heart, and show it to him before he dies when you feel run into a corner. That's usually a non-sequitur to the debate... unless the debate is whether you can actually pull someone's heart out and show it to him before he dies.

DO make sure not to get caught up arguing minutia.
DON'T burn the other person's house down over a small disagreement on a fact. Yes, insurance will probably cover it, but he'll be less likely to listen to what else you say.

DO make sure to not raise your tone of voice no matter how heated things get.
DON'T silently lower the other person in a slow dipping device into a pit full of ravenous monkeys until he admits you're right. Getting the other person to agree with you through other means that intelligent discussion gains nothing for either party.

DO be willing to admit you?re wrong if the other person is convincing. Admitting you're wrong can seem painful, but, when you do it, you suddenly become right.
DON'T commit seppuku if you discover you?re wrong on an issue. There are other ways to bring honor to your family.

Follow these rules and you should have some nice, friendly, intelligent discussions. Hooray!


Has anyone read Hagakura? Crazy old Japanese would kill themselves for almost any reason...


I'm actually not surprised that this didn't get any responses...


I agree with the message and I try to adhere to civility, but at times I let emotion get the better part of me and regress into the name calling. I can think of a recent post of mine, but Mom the other guy started it!



How do you expect to get any responses when you just said not to resort to name calling.



I applaud your post! There are a few on this forum who simply hang around to agiate others with their annoying posts. I honestly don't think they have ever touched a barbell, or intend to. They are merely here to start and fuel fires. And they should be banned!


What are you a gay feminist nazi from outer space?!!

OK, just kidding. I whole heartedly agree. It seems that when facts and logic aren't in a person's arsenal they do tend to fling names instead. It does make actual discussion difficult or impossible. It's not just here, I see it on lots of sites on the internet.


I have a question, one that involves neither:

Hamsters and/or Gerbils (There is a difference but for the life of me, I can't ever remember which is which though Timmy P insists that Gerbils are "slipperier" whatever the heck that means)

Goats and my penis in the same sentence. They may however make an appearance exclusive of each other.

I was going to post this as it's own thread but this seems like a relevant tangent for B2's so here we go...

It strikes me that the American posters here are pretty easy to spot when any conversation starts that could possibly be turned into a political discussion or have the faintest hint of polity. Not necessarily by their willingness nay, need for political discourse but by the seemingly unwavering insistence on following only two possible schools of thought (mostly broken into Liberal =Pansy Commie Bastards and Republicans = Greedy Dirty Warmongers) on any given topic. It is almost as if all things have been divided into only two opinions with so very little variance between the two voices.

What makes me so curious is - - - ->

Why there is so little middle ground? Why does it seem as for every discussion a thirty foot fence is erected and everyone must either be on this side or that side? How come it seems as though there is only two sides to every single issue in the world?

Why the insistence on pounding any and all pegs into one of two shaped holes? Is it because it is easier to argue if you can minimize the intellect and thought of your opponent by forcing them into a polar position and making them a logical 180 degree wrong to your right?

Is this simply poor debating skills? Bad social grace? The result of those Liberal Pansy Bastards fucking up the school system (or was it the Greedy, Dirty Republican Warmongers that did that?)

As this is not exclusive to T-Mag, is it just indicative of the path of least resistance taken when digital discussions turn to debate? Maybe the absence of a face to face discussion where gestures and expressions combine with body language to get the message of contempt and ridicule across, the forced-polarization of opinions is the best electronic substitute?

I bring up the American posters only because their politics run in primarily two colours and to be quite honest, if you were to poll on who is thought to be some of the more thoughtful and moderate of the nations members a disproportionately small number of Americans would be on it....I think....

Some intelligent ideas would be appreciated, no arguments, no name calling, no politicking and no advice on what I can do with my penis if it were long enough.

They really get my goat.


~ Cecil


Cupcake, I'm not sure if you consistantly access American media but so many of the shows have a theme of "left vs. right" that almost always are never productive and sometimes devolve into the kind of crap so prevalent on forums such as this.

I don't know to what degree recent media trends have caused this, or are a product of - my guess is that they are mutually influential. Both are destructive.

As for mentioning goats and your penis - why I'd never dream of it, but are midgets and your "leetle friend" fair game? :slight_smile:


I am not a republican, but I am a greedy dirty warmonger.

I originally avoided the off topic forum here, wanting to focus on exercise and nutrition, figuring that if I was interested in anything else then I should go to a website more associated with said subject.

But I decided to take a peek here. Just a little peek, couldn't hurt, could it? Now most of my posts end up here.

Why? Because I am an opinionated son of a bitch. (Sorry Mom.)

Yet I have ulterior motives. I write better then I ever did, and that is good because I edit our local monthly magic newsletter. I can pop out an article in a very short period of time. I am better able to condense my thoughts, and research ideas.

The one thing I don't get is how people can actually get upset in the forum. If they are getting upset, I find it amusing. I also find it amusing seeing people attempt to get me upset, not realizing that I have no reason to get upset. So somebody disagrees with me. Big Fuckin Whoop. (Big Fuckin Whoop is the registered trademark of BFW industries.)

Anyone who thinks that everyone has to agree with them, or life sucks, is ignorant. They disagree with me about soy then they can eat all they want.

Politics, religion, money, the environment, energy, or whether a persons nuts should be shaved or not, it really does not matter in the scheme of things. They are the ones who have to live with their choices, and so do I.

And you should know the propaganda of Gerbils has resulted in the slaughter of many innocent hamsters. (Speaking of which, Lemmiwinks return to South Park is delayed.)

As the hippies say, "Peace, love, and income tax."



How do you expect to get any responses when you just said not to resort to name calling.

If you want a reaction, that`s the way to go!

Trust me on this one.

Being the rather NiceGuy, and trying to consider both sides of the fence most of the time ... in short not resorting to name calling or the quick, easy way... wont</b> get you any reaction or popularity. <b>Guaranteed.</b> Yes, youll probably teach people some stuff along the way, but you`ll never move them in any way.

Nick Murray summed it up best in one of his books, in a section called Places in the Heart vs. Places on Some Chart:

"The excellent investment advisor knows that people dont make their investment decisions in their intellect. <b>They make those decisions in their emotions, and then use their intellects to justify what theyve decided"


"The intellectual, fact-based approach to investment/sales counseling is doomed by one very simple but incontrovertible fact: it will not matter how much wood you put in the fireplace, if there is no fire."

Cupcake also seems to be on the right track. I will add that politicians use American culture and values very well to polarize debates. That will guarantee getting people all emotional and, for reasons noted above, the problem will never get solved.

People need a show far more than they need common sense. Just look at them go (as a whole, for you analytical thinkers).



It's a fat lazy society that by and large doesn't know how to think.

It's more work discerning shades between black and white... and as the man at the top says... you are either with us or against us! And, as a matter of procedure, the current dufus leader is never wrong, in anything.

Anyway, I'm just poking fun. All of you rabid militant bastards can relax, I'm not anti-American, arabic, muslim or any other 'im or 'ism you are currently on the warpath against.


Anyone knows that any decent survey gives you 7 choices if you want an accurate picture. GW should have said,
"You're either 1)For us all the way 2)Pretty much for us 3)Somewhat for us 4)Undecided 5)Somewhat against us 6)Pretty much against us 7)A fucking raving Muslim terrorist cocksucker."

I think that would have been too difficult to memorize and would have made a really shitty sound bite. You know how the MTV generation attention span thing works, right?


Actually, I didn't think it was possible to be both a lawyer AND an optimist.


Wise words again, Cupcake. Why not check your pm's?

Professor Funk Master D.


Yeah Kuri, as well as living in San Diego when i was 15-16 I have always lived close enough to an American border to get local American television aside from the Network programming that has saved Canadians from re-runs of "The Beachcombers" for so many years. I would take Seinfeld over Bruno Gerusi any day (obscure Canadiana reference, sorry)

Now that you mention it, the similarities between our fair T-Nation and the American medias hell-bent mission to simplify issues into a black and white sound bite/image are striking. It is still disappointing though that given the opportunity to stretch beyond the menu of gruel served up by those who don't believe in our ability to explore complex issues we still prefer to keep our heads in the trough, lapping up the over spun and ridiculous as if it were mana from heaven and shitting out the same old "are too, are not" partisan turds. How come so few call the Honey Wagon to clear their mental septic tank?

(I apologize for the over wrought metaphors, I have had too much coffee and too little sleep)

As for it being "too hard" to think for themselves, you may have a point. Absolutes make for good concrete and often the need for a solid foundation of beliefs and morals that make up our character are confused with the need to extend those foundations into walls. Those walls do keep corrupt thoughts out but unfortunately they keep out a lot of common sense and perspective too. Pretty soon intellectual in-breeding begins and your opinions on race have mounted your beliefs on religion and are screaming "You know what Daddy wants, give it to him Bitch...come on, say my name, SAY MY NAME!"

Very reminiscent of walking into Timmy P's office without knocking.

"I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right

  • Albert Einstein



I have to take small issue with the idea that it's only Americans who gravitate to an "either/or" viewpoint. I do think that there are more Americans online, in terms of sheer numbers, on English language websites, so that may skew your observations somewhat.

Also, the internet has very good penetration, in terms of education/income/class, in American society, so you get a wide range of opinions from Americans -- I do hope, however, that the loudest people are not necessarily those who are representative of Americans at large.

Now, as to "middle ground", I think also that you tend to get the people who feel the most passionately about any particular subject as the ones who tend to take the time to argue about it. Thus, irrespective of the above, the sample of "internet site posts" has a selection bias: the people posting on the topic are largely those who know (or think they know) a lot on the topic, and also feel passionately enough about what they know (or think they know) to take the time/effort to post. This is not a sample that invites finding the middle ground on any issue.

Those are the reasons that immediately come to mind -- thoughts?