(Please forgive any lapses in clarity, or crazy typos--my almost-one-year-old is helping me today.)
Man is a social creature. Part of being social is conversation and discussion of thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Often times these discussions can turn into arguments, because there are multiple thoughts, ideas, and opinions on the same subject matter. It can be quite easy to get caught up in one of these conversations and hurt someone's feelings, or to get one's own feelings bruised.
Being married to a Philosopher means that I have lots of experience with discussions! I have, on occasion, found myself trapped into an absurd position because of a long line of the following:
Philosopher: "If you say That, then you really are saying This, right?"
Me: "Well, I suppose so. That does logically follow."
Philosopher: "And This means that you hold Absurd Position."
Me: "Well, that's what it seems like. (Pause as the absurdity of the position fully sinks in.) But that's not what I mean!"
I have also seen what another blogger terms a "philosopher-attack". This is where the philosopher in question gets so engrossed in the discussion that it can sound angry, or feel offensive, but in all actuality the philosopher is simply trying to get as much information as possible and see how the information holds together.
With my experience I believe that I have some ideas that others might find helpful:
Words like "Never", "Always", "Every", etc, are incredibly overused today, and generally should be avoided in most discussions. There are so many exceptions! Also, people like to say things like,
"Blank is NEVER right."
"Insert your choice of objection."
"Oh, well, of course I don't mean in THAT circumstance--that would be ridiculous!"
Well, then you don't really mean NEVER, do you? Just because something seems like obvious exclusion to you doesn't mean that it will obvious to someone else.
Discussion has healthy back and forth, it should be a give and take exchange. Don't just talk past one another--LISTEN and give thoughtful consideration to what is being said. Be careful not to shoot questions as if they were on trial. No one likes to feel that they are in the middle of an inquisition.
Be considerate of other people's feelings. Don't let a discussion turn into a personal attack. Also, don't take criticism of an idea as a personal attack. I find this "rule" to be especially difficult to follow in online discussion--such as on Facebook. In that format so many of the little things get lost: general body language, voice inflection, a smile.
This is the most important point that I would like to make today.
Are you ready for it?
When discussing a difference in opinion the objective is NOT to "win" the argument. The objective is to discover the truth. There shouldn't be "winners" or "losers". Both/all parties engaged in a discussion should feel that they gained some new insight into the subject matter.