4 Rules for Facebook Debates

rugbyFacebook can be a petri dish of unhealthy communication. Some people don’t have the same boundaries online they have in person. We do want to hear about your 20th wedding anniversary. We don’t want details which make us think, “get a room.” We do want to hear about your child’s next milestone. We don’t want a sequel to The Truman Show.


Recently I posted an article on FB that generated some attention. I found myself wanting to share these four simple rules:

 Go for the win-win.

It’s a sad state of affairs having to tip-toe around every tulip, worried your opinions will offend. These days, people so identify with their opinions that every disagreement is potentially offensive. Not helpful. If we’re going to have so many private issues foisted upon the public square, then it’s going to be even more important to disagree without being disagreeable. If you shame someone with your moral high ground, you didn’t win. If your point, however artfully made, is intended to show yourself the smartest person in the room, then you didn’t win. To win someone over, you must go for the win-win.

“It’s the ________, stupid.”

The uncivil discourse of our present age needs a spanking, not just a few people setting a better example. I’m no fan of James Carville, but in four words he brought clarity to a divided room during Bill Clinton’s first campaign. “It’s the economy stupid.”  The current polarized climate needs similar clarity. It’s the narrative….

Ever wonder how two people can look at the same facts and reach different conclusions? Why can one person look at millions of rods and cones in the human eye seeing marks of natural selection while someone else sees evidence of design?  We may think an adversary’s assertion dishonest or even a little crazy. Your basic story of life’s meaning influences how you see.  None of us looks at the world without some narrative filter, whether scientist or poet (1 Cor. 13:13). This one fact might keep you from blowing a gasket in your next disagreement.

No Debaters’ Tactics.

On the other hand, sometimes people are casuistic. That means their rhetoric is clever but does not deal fairly with other perspectives, and they avoid any burden of proof. Think “debaters tactics.” They are in a foxhole over an issue and are not interested in what you have to say. Their approach is to win at any cost because their loyalty is to their cause, not to a broader framework of truth.

Create teachable moments.

As in any form of communication, if you demonstrate your own willingness to listen, you may win a fair hearing yourself. Francis of Assisi said said it plainly:  “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  It never ceases to amaze me how this one small gesture during a potentially explosive interchange can bring peace and even make someone willing to hear your point of view.

What do you think?  Is civil discourse still possible?