In my time as a PolicyMic pundit, I’ve picked up a few useful tips for getting discussions going and making them productive and enlightening.
1. Don’t try to be right all the time
Seek to understand where your “opponent” is coming from. “Why do you think that?” is a far better conversation starter than “You’re crazy for thinking that.” After their why, you can present your why. From there conversation can begin.
2. Stay out of arguments when you are thin on substance
This is really an extension of number one. If you have little to add to the conversation, when your views are challenged all you’ll have to fall back on is defensiveness and ideology. Both are conversation killers.
3. Be an equal opportunity offender
If you’re going to throw rocks at one group, you better throw ‘em at everybody. If you don’t you’ll just be derided for partisanship and the discussion will stall. If your ally makes a faux pas, correct it just as you would someone on the other side of your argument.
4. Admit when you're wrong
Don’t get so wrapped up in your own arguments and beliefs that you fail to see weaknesses in them when they are pointed in the course of the discussion. Address them head on. You will earn respect (and more mics!) if you show that you’re actually thinking and not just reacting.
5. Be flexible
The conversation will often wander off on tangents. Be willing to entertain the tangents as long as it can be tied back to the premise of your piece or the overall direction of the discussion.
6. Be polite
I know that this one of PolicyMic’s community values, but it can’t be stressed enough. If you’re rude or insulting, no one will want to engage with you. If you want to have a good discussion, if you want to persuade others to your line of thought, if you want mics and comments, then save snarky comments and the zingers for other platforms.
This list is, of course, not exhaustive. If you have any thoughts about how to keep a good discussion going add them to the comments below. Just remember to be nice about it!