These are rules I have formulated for meaningful conversation, both on social media and in real life.
1) If one dislikes aspects of another’s behavior or manner of speaking, don’t replicate those aspects.
2) One should avoid criticizing others for doing what one also does or has done. In such cases one should say “Turn about is fair play” and suck it up.
3) Be tactful when pointing out that someone’s actions don’t measure up to their ideals, as this is a fairly universal condition. This does not mean that ideals aren’t necessary; we need to hold ourselves accountable to them, hopefully leading to improvements in all situations.
4) Don’t state one’s opinion as though it were fact. Being sure of something does not make it true. Disbelieving in something does not make it untrue.
4A) Surety doesn’t equal correctness. Charisma is not righteousness. Membership does not make one correct and outsiders incorrect, or vice versa.
5) Be aware of the possibility that you are, at least, partly wrong, or not it full possession of the facts. In this age of information overload and fake news, this is especially necessary. It is as likely that one’s own sources are suspect as those of one’s opponents.
6) Don’t take other people’s inventories, i.e.:
5A) Don’t tell other people what they REALLY think.
5B) Don’t tell other people how they REALLY feel.
5C) Don’t tell other people what their motives REALLY are.
5D) Don’t tell other people what or who they REALLY are.
7) When confronted by an assertion with which one disagrees, re-state it until its maker agrees that’s what they actually said (or meant) before offering one’s rebuttal. Demand that they give you the same courtesy before giving THEIR rebuttal. This, hopefully, will insure that each party truly understands what the other is saying. It will also guard against one opponent purposefully mischaracterizing an argument to defeat it.
8) When interjecting one’s comment into other people’s conversation stream, be prepare to get specific in parsing the other’s statement point by point (as to whether one agrees, disagrees, or will have to think about it). If one is unwilling to do this, one should refrain from commenting. Don’t dump and run.
9) As with a physical altercation, just because one “wins” an argument or gets in a pithy last word doesn’t make one correct, any more than “losing” makes one incorrect. Be aware that, if you “win”, it doesn’t mean that you’ve changed the opponent’s belief. You may have only momentarily silenced them. This relates to “The Manufacture of Consent” (a phrase coined by Noam Chomsky). Those who are out-of-the-mainstream might feel publically constrained against stating their beliefs, but still have them. Undesired consequences can arise when these suppressed beliefs bubble to the surface.
9A) Screaming loudest, interrupting, breaking into tears, claiming “That’s MY reality” doesn’t make you correct, it just makes you an asshole.
10) Avoid certain pronouns and adverbs when describing the prevailing sentiments or actions of a group:
1) “every time”
These descriptors cannot be accurate except (perhaps) in the smallest groups and seem designed more to silence dissent or antagonize than to produce clarity.
This is especially true in regard to large groups such as “Democrats”, “Republicans”, “Americans”, “America”, (or “Germans”, “Russians”, “Blacks”, “Whites”, “Asians”, “Gays”, “Straights”, “Men”, “Women”, etc). These words create the false impression that members of such groups are united in goals, fears, beliefs, etc., and are unvarying in their choices and actions.
11) Most individuals are members of more than one group. It is best to bear this in mind, because one may be in sympathy with one of those groups and antipathy with another during the course of interactions with said individual. This is especially true when membership in one or more of these groups isn’t immediately apparent.
12) These “rules”, when broken, become “tactics”, which can be used purposefully or unknowingly to provoke and insult. Since they are mostly tacit (unspoken and unacknowledged) it is unwise to react angrily, as the purposeful user can then claim one is unreasonable, hypocritical, cannot be worked with, etc. The clueless user will not know why one is angry and draw the same conclusions. I’m unsure, at this point, what one SHOULD do in response. How does one fight against an opponent that doesn’t fight fair?