Tactics for Online Discussions

Alan shares important tips for having productive interactions about your convictions on the internet.

00:02 Which tactics, if any, work while discussing Christianity on the internet?

00:06 Well in some sense, I would say many tactics I would use in a conversation

00:10 with someone in person would also apply to a discussion on the internet. However,

00:15 there are also some tactics that I believe are unique to online discussion.

00:18 But let me first mention two tactics I use in person that I think also apply to

00:24 online discussions. And the first is to use the Columbo tactic a lot. Okay? Now

00:31 that's just the tactic of asking questions to better understand what a

00:35 person believes and why they believe it. In fact, I always try to take time to

00:39 find out a person's view or their point before trying to respond or make my case,

00:45 and I believe the same would apply to an online discussion. Now, a second tactic

00:50 would be to make conversational character a priority. And by that I mean,

00:55 make sure that the manner in which we're communicating with a person is warm, and

01:00 friendly, and kind, and gracious, and inviting. And in fact, if you can't do

01:05 that, then please stop engaging others. I feel like people underestimate the

01:10 importance of conversational character when they engage with people who

01:13 don't share their religious convictions. You represent Jesus in how you come

01:17 across to other people. So this is key in both offline and online discussion. So

01:23 now, let me mention then three tactics I believe that are specific to online

01:27 discussions. The first is to lower your expectations. And I think it's a lot

01:32 harder to have a civil and productive conversation online so it's often times

01:36 better to expect less and then be pleasantly surprised than vice-versa.

01:41 The second tactic is to have someone proofread your responses before posting

01:45 it, okay? And the reason is that it's much easier to miss communicate when you're

01:50 writing since we often abbreviate what we're writing in order to save time. And

01:54 that means it's easier to unintentionally imply something that you

01:58 don't mean or have someone infer something that you didn't intend to

02:02 communicate. I often have my wife actually read my post and my responses

02:07 before I send them off because she's a very different person,

02:10 okay? She's very different than me and she has very

02:13 different sensibilities. And she'll often read something and notice it sounds odd

02:18 and well, she'll tell me, you know what Alan, this comes across a little bit

02:21 condescending or a little bit arrogant, you know. And so it helps me to have a

02:25 different perspective to sort of give me insight on how something that I've

02:29 written might be understood. And finally, the third tactic I'd say is to be

02:33 willing to abandon an online conversation or discussion when it

02:37 devolves. Because after all, even your best attempts might result in an

02:42 unhealthy dialogue, and a wise person knows when that moment arrives, and I'd

02:46 say it's best to cut your losses and then move on. So you just simply say, "Hey,

02:51 you know what? I don't think this conversation is is really healthy and

02:54 productive. You know, why don't you go ahead, make your final point, and I'll

02:57 allow you to have the last word on this." So then you let them make their last

03:02 point, and then you just let it go. Finally, remember this: As an ambassador

03:07 for Christ, it's only your job to present the truth or your case in a persuasive

03:12 yet gracious way, and then leave the results up to God. So don't be committed

03:18 to the end result of changing their mind or making them become a Christian. That's

03:22 God's job. Your job is simply to be committed to your part of the equation

03:26 which is being a faithful ambassador, and then let the Holy Spirit do His thing.

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Alan Shlemon