"The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late, Théoden son of Thengel." ~ Gandalf
I wanted to take a moment to elaborate on some of the points in Håkon's excellent list of rules for polite and fruitful discussion.
One thing I want to emphasize is that we should *always* welcome new posters. If someone has not posted here before, the first response to their entry into the forums should be words of welcome, not a critique of the content of their first post. One can disagree, of course, but we do not want to give the impression on a first meeting that someone is being dismissed. When you meet someone for the first time in real life, you don't immediately give that person fashion advice, implying that there is something wrong with their outfit! So please practice this common courtesy here as well. If you don't have anything positive to say, then maybe consider not responding to that post at all.
· No name calling or personal insults.
This one seems self-explanatory to me, but perhaps some examples of inappropriate ways of expressing disagreement would help so that everyone can avoid such things. Basically, if it would appear in an article's comment thread that would cause someone else to warn, "Don't read the comments!" we do not want it here.
This is not a political debate forum; it is not okay to insult people at will. Do not call someone stupid. It is okay to not like their idea. If you say that it's a stupid idea, you may be rude, but you are not personally attacking that person. The easiest way to avoid insulting a person is to make sure you have failed to assign any assumptions to their character, their appearance, their personal history, or their reasons for saying what they've said. "I have no idea where that came from," is a much better way to express surprise and confusion than to say, "Are you drunk?" or "Did someone drop you on your head?" or "Only an idiot would think that...." Take a few steps back. By prefacing your statement with, "It seems to me that you are totally against..." or, "From your post, it appears that you are advocating..." you are giving people space to correct your assumptions. People are generally much more willing to respond when you request clarification than when you accuse them of something. They might still get impatient or frustrated, but at least you will have avoided giving insult.
I think that everyone here is well enough versed in etiquette to avoid making such a serious error as to devolve into personal insults and name-calling, no matter how heated a conversation may get. Merely avoiding personal insults, however, does not meet the minimum standards of conduct here. Which brings us to...
· Try to interpret other peoples' comments in the best possible way. This is an international community. Keep in mind that English is not the first language of many of our posters. Misunderstandings will happen. Please accept that what you write sometimes can be misinterpreted, and be ready to explain what you mean. Please listen when someone tells you that you might have misunderstood.
Most of communication is listening. I know this because all of my closest friends and my ex-boyfriends have been *amazing* listeners. I realize this says nothing positive about me as a person (I love to hear myself talk!), but the most insightful people I know listen to understand. They don't listen with the intent of formulating their own response to what is said. Here, in a written medium, we have the opportunity to think something over and choose our words before responding, but of course sometimes people post in a rush, while doing other things, with distractions around them, while very tired, etc. It is possible someone didn't even see your post in the thread before writing their reply, or missed some of it while scanning quickly. So, give yourself some time. *Especially* if a discussion is getting heated, take the time to go back and re-read some of the posts before responding. Give yourself a few hours (or even days) to mull over what you really want to say in response. By taking the time to read carefully and let others know you have thought about what they've said, you encourage them to take your contribution to the conversation seriously and respond with the same thoughtful courtesy.
Keep in mind that we live in different countries and come from different walks of life and are a range of ages. We don't all have a common cultural background and we don't all have the same assumptions about what is normal or acceptable. It is possible for one person to intend to be 'direct' or 'assertive' but to come across as 'abrasive' or 'rude' or 'dismissive.' Another person's joking humor may come across as an insult. If someone expresses that something you wrote was taken this way, trust that a connotation you may not have meant came across in your writing. Take steps to correct that, and consider apologizing. Doubling down will not help to resolve the situation.
It is more charitable to assume a simple misunderstanding rather than any ill intent. Start off by assuming that someone has merely misunderstood what you said, and then take steps to clarify what was meant, pointing out their seeming misunderstanding in a way that does not imply malicious intent on their part. In the Silm Film project, we have the added nuance of varying interpretations of what the Hosts have said. The Hosts are not going to post on this messageboard to clarify what they meant. Naturally, that allows all of us to speak for them and interpret the podcasts through our own lens. Understand that others may have heard something different, and that the stream-of-consciousness expression of thoughts in discussion can lead to misunderstandings. A good starting point would be to go back to the recording and check what was actually said against your own memory of the discussion. Be willing to consider others' interpretations of the podcasts, and if necessary, we can always seek clarification later. It would be much better to simply ask Corey, "Did you mean xyz?" on the next podcast than to get into bitter arguments over it here.
· Stay calm. In real life, raising your voice or using mocking or aggressive tones should be avoided, as the intent behind them is to manipulate – rather than calmly engage with – your conversation partner. The same goes for this forum; try to apply this line of thinking to your writing.
Much unpleasantness is simply a matter of tone. Tearing into someone's ideas without any consideration of them as a person is generally not a good thing. Be careful of your use of ALL CAPS or bold text
, as these often are read as shouting or aggression. Occasionally drawing attention to a point or using this to highlight something are acceptable, but try not to overdo it, and be especially careful if your post is expressing passionate or vehement disagreement! If your intent is to shut down someone's ideas rather than to express your own, then you need to rethink your role in a collaborative creative project. We do have debates here, but the intent is not to win them by shouting the loudest, or even to win them at all! The goal is to get the best ideas into the project and make the best creative decisions at the end of the day. It is okay to have a suggestion no one agrees with; that doesn't make it bad or wrong.
Please, I beg everyone here, do NOT post while angry or upset. If someone's post has bothered your or upset you...walk away for a bit. The thread will still be there when you come back, and you can respond to it then. There is no rush to handle anything in the heat of the moment, and you will be less likely to regret your words or say something that will be misunderstood or taken the wrong way if you wait a moment. "The mills of God grind slowly, but exceedingly fine." Take your time.
· You have to be willing to have an exchange of views. If you declare your position and refuse to budge it is pointless to continue.
If you feel you are just repeating yourself over and over again in a discussion, then perhaps no productive discussion is happening. Maybe it's time to give it a break, or agree to disagree. You do not have to convince everyone or anyone of your way of thinking. You are always entitled to your opinion, and are allowed to think that the project has made a mistake if they choose differently. I know that can be disappointing and frustrating, but there comes a time when you have to decide if this is the hill you are going to die on, or if you will accept it (even if you don't agree with it) and move on. [Note: The hill I am willing to die on is Himring.]
I know this particular point is difficult for me...I'd much rather take the life advice "Don't go to bed angry; stay up and fight!" but I don't think that's actually healthy.
· Finally, you stick to these rules of conduct even if the person you’re discussing with doesn’t.
Who started it matters, but if you respond in kind, you are also at fault for escalating the situation and contributing to a contentious environment. You may choose to ignore someone who cannot discuss things in a kind and courteous manner. Or you may choose to point out that their approach to the argument is unhelpful. Or you can offer an olive branch and try to find common ground. Or try to diffuse a tense situation with humor. There are appropriate responses; hurling insults back isn't one of them in this forum.
What does escalation look like? This, mostly:
Name-calling --> Grabbing --> Fist fight --> insults --> knives --> low blows --> invasion of minds --> punch in the face
Don't be like Loki. That's generally good life advice in most cases, at any rate.
Please note that the point of all of this is not to make a list of technicalities that one can use to still insult people, just more underhandedly. The point is to make people aware of ways to express themselves that will be less likely to create drama on the boards by ruining the tone of discussion and giving insult. I'd rather create a much more positive environment than that! For the most part, we've all started out as strangers who have not met in real life. I hope that we can foster community and friendships here through our shared love of Tolkien's work. It's much better to work with others in camaraderie and mutual respect than with distrust and sniping.
Artwork by Dominic Smith:
I wanted to put my thoughts on the Rules of Conduct down in writing, so I'd have something to refer back to later if needed. Hopefully, these thoughts will be useful for others in building our community here. Thank you!