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If you’re here to actually win arguments, I have bad news: there is no winning. Though social media is a phenomenal tool for communication, it is still not ideal for having conversations that will cause someone to completely change their stance. This is difficult enough face-to-face, but it is nearly impossible online.
Furthermore, our goal as Christians also shouldn’t be winning arguments; we should have the goal of evangelization. If we “win” an argument, but it causes someone to further reject Christ and/or His Church, we have lost big time.
However, that doesn’t mean we should abandon thoughtful discussions on social media. You have no way of knowing what kinds of seeds you may end up planting. That being said, it is important that we disagree well. Here are some tips for how to do that.
1) Pray to the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit will help us find the right things to say, and it alleviates some of the pressure on us.
2) Pray for the other person.
As we get into heated discussions, we may start responding without fully processing what we are trying to say. Prayer helps us slow down and remember that we are talking to another human being. It is so easy to forget that there is a human soul behind the arguments you are seeing. When we recognize their dignity, we have much more charitable discussions.If we “win” an argument, but it causes someone to further reject Christ, we have lost big time. Click To Tweet
3) Ask questions.
This not only helps you avoid making dangerous assumptions (see next point) but also demonstrates that you want to have a conversation rather than a debate. Asking questions can also appear less confrontational.
4) Don’t assume to know the other person’s stance.
If you make an assumption that is wrong, the discussion may turn to that rather than sticking to the topic on hand. Take a moment to ask what their thoughts are on a particular subject. For example, when it comes to abortion, someone may say that a fetus isn’t alive. Find out if they believe that biologically speaking or philosophically speaking.
5) Watch your sources.
Try to draw from unbiased sources or sources biased towards the other side. Again, using the wrong source could distract from the topic at hand. I’m not saying to never use biased sources; sometimes, it is helpful to share certain opinions from more eloquent writers. What I’m saying is if you’re making a fact-based claim, use a good source.
6) Find common ground.
While a minority of people you are conversing with may take this as a sign of weakness, common ground should actually be your intent. As I said earlier, you probably won’t be able to change someone’s mind online, but finding common ground can help provide some stepping stones towards the truth and also just makes you a more pleasant person to talk to.
7) Use mutually agreeable vocabulary.
There are terms we may use as Christians that seem odd or even insulting to non-Christians. Try to use more neutral phrases without watering down your point. Which leads me to my next points…
8) Don’t water down the truth.
Though the goal of leading a soul to Heaven is worthy, we shouldn’t do anything to get them there. Lying or watering down the truth to make Christianity seem more palatable is sinful. Christianity is hard, but it is also worthwhile.
9) Be quick to admit error.
Humility goes a long way.
10) Know your stuff.
Take the time to read apologetics sources. Listen to Catholic Answers. Seek answers to your own questions. Talk to a priest.
11) Admit when you don’t know something.
It is far better to say that you don’t know something than to say something wrong. The second is more damaging to your credibility. However, if you don’t know something, seek an answer and follow-up with the person.
12) Discuss well.
Listen to their side and respond to all their points. I really wish this could go without saying, but I see the opposite happening all too often.
13) Try not to take attacks personally.
Christ warned us we would be persecuted for proclaiming the truth. It’s hard when someone you’ve known for years call you terrible names or accuses you of having malicious motives. Take it in stride. Let yourself feel hurt, but know that this is expected. Don’t let it stop you from proclaiming what is good, true, and beautiful.
14) Know when to step away.
This is a lengthier topic that I’ll address in another blog post, but simply put, sometimes, it is better to step away. Knowing when to do so will help your emotional well-being and could actually be better for the argument than responding.
15) Have opportunities for continuing the conversation.
You’re probably not going to be able to finish the conversation or discuss everything adequately. Assuming the conversation is ending agreeably, leave the door open for further conversation. Let them know you’re willing to discuss this or other topics.
I’ll admit that I sometimes fail at these points. I’ll occasionally let my emotions get the better of me and say something that could be misinterpreted. I’ve shared imperfect sources. I get too focused on the “debate” and forget that there is a person there. Though I’ve made mistakes, I know that when I do try to follow these tips, the conversation goes better.
I also know that you can follow all these tips and still have an unpleasant experience. There are some hard-hearted people. There are people who have been so hurt by the Church or other Christians that they need a lot more than some kind words over the internet. There are people who just want to argue for the sake of arguing. When you run into these situations, all you can do is strive to be a light of Christ.
These conversations aren’t about winning. They are about sharing the truth.These conversations aren’t about winning. They are about sharing the truth. Click To Tweet
What has helped you have fruitful conversations online?