The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Ideas for more loving & effective online communication?

I suspect most people who communicate online have discovered how easy it is for people to take offence or generally misunderstand your point (largely due lack of body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.). Therefore it would be helpful to hear how you minimise this? Hopefully sharing ideas will lead to more loving & effective online communication. (It might help our offline communication too).

To kick us off, here are a few things off the top of my head:

– anything that’s ambiguous will usually be taken the wrong way, so take time to proof-read comments. e.g. saying “It sucks when you’re late” will probably be taken as an insult, even if the author intends it as a general statement or statement about him/herself i.e. “Running late sucks” or “It sucks when I’m late” avoids that.

– be careful what level of confidence is in a statement (e.g. “Obviously climate change is happening”, “Climate change is happening”, “I believe climate change is happening”, “I think climate change is happening”, “If climate change is happening then…”). Now I don’t think any of these statements deny climate change is happening, it’s just aiming to be gracious to the person you’re talking to who might hold the opposite view. (I thank Keith DeRose for pointing this out to me)

– sarcasm rarely works online. If using it, I recommend at least adding a :wink:

– don’t be embarrassed to use some (although not too many!) emoticons (e.g. :slight_smile: :frowning: :-/ ). I realise some people are such good writers they don’t need to, but I’m not.

– don’t use too many exclamation marks! Ideally only with positive comments, as there’s usually already enough “zap” in negative comments.

– try to be succinct. People will often only read a first & last paragraph & the first sentence of any others.


I also asked this question on FaceBook.

Relating to succinctness, a number of people said that the more points/questions you make, the less that are responded to.

Great advice, Alex. :smiley: And from your beautiful wife as well.

I would add:

Remember you’re responding to a person, flesh and blood with emotions, who is beloved of the Father. It’s easy, easy to forget that the entity on the other side of the computer screen is vulnerable too.

Don’t say anything online to anyone that you wouldn’t say in front of your mother.

Don’t say anything online to anyone that you wouldn’t say face to face in a coffee/tea shop or a friendly pub.

Try to assess the other person’s literacy and gear your comment to that. If the comment you’re responding to is badly written, make your reply simple but not condescending. And don’t mention their grammar or spelling. The invisible person on the other computer may be a native Hindi speaker – unless they say so, it’s impossible to know.

As Alex has already said, don’t respond hastily or in anger. Re-read the comment that offended you. I’ve done this lots of times, and on re-reading what the other person said, I’ve realized that I misunderstood, and that they hadn’t said anything bad to me at all.

Blessings, Cindy

Thanks Cindy, that’s helpful :sunglasses:

I think Bob Heinlein’s rules for a successful marriage might apply to online communication as well:

  1. In any argument with your wife apologise at once, unless you are absolutely sure you are right.

  2. If you are absolutely sure that you are right bring flowers when apologising.

I try to assume that if someone doen’t get what I am saying it’s my fault for being unclear, not theirs for being obtuse. If I disagree I try not to insist that I am right.

In other words if we apply the mandatum novum we’ll probably not go far wrong.

:laughing: cheeky although I think the underlying message about being quick to apologise/self-check (rather than assuming you’re right) is very helpful.

Good points too.

My dear departed Dad used to tell my sisters and I, “would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?” :smiley: :smiley:

And he’d always suggest that on our death bed someday, would we ever REALLY regret treating our fellows with love and compassion?? On the other hand, we may have regrets IF we had treated our fellows with “non-fair-togetherness.” Thank you Jason for letting me borrow YOUR terminology, I like it. :wink:

While I’d still be a Christian universalist without that terminology, I can say it made a very significant difference in how I read the scriptures, replacing the English “righteousness” with “fair-togetherness” (and appropriate variants).

Good stuff everyone. Thanks for sharing.

I like to share what I believe and why I believe it, staying focused on the issue and not speaking of the person except in the positive. I try to find things to complement others on, and if a point or argument doesn’t make sense to me, I say “to me” and not make a blanket judgment of the statement, much less the person. I suppose I’ve been wrong so much that I hesitate to affirm anything as absolute.

And I try to live and communicate in love and grace. Love is Gentle. Love is Kind. Love is not easily offended. And Truth does not need me to defend it; rather Truth defends us. And I avoid “You” statements like the plague!

For a truly God glorifying forum, I’d suggest banning all non-Calvinists viewpoints :sunglasses:
But seriously folks, I for one feel that the forum functions pretty well with the exception that I brought up in another thread. If the moderators feel that maybe things are getting a little out of hand, maybe throw in a post to remind folks of the rules, or PM the ones who seem to be either the offenders and/or offendees. More rules are not needed, just the occasional reminder and enforcement of existing ones.
IMO and limited experience here, the only real controversy is going to arise when a Calvinist appears-or maybe a hardcore Arminian-and even then we seem kind of few and far between. The “homosexual” thread heated up, as well. Basically, any topic that is likely to provoke extreme differences should probably have a closer eye kept on it. Hope this helps.


From the master of online miscommunication:

Slow down…slow down…not that I ever do. I am still weak in the patience dept.

But if you slow down you can avoid alot of foot in mouth retractions…lol.