Toward Better Communications on the BBS

This thread is for posting:

  • Listening techniques
  • Communications tools
  • Discussion hacks
  • Talking tips
  • You won’t believe what happened when she tried this one insane tip for getting her point across

I have been personally interested in how to communicate better.

For myself, I find that when facing conflict, I tend to go into an avoidance mode. Grin and nod is my motto. But then I find that this way of coping with conflict means that my own needs are not met.

I have had over the years some training in things like active listening, but I’ve been wanting more tools this year, ones that directly address conflict.

I thought here, too, where we are dedicated to communicating with each other, and inevitably there is confusion, conflict, and frustration (along with fun, hijinks, and comfort) that we might discuss ways we can listen and learn through the tough emotions, rather than simply clash for entertainment or to express anger.


I read the book Nonviolent Communications and had a feeling this guy had some content out on YouTube. Oh boy, does he and it is SOOO good.

Listening to this whole seminar on Nonviolent Communications Technique.


I’m going to be the person who asks if there’s a decent primer on the interwebs that’s not video, as this sounds interesting and useful, but video limits when/where I can absorb it.

I ask, as you’re more likely to be able to evaluate the good from the bad out there.:slight_smile:

(Editted to add - Oooh, is this the place for me to mention Korzybski and e-prime again? While in not a proponent of full usage, the ideas certainly help with clear communication. I’ll get a quick intro together.)


I posted this in another thread, but I wrote this blog post based a lot on his book I posted above. It summarizes his technique succinctly. There is a lot of nuance to how to do it well, which is what he gets into in his workshop I posted.


Now that, I can add to my reading queue. :+1:


FYI, Nonviolent Communication is widely available in libraries. I checked it out on my Kindle through my library’s online site. It is VERY good.


I grew up with Korzybski and Science and Sanity. My opinion is that it is well worth reading and studying, but does not work well as a guide to pragmatic communication in many everyday circumstances. The three basic strategies of avoiding identification, trying to define your respective terms when beginning a discussion, and indexing specific times and places are invaluable for clarifying one’s thinking, but they are disciplines and cannot be safely expected of the other participants. It takes pretty much no time before one encounters somebody who insists that it is much easier and just as clear to do none of those things!

It brings to mind how many terms for formalized communication such as argumentation, rhetoric, and semantics become used somewhat pejoratively in much informal discussion.

Semantics especially gets puzzling when people often dismiss defining their terms as a tedious diversion - and yet soon complain that you are not using some word in quite the way that they are. Friends are mind readers!


Well sure - to be clear, I find the principles useful in reducing ambiguity in my own speech, and believe that it can be the same in others.

Anyone can not-agree to play by the same rules the rest of the room is playing by in a discussion, either by sincere difference, or simple bad faith. (Trying to ‘win’ a conversation is something some people never do grow out of, after all.)

And use of e-prime is no different.

The simplest removal of the ‘is of identity’ (thank you RAW) when it proves necessary helps with (but is not sufficient for) clarity when applied, and that’s why I return it as a tool.

But sure, one can still be Gish galloped, or goalpost-moved or well, anything. But at least you have defined your own statement precisely.

Edit: Ironically enough, for clarity and typo removal


I was a Philosophy major. I was trained in logic, literally by the experts in the field. I was trained to construct good arguments.

It’s been a rude awakening this year to learn that these tools not only make for poor communication but really hurt it.

What I didn’t learn to express as a Philosophy major was my emotions and my needs and how I wanted my needs to be met.

I struggle a lot with this learned tendency toward logic and am now trying to give more weight toward my own emotional needs and other’s emotional needs. It’s been a new skill for me.


This is something I strongly disagree with. It seems to me that any general philosophy of competition requires some formal basis, a game structure of shared goals. Without this common framework any talk of competition, victory, success, supremacy, etc or their opposites is completely meaningless. There can’t be a winner or loser without first establishing some contest.

I don’t mind competing in a defined context at times, such as playing a video game. But I seriously dread when faux competition appears in supposedly informal contexts, which it so often does.


Hmmm, interesting. I was not aware of him.


It’s a very, very good point, a hard lesson, and something I try to bear in mind.

Assuming ‘good faith’, the ‘emotional load’ of what you’re saying, and the emotional state of who you’re talking to matters. (Plus your own state, which affects your delivery and perception.)

As I’m slightly too fond of saying, our brains are meat-that-thinks, and it’s no small wonder that our thinking-meat does all it does - there’s lots of ways to make the other person not want to consider your point - or make it more difficult for them to process, entirely in the delivery. Which is frankly counterproductive in trying to convey information, or a chain of reasoning, even without sympathy​ to the emotional impact to others.

Goes for me too, of course, sometimes the best thing I can do is step away from the discussion for my own wellbeing. That really isn’t ‘losing’.


(Ooog, there was a lot of italic text in there, wasn’t there. Apologies.)

A lot of our habits of speech developed out of debate practices, and those practices of rhetoric go way back to the Greeks, so they are deeply ingrained in our culture.

I have been learning this year, though, that treating your friends and loved ones as if you are always in a verbal competition where one person wins and the other loses is a really good way to alienate yourself from the people you care about, and even from the people like bosses and coworkers who are maybe not necessarily friends but people who you are in a relationship with.

Another way of looking communication is of a mutual exploration, an attempt to get to know each other deeply, a way to connect, a method for getting to understand one another, a mechanism to marvel at each other’s differences, a formal system for learning to admire each other.

In this style of communication, we are all winners.


I would say that Greek thought and practices are deeply engrained in European cultures, but not quite as much in Eastern or American cultures. There is a big risk of miscommunication when people ignore cultural differences and assume universalism, I think because it renders then unable to appreciate or even acknowledge fundamental cultural and conceptual differences.

Also, I think that people who only ever debate their own pet positions cheat themselves (and others). Learning to pick another position and debate that teaches one far more about thinking and communication, and need not be disingenuous. I have tried to encourage people to engage more in dialectic, because it is less competitive, and better suited to a discussion of several participants. But I have success with it only in more abstract topics. It tends to fail spectacularly in topics about immediate social and political issues, where some participants not only expect but require a judgemental perspective. This becomes problematic especially when people are held to only a limited range of token positions and prevented from going into any detail of their political philosophy or personal morality, which might be necessary for any honest open discussion. Societal problems are often I think too involved to distil into what effectively is selecting from “multiple choice” answers. People do that in order to prevent others from re-framing the original problem, but that is at times precisely what is needed, for purposes of greater possibilities or even just basic accuracy. Not all people are going to see the same issue the same way, which I think is beneficial, because the added perspectives increase the number of conceptual models/tools we have to choose from. But this can seem threatening to those who think in terms of force, because a “critical mass” is more easily attained by reducing that choice and narrowing discourse.

Basically, I think that discussions turn into bickering because people become attached to their position, identifying too closely with their own argument. Seeing it as one possible way to model a scenario rather than The Truth allows one to question it without feeling personally threatened or rebuffed.


This is true in its own. Except that I’ve observed that people tend to play these ‘contests’ to whatever rules they’ve already learned (in their heads). And do decide themselves a winner, and then walk away happy after.

The extreme version of this is where peoples’ winning conditions include disrupting the conversion, making it all about them, and or burning the (metaphoric) house down - we call those trolls, usually, because their winning conditions are destructive, and caustic to the environment they’re ‘playing’ in.

A less extreme example is the position, I touched-on above, where the ‘right thing to do’ is to walk away. The ‘troll’ considers that a victory, and so do I.

The victory isn’t meaningless to them. But yes, communication hasn’t happened. Ideas have not really been exchanged.

Edit: Moved an apostrophe. Because misplaced apostrophe


(Sorry for addressing a couple of your points running - I promise I’m not ‘having a dig’. They’re interesting.)

This, for me, is where the emotional element comes into it. And deciding what one wants to get out of this.

If you’re​ trying to get someone to consider something that’s a hot topic for them, the emotional load for them is going to make that more difficult, and it’s really easy to make it fail.

– This is why the ‘troll’ above hits the hot topics hard and often. What they get out of the transaction is disruption, pure and simple. It’s a contest to them, and if you get upset, by their rules, they’ve won.

But that’s not what we’re trying to do here.
If someone wants people to be able to consider subjects that are ‘core’ to them (individually, or culturally) then they need to take the other person’s emotional state into account.
And you might say: “Well, why should I have to do that? It’s their emotions!”, and you’d have a point. But if your aim is to get them to consider your information, and re-evaluate their position, then even if it isn’t a contest (and it shouldn’t be) that’s something you want, so you adapt accordingly. (And I’m using the ‘royal you’ there - it’s a general point, not targetted).


There are some provisos to that summary of my (small-p) philosophy, which are mostly around protection from ‘being gamed’ onesself.

  • This assumes ‘good faith’ on the part of both parties. The crowd coming in to shout you down with catchphrases, or ‘win’ by talking over you, or force you to accept things that damage you? (Straightforward racial/sexual/religious prejudice are the most common. Political us-vs-them is another)*. This doesn’t apply there, they aren’t trying to exchange information. Likewise other outright ‘trolling’

  • Specific subcase of the above: Where there’s already injustice, talking nicely to bigots should not be required of those who have to deal with it. EG: I can talk to people with sexist positions to persuade, as can women​. But I’m not going to expect women to put up with that shit, especially as experience tells me that that is often used as a ‘creative’ means to push them down.

  • Again related to the above(s): Sometimes, just sometimes, shouting/blunt refutation is the answer and the best way forward. But not nearly as often as people are trained to think.

* This also means that talking around those areas _is_ possible, but to prevent confusion with the bad faith types, and achieve communication despite it being a hot topic, needs a certain amount of consideration of _their_ emotional state, as one's aim is still to share your information/position and have it considered, despite it (reasonably) being a hot topic for them.

9 hours of Marshall Rosenberg’s structured training on Nonviolent Communication. Life changing.


You have some good points there. I agree that we often are attached to our pet positions and argument from the end.

My concern is not so much over what is being said, but, I am I saying things in a way that people are more likely to hear my point of view and truly consider adopting this position for their own? Or am I saying things in a way that makes the listener feel as if I am attacking them and putting them in a defensive role?

To be honest, I’ve done a lot of attacking, and then I’ve been angry and frustrated that my loved ones and friends have not been able to hear my needs and consider my ideas.

I think the idea of creating really open debate needs to begin with a space where people feel safe to play around with trying on different points of view and are encouraged to be creative and free spirited.