Keeping the tone and atmosphere on email lists pleasant can be difficult, especially in heated discussions. Here are some simple tips that people can follow to try and help with this:
- Empathise with the needs of other people and make an effort to understand their point of view.
- Say what you like and agree with as well as what you disagree with.
- Do not use derogatory language, belittle the ideas of others, paternalise others, or make controversial claims without substantiation.
- It is the responsibility of everyone to stand up against attacks, false accusations and mis/disinformation.
- Keep it simple: long and complicated arguments can be confusing and are easy to be misunderstood.
- Keep it short: a lot of people skim long emails rather than reading them with the proper attention. Also they are a hurdle for people who have limited online time, and may in effect exclude them from participating in the discussion.
- Focus on the main arguments, and try to avoid being sidetracked into responding to each individual statement you don’t agree with, or scanning the emails of other people only for points you disagree with. Check if the points you are responding to are relevant to the overall discussion and if your response is a step towards a solution that everyone will agree to. A successful resolution is helped most by finding common ground that is shared by everyone.
- Always consider whether there might be a misunderstanding. If you are not entirely understand what the other person is trying to say, ask!
- If you feel very passionate and are angry or upset, sleep over your reply or discuss it with your collective/a friend before sending it.
- Give others the chance to chip in, by holding off responding for a little while, discussions with only a few people get heated a lot faster.
- It may help to identify which collective the writer is active in, especially it may be helpful for new people who are not yet familiar with all the nicks.
- If you refer to outside documents, previous discussion or emails, provide links for reference
- Try and avoid quoting people out of context (this can be difficult, of course quoting is important, but it is easy to get sidetracked into the wording of a sentence instead of focusing on the issue)
- Try not to “put people on the spot” or “call people out”. While it is important to raise concerns, people who feel attacked tend to react defensive. Try to raise your concerns without cornering the other people, but rather opening doors.
- Always keep in mind the the aim is not necessarily to get everyone to agree with you, but to find a solution that everyone is happy with. This may mean others have to compromise, but it also means that you will have to compromise.