I think the difference between me and a lot of the people I meet in internet discussion group debates is that I almost never enter a discussion deciding that I have all the answers I need. I go in thinking that even if everyone else disagrees with me, and even if I am not convinced to change my position in any way, I have an opportunity to learn by talking through my thoughts and hearing theirs. I am grateful to all those who would stand up and, thoughtfully and tactfully, speak an opposing opinion to mine. In the case of people who engage in fair debate, it takes courage, conviction, and a deep seated passion for the topic to jump into the “fray”.
I am not easily rattled when people start to get flustered or even personal, because it is a weakness in THEIR character that they can’t find constructive words to express their viewpoint. Absolutely I am known to slip, give in to my frustration, and speak flippantly when I would be better served by stepping away and breathing. I am human, and I am not the most enlightened of beings. But I know that the minute I try to shut someone else down entirely, no matter how rude or ignorant they are coming across I am missing
1) the opportunity to teach them what I have learned
2) learn their viewpoint and how they came to it and maybe either be swayed, just see it from another side, or learn how better to educate others in a similar future encounter
For those would feel too shy or intimidated to engage in online discussions, and are lurkers of the highest order, I issue you a challenge. Pick one discussion a month and put in your two cents. Even if you think it has already been said before, the way you say it, and the way you see it from your unique perspective, may be just the thing one single other human being (or more likely MANY) who reads it needed to hear it.
Your challenge begins now. Go onto tribe, or Bhuz, or OrientalDancer.net, or Facebook, and share something from your heart or mind. Be open to what response you may get, and think about what you can learn from it. See if it doesn’t take you in some new directions.