I hold courteous discourse and reasoned debate in high regard. When engaging someone in a discussion, I prefer to approach it with honesty and an open mind. But humans aren’t wired that way and emotion can kick in awfully quickly.

I tangled yesterday, like I have many times over the years, with someone on Facebook. As with past encounters, it was with a friend of a friend. Since post visibility traverses through our social graph its very likely we’ll see shares or comments from someone who we don’t actually know. In this case, the post was by someone I know but the comment to which I responded was from someone I did not know. The position she took elicited a visceral and rather surly response from me, telling her she had no idea what she was talking about.

As I closed the browser I actually found myself quite worked up - breathing heavy and heart racing. Over a Facebook post! Yes, I get passionate about certain things :) But after so many interactions like this I have begun to recognize a tell-tale sign that I’ve gone off the deep end: I dread returning to Facebook because I don’t want to see what will have been said in response to my rant. This is obviously a terrible way to conduct oneself so I quickly bounced back onto Facebook (no messages, woot!) and deleted my comment, apologizing for the tone.

I replaced it with a response that simply asked a couple questions about the subject of the thread. This led to a productive discussion in which we engaged like grown-ups and I managed to read up on a subject I didn’t know much about. We parted on good (social media) terms and that was that.

So the challenge I have for myself is: if you want to engage, start by asking questions. If your partner in the discussion isn’t interested in facts or conversation, you may never get a response. But where’s the loss in that? If they are, maybe you’ll learn something.