Please demonstrate these qualities in all your contributions.
- Clear. Above all else, be clear. Use short sentences and accessible terminology, define specialist terms and identify the implications and consequence of your ideas.
- Concise. Whenever possible, be short; when this is not possible, provide a summary and outline to help people access the content. Attempt to break down a complex subject into distinct parts: we do not handle complexity well, we struggle to discuss complex issues constructively, and we rarely have the time to plow through lengthy and complicated material. Provide links to further details, which people can follow if they are interested.
- Compassionate. Be aware of the impact of your words on others – on others in the conversation and in the group, but also on people not present, especially the weak, the poor and the voiceless.
- Creative. Focus on what you have to offer: your perspective, your experience, and what you have found to be helpful from other people and other places.
- Constructive. Don’t focus on what is wrong with other people and their ideas, focus on what is right and helpful with yours; don’t talk about what you dislike, talk about a better alternative; don’t talk about what other people should do, talk about what you can do, and how we can encourage others to do what is needed.
- Calm. You may care passionately about something, but extreme language (unless you are talking about yourself) does not draw other people in.
Please seek these goals when you have a discussion.
- Win the other person. The aim is not abstract but human: it is not to prove one belief superior to another belief, but to help both you and the other person grow in your understanding of the subject matter.
- Achieve understanding. What does the other person believe, and why? Before everything else, if you have clarified and deepened your understanding of the other person and their beliefs, you have achieved something worthwhile.
- Reach agreement. The aim is not to defeat the other person, but for the two of you to to reach a place of agreement where possible.
- Clarify the content. If you cannot reach agreement on everything – which is probably unlikely – then seek to identify where you do agree, or come to agreement. Identify where you still disagree, and why. If the area of disagreement becomes smaller, it becomes more manageable and easier to address in the future.
- Help the silent participants. Remember that other people will be listening to the discussion, so please make an effort to help them benefit from the encounter as well.
Please adopt these strategies when you have a discussion.
- Be honest. Aim for "the truth: the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" - try to say everything which is relevant, even if it doesn't entirely support your position.
- Provide evidence. Just saying what you believe tells us something interesting about you, but not much about anything else: the evidence is what makes it interesting, and enables other people to engage with you.
- Present your position. Talk about what you understand and believe as your own understanding and belief - not as facts and truth which others must recognize. We are seeking truth, and ways to express it, which everyone can recognise and agree upon, not trumpeting that we have already found it.
- Respect the other person. Take their beliefs seriously; accept their stance as valid; listen to and respond to what they actually say, not what you think they mean.
- Assume best intentions. Trust the other person’s motives are good, even if you see their beliefs and practices as bad.
- Avoid conflict. A discussion is an exchange, not a competition: the other person is a partner in your discussion, not an opponent to be beaten.
- Check your assumptions. Ask questions to clarify, don’t assume you know things about the other person and their beliefs. And, even if you do know, still check: some things may have changed, and the other people listening to the discussion will not all share your knowledge.
- Play fair. Work with all the facts as far as possible, not just the convenient ones; don’t contrast your ideal with the other person’s reality; don’t assign guilt by association.
- Respond to the content. When you reply, talk about the content which was posted, not about your objections to other things you associate with the person or group.
- Remain focused. Every discussion touches on many other issues, but you can’t get anywhere if you try to deal with everything at once. Provide links to related discussions rather than going over the same ground again.
We want to avoid conflict where possible, but an important part of what we are doing is learning to disagree well. We expect people in our community to disagree: this is, to a large extent, what we are here for - we want to hear from, and understand, people who disagree with us - and disagreement does not mean conflict. But, when people do things together, some conflict is inevitable. And, when conflict arises, this is the way we want to handle it.
- Prompt. It is unlikely to be addressed immediately - everyone involved is a volunteer - but we aim to address any concerns raised as quickly as possible, without wasting any time.
- Sensitive. This does not mean you will necessarily like what is said and done, but we will always aim to take your feelings and preferences into account as far as possible.
- Fair. This is inevitably going to be a subjective judgement: we will aim to be fair, but in any conflict at least one side is probably going to feel disappointed.
- Transparent. We will be clear about what we do, and why and how we do it. There should be no surprises and no secrets.
If you experience a conflict, or some other problem, this can be reported using the Report Form. When a problem is reported, the Steering Group will consider the situation and decide how to handle it.
- If there is a general lesson to be learned, we will document it - either on one of the 'Introduction' pages, or in some other accessible place.
- If inappropriate content has been posted, we reserve the right to remove it from the site.
- If the Steering Group decides that a member has not followed the expected behaviour, we will communicate with them and answer any questions to the best of our ability; we will be clear what the problem is and what we would like them to do about it.
- If a member persists in contravening the expected behaviour, we reserve the right to remove them from membership.
At present, there is no appeal system, but as the site grows we anticipate the need to put one in place.