BYB comment threads: guidelines for better communication

Some basic tips and techniques for making the BYB community experience more enjoyable.

This post may say "HookSlide" in the byline, but it comes with the seal of approval from the entire BYB staff. We have heard rumblings for a couple of weeks now that there's some discontent in the BYB community with the quality of personal interactions taking place in the comments sections, particularly in the game threads. We want to make that better, we are committed to making that better, and we will make that better.

This isn't kindergarten, however, and if we have to start deploying squads of "hall monitors" to fix the problem, it's not going to be much fun for anyone. There are ways of making this situation better by embracing the problem as a community of self-regulating adults. This site already has a basic set of rules for commenting, and you may want to review those, but beyond that, the solution begins with better communication techniques.

These guidelines on more productive communication are nothing new. A lot of us probably learned this stuff in college, but it's good to revisit the basics from time to time and try to develop some new habits.

1. Own your opinion as your own

People don't typically want you to speak on their behalf. Statements presented as universal fact instead of personal opinion are far more likely to generate combative responses.

Example: "Alex Avila is garbage." That's a universal, general statement. Expect a lot of hostile push-back on that one.

Example: "Alex Avila is frustrating for me to watch right now." That's limiting the statement to a specific time ("right now") and a specific person ("for me"). At least you're only speaking for yourself and not implying that everyone should see it the way you do.

2. Use specifics instead of generalities

One of the easiest things to disprove is an absolute assertion, such as, "Justin Verlander never pitches well after the sixth inning." Never? All it takes is one exception to disprove that statement. Words like "always," "never," "every time," and so on are usually just begging for an argument. Words like "recently," "lately," "most of the time," and "frequently" tend to leave more room for friendly disagreement.

3. Questions first, rebuttals second

So this complete and total moron just suggested that the Tigers should trade Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera for a "proven closer." There's so much low-hanging idiot fruit there, you can barely handle the flurry of quick-witted put-downs your brain is generating. Resist that urge. I know from personal experience that the most reactionary and knee-jerk sports fans are also usually the people who will drop everything to help you change a flat tire. There's no point in insulting their intelligence when there's productive discussion to be had.

Example: "That sounds like a losing trade to me. Can you explain further why you think that trade would be a good thing?"

Example: "I'm pretty sure I disagree, but I want to better understand your point of view first. Can you clarify?"

4. Empathy, please

Here's the conundrum: Joe is frustrated with the Tigers lately. (Aren't most of us?) He needs to vent that frustration in a community where people will understand - it does him no good to complain about it with the guys from his bowling league, because those guys don't even follow the Tigers. "Let him do his bitching at MLive, then," you say. Ah, but there's the rub. That's not his preferred community, because he doesn't want his basic frustration to provide fodder for the "FIAR AZZMOOSE," "THIS TEAM IS A JOKE," and "PUT VERLONDER IN THE BULLPEN" types.

It's OK to empathize and disagree at the same time. Joe says, "This stupid team is gonna throw away the entire division!" and it's entirely acceptable to respond, "I disagree, I think they'll be fine, but I get where you're coming from - they've been tough to watch lately." If you want to throw Guideline #3 in there as well, you can add something like, "what do you think needs to happen for them to get better?"

5. Know when to log off

The BYB community is growing, and will continue to grow. More people means more opportunities to learn, more fun to be had, more friendships to be forged, and - unfortunately - more potential for disagreement. There is rarely, if ever, a reason to be condescending, rude, or combative to another human being, even if they are a faceless Internet entity with a screen name like "CabbysContractSux1994." The fastest way to kill a troll is to ignore a troll, and I think most of us know this, even if we continue to be unable to resist the urge to feed the trolls by paying them any attention at all. Sometimes it's better to just log off and walk away, following Mom's old advice concerning what to do when you have nothing nice to say.

But wait, won't the trolls take over then? Every comment posted at BYB has a "flag" option. If, after "playing nice" and following these guidelines, there's still that one person who insists on being argumentative, condescending, and in all other ways bent on being the guy who just wants to watch the world burn, bring it to the attention of the moderators by using the flag feature.

I'd like to think we're all more-or-less friends here, even if we disagree and get a bit heated with each other at times. So let's try to keep that as the main feature of this community, and we'll all be better off for it.

Now, can anyone help me with this flat tire while we discuss moving Verlander to the bullpen?

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