How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Bakmoon
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How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by Bakmoon » Fri Dec 12, 2014 7:30 pm

I've recently noticed a tendency in my online communication style that I don't think is skillful. Quite often in discussions where there is disagreement I organize my posts in a very matter of fact, point, counterpoint, refutation kind of style to try to present a very logical response. Recently looking at my old forum posts here and on other sites however, I've noticed that this comes off sounding very pointed, argumentative, and often times even angry rather than as clear and precise. This is not what I take to be in accordance with the Buddha's admonition that right speech "...is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will."

How can I communicate online more skillfully?
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

culaavuso
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by culaavuso » Fri Dec 12, 2014 8:38 pm

Bakmoon wrote:It is spoken affectionately.
In MN 21 affectionate speech is addressed as a counterpoint to harsh speech:
MN 21: Kakacūpama Sutta wrote: Monks, there are these five aspects of speech by which others may address you: timely or untimely, true or false, affectionate or harsh, beneficial or unbeneficial, with a mind of good-will or with inner hate. Others may address you in a timely way or an untimely way. They may address you with what is true or what is false. They may address you in an affectionate way or a harsh way. They may address you in a beneficial way or an unbeneficial way. They may address you with a mind of good-will or with inner hate.
MN 9 appears to discuss this in terms of harsh speech and abstention from harsh speech. The commentary to MN 9 expands upon this:
MN 9: Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta Commentary wrote: Harsh speech is the entirely harsh volition initiating an effort by body or by speech to wound another's vital feelings. This is an example given for the purpose of making it clear: A village boy, it is said, went to the forest without heeding his mother's words. Unable to make him turn back, she scolded him angrily, saying: "May a wild buffalo chase you!" Then a buffalo appeared before him right there in the forest. The boy made an asseveration of truth, saying: "Let it not be as my mother said but as she thought!" The buffalo stood as though tied there. Thus, although the means (employed) was that of wounding the vital feelings, because of the gentleness of her mind it was not harsh speech. For sometimes parents even say to their children, "May robbers chop you to pieces!" yet they do not even wish a lotus leaf to fall upon them. And teachers and preceptors sometimes say to their pupils, "What is the use of these shameless and heedless brats? Drive them out!" yet they wish for their success in learning and attainment.

Just as, through gentleness of mind, speech is not harsh, so through gentleness of speech, speech does not become unharsh; for the words "Let him sleep in peace" spoken by one wishing to kill are not unharsh speech. But harsh speech is such on account of harshness of mind only. It is less blameworthy when the person to whom it is spoken has few good qualities, and more blameworthy when such a one has great qualities. Its constituents are three: another to be abused, an angry mind, the abusing.
This appears to be related to the intention to harm. This suggests that one approach could be to review the state of mind to identify whether an intention to harm is present or absent when writing the text. If it is present, perhaps the post should be delayed or abandoned unless or until it can be completed with a more wholesome intention.

The possibility of misinterpretation appears to be a related but separate issue. The nature of computer mediated communication limits the interaction in a number of ways that can contribute to misunderstandings regarding intention. There are a number of theories regarding these limitations, but some studies have suggested that experience with a particular medium, particular subject matter, and particular communication partners can develop a capacity for greater expression even through limited communication channels. This seems to largely be a matter of learning over time from the particular reactions that posts receive and using that feedback to refine the use of the medium over time.
[url=http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/42241_14.pdf]Computer-Mediated Communication and Interpersonal Relations[/url] (p. 457) wrote: With experience, the authors argued, users learn how to encode and decode affective messages using a particular channel.
The channel expansion theory was expanded to include increasing familiarity with an interaction partner as a second major factor affecting the richness or expressiveness of a medium that is used to communicate with that partner, with experience related to the conversational topic and organizational experience as additional, potential factors (Carlson & Zmud, 1999). Social influence by other communicators was posited to affect richness perceptions as well.

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seeker242
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by seeker242 » Fri Dec 12, 2014 11:00 pm

Reminds me of this! :)
[The Buddha speaks to his son, Rahula:] "Whenever you want to perform a verbal act, you should reflect on it: 'This verbal act I want to perform — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful verbal act, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful verbal act with painful consequences, painful results, then any verbal act of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful verbal action with happy consequences, happy results, then any verbal act of that sort is fit for you to do.

"While you are performing a verbal act, you should reflect on it: 'This verbal act I am doing — is it leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful verbal act, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it is leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both... you should give it up. But if on reflection you know that it is not... you may continue with it.

"Having performed a verbal act, you should reflect on it... If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful verbal act with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction... it was a skillful verbal action with happy consequences, happy results, then you should stay mentally refreshed and joyful, training day and night in skillful mental qualities."

— MN 61
I think it's just a matter of practicing being mindful of speech. Sometimes we remember to do that, sometimes we don't. But I think the more you practice it, the more skilled you become in doing it.

:anjali:

SarathW
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by SarathW » Fri Dec 12, 2014 11:34 pm

Hi Bakmoon
Don't be too hard (critical) on yourself.
Practice Brahamavihara towards yourself too.
:)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Kim OHara
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:20 am

SarathW wrote:Hi Bakmoon
Don't be too hard (critical) on yourself.
Practice Brahamavihara towards yourself too.
:)
:goodpost:
... especially since I can't recall any of your posts coming across to me as argumentative or ill-natured.
However, since you do want to make your good intention even clearer, here are a few practical suggestions. (Please don't take them as implied criticism of defects in your posting style, because I haven't even looked back at your posts so see whether you do these things or not.)

Use the politeness-words - hello, goodbye, please, thanks, if you don't mind me saying, etc
Use people's names. (I know I didn't this time, but none of these rules is unbreakable.)
Use smileys to make your mood clearer - especially for humour. Humour doesn't travel well through the internet. It's different in different cultures, and the language clues are sometimes so subtle that people whose first language isn't English will miss them.
Admit your ignorance - but don't deny your knowledge.
Provide references and links to your sources, especially for contentious information.
If in doubt, use a few more words, making the point again in a different way to make sure it will be understood.

:namaste:
Kim

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Spiny Norman
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by Spiny Norman » Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:32 am

Kim OHara wrote: Use the politeness-words - hello, goodbye, please, thanks, if you don't mind me saying, etc
Yes, politeness goes a long way.

And thank you making this good point, Kim. ;)
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

Bakmoon
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by Bakmoon » Sun Dec 14, 2014 9:08 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
SarathW wrote:Hi Bakmoon
Don't be too hard (critical) on yourself.
Practice Brahamavihara towards yourself too.
:)
:goodpost:
... especially since I can't recall any of your posts coming across to me as argumentative or ill-natured.
However, since you do want to make your good intention even clearer, here are a few practical suggestions. (Please don't take them as implied criticism of defects in your posting style, because I haven't even looked back at your posts so see whether you do these things or not.)

Use the politeness-words - hello, goodbye, please, thanks, if you don't mind me saying, etc
Use people's names. (I know I didn't this time, but none of these rules is unbreakable.)
Use smileys to make your mood clearer - especially for humour. Humour doesn't travel well through the internet. It's different in different cultures, and the language clues are sometimes so subtle that people whose first language isn't English will miss them.
Admit your ignorance - but don't deny your knowledge.
Provide references and links to your sources, especially for contentious information.
If in doubt, use a few more words, making the point again in a different way to make sure it will be understood.

:namaste:
Kim
Thank you very much. This is the kind of advice I was looking for. I think that the main issue for me is making sure that I convey the right tone explicitly.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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angryrika
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by angryrika » Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:23 pm

I think a lot of that "point-by-point refutation" along with extremely unnecessarily detailed explanation is based in righteousness and attachment to views.

This person's wrong, and I'm right

My view is right, their view is wrong

This person seems to be lacking in understanding, maybe my superior understanding will get them on the right track

If you set your primary resolve in practice to be the end of your suffering instead of "being an enlightened master" or something along those lines, when others post about their problems you give a greater importance to their suffering and well-being which changes a lot about how you go about helping them out. And if you don't have much personal experience in their issue, you tend to back off more; sometimes that attachment to views makes you arrogant enough to think you can help everybody out.
For a person tormented by evil thoughts, who is passion-dominated and given to the pursuit of pleasure, his craving steadily grows. He makes the fetter strong, indeed. He who delights in subduing evil thoughts, who meditates on the impurities and is ever mindful — it is he who will make an end of craving and rend asunder Mara's fetter.

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VinceField
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by VinceField » Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:43 pm

I believe that the most important aspect of right speech is the motivation or intention behind the words, rather than how well you can dress them up to sound pleasing and polite. If the intention is unskillful, the speech will be wrong regardless of how nice it reads. If we could let go of our need to uphold our own fabricated sense of self, I feel like a lot of the debates, arguments, and even simply expressions of opinion that take place here would be recognized as self-serving and counterproductive towards one's own development.

For example, there are many cases on this forum(and others of course) in which members are drilling in their views to the others despite the fact that it is obviously that those on the other side of the argument are firmly locked into their own beliefs and just as passionate and convinced of their own views, thus essentially making the discussion a battle of egos.

Of course, it's not as simple as this, for there are often times multiple shades of motivation. One part of the mind may really want to help the other obtain a more skillful understanding, while the other part of the mind wants to confirm it's own beliefs and ideas, and may not approach the interaction from the most beneficial manner.

I suppose that practicing right speech comes with practicing the Dhamma. The more you purify your mind, the more skillful your intentions, view, and speech will be.

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Mkoll
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by Mkoll » Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:59 pm

VinceField wrote:I suppose that practicing right speech comes with practicing the Dhamma. The more you purify your mind, the more skillful your intentions, view, and speech will be.
I think it works the other way as well.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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VinceField
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Re: How do I practice right speech in forum posts?

Post by VinceField » Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:34 am

Mkoll wrote:
VinceField wrote:I suppose that practicing right speech comes with practicing the Dhamma. The more you purify your mind, the more skillful your intentions, view, and speech will be.
I think it works the other way as well.
Yes, perhaps it may, to an extent. Of course, an Impure mind generally does not produce skillful intentions, views, and speech. I wonder how much these factors are the result of purification of mind vs how much they are the cause. My understanding is that purifying the mind is more about eliminating defilements(greed, hatred, and delusion) via insight. In other words, insight purifies the mind, thus giving rise to right speech, view, ect. Perhaps I have more to learn about this.

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