Sometimes in Internet conversations, well-intentioned people with similar goals start to misunderstand each other in ways that make the other person feel attacked and hurt even when there isn’t that much actual disagreement. Then the conversation becomes full of things like “<strawman of your position> is offensively wrong!” “No, <strawman of your position> is offensively wrong!” and it’s not very productive. Here are some general suggestions that seem like they might help:
Talk about things in person if possible. When talking online, I’ve noticed that I often feel offended/attacked by remarks where, if someone had changed like two words of the remark with something else, I would have been fine with it (e.g. “I think you’re wrong to believe <X>” vs. “it’s disturbing that you believe <X>”). For some reason this doesn’t seem to happen nearly as often in person, probably because it’s higher bandwidth.
Talk about things one-on-one or in small groups if possible. On polarized topics, I sometimes have the experience of saying something centrist, then being attacked by people who don’t like side A because I forgot to put in an anti-side-A caveat, and then being attacked by people who don’t like side B because I forgot to put in an anti-side-B caveat and the anti-side-A caveat made me look too much like a side-B-person to them.
This can happen even if sides A and B are both essentially strawman positions that nobody in the discussion believes: the problem isn’t that anyone is a tribalist for A or B, just that people are worried about running into A- or B-tribalists and argue with you to make sure you’re not one. In a small enough group, it’s much easier to remember which caveats you have to insert and which ones you can let people infer.
Be careful to separate people’s arguments from people’s character. As I recently wrote in the Facebook group (in response to someone saying “it’s sad to see people talking about <X> here” and “your attitude about Y is troubling”):
One can also correct people’s misconceptions without shaming them—e.g., by being careful to imply that they’re incorrect simply by being misinformed rather than out of some kind of malice or character flaw (which indeed they often are, though not always). For example, instead of saying “it’s sad that you believe <X>”—which immediately puts someone on the defensive, because now if they admit that you’re right then they also have to admit that your judgment of their character was correct—you can say “I don’t think <X> is true.” Instead of saying “<attitude Y> is troubling”—which people sometimes interpret as not only meaning that you think they’re wrong but that you think they’re a bad person for believing it!–you can say “<attitude Y> suffers from <general misconception Z>” or “<attitude Y> is actually harmful to express for <reason W>.”
I’m not arguing that you should believe the second statement over the first, only that purely as an empirical matter it seems to create a more effective and thoughtful discussion. And I’m also not necessarily arguing that one should never shame, just that if one is specifically worried about not-shaming people, it’s possible to dissent without shaming.