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For example, you say “Reg, you are a consistently intelligent guy, but relating a personal anecdote is not the most persuasive form of rhetoric, try again.” Let’s think about that one for a moment. It’s really Dr. Seligman’s theory, isn’t it? You say something positive, and you make it personal, general, and permanent. Then you say something negative, but it’s impersonal, it’s specific, and ideally it’s temporary.

This makes other people feel good, and it gets your point across, and we need to do more of that in our technical community. Most of the ad hominem flame wars I see do the reverse: They criticize people in a very personal, general, and permanent way, like saying “So-and-so is a douchebag,” and the little praise they hand out is impersonal, specific and temporary “The framework he created was interesting when it first appeared, but so much has happened since then.”

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