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Forum Etiquette: Effective Communication (Read Before Posting)

To make this forum efficient, please follow these basic rules.

Quick recap:

  1. Search if your question has already been addressed
    1. If yes, read/reply there. If not, go ahead and open a new thread
  2. Post in the relevant section
  3. Stay on topic: one topic, one question
  4. Use clear and descriptive titles: titles are the summary of what's inside
  5. Keep it short and clear: sometimes it's difficult to make it short and clear. Then make it as short as possible, while still being clear.
  6. If it's a question, answer it yourself first: if you don't know the answer, try
  7. Make it easy/captivating to read: avoid walls of texts, use titles, subtitles, bold, and quotation blocks (quotation blocks are the best)
  8. Give & take
  9. Link & explain, rather than link & expect: instead of dropping links to external resources and videos expecting others to read or watch everything, summarize yourself the main takeaways

1. Check if the Topic Has Been Addressed Before

You can use the search function:

search fucntion on forum

Type the main keywords you are interested in.
And if there is a topic already, reply to that one.

The advantages of posting on already existing topics:

  1. The original topic becomes more exhaustive, making for a more effective forum
  2. You get a chance to review what's already been said
  3. You internalize other people's contribution, helping you understand & strategize better
  4. Everyone who was in that thread gets a notification, increasing the chances you get a reply

1.2. ... And if it wasn't, open a new topic

If you have a new question that hasn't been addressed, open a new topic.

See an example of breaking this rule:

example of going off topic on a forum

This is called "thread hijacking".
The issues with "thread hijacking" are:

  1. People won't be able to find the new topic because the title won't match the new, different content
  2. People lose a chance to address and dig deeper on the original question, which has been hijacked
  3. The new topic might not receive as much attention as it's hidden under a different title and mixed with a different topic

To keep a neat and organized forum where titles match the content, plase stay on topic and open new threads for new topics.

2. Post Your Topic In The Relevant Section

The forum titles represent the topics discussed in that section.

The titles should be self-explanatory: power dynamics is the general forum for socialization and power-dynamics dating is for dating, negotiation is for negotiation, and so far.

Yes, sometimes there is a certain overlap, so don't sweat it too much.
For example, a question on a video on frame control could go under "examples" or "power dynamics". Or even dating or relationships if it's about male/female dynamics.

In that case, just use your own judgment and seek to place it in the section that applies best.

2.1. Power University Forums Are Exclusively for Power University Questions

Power University alumni have access to two more forums:

  • Advanced forum for add-ons to the course & private questions
  • Power University talks, for questions about Power University only

Please use these sections exclusively for questions related to Power University lessons or for questions that you absolutely cannot ask publicly.
All other questions go in the public forums.

2.2. "Proven" Forums Are for Proven Strategies & Techniques

The sub-forums marked as "proven" are a repository of high-quality resources for effective and proven strategies.

Readers who open those sections must be able to go straight to what's been proven to work.

Feel free to post there, but only if you're sure that what you're sharing works.
So either you've done it a lot of times, you've read something that's been tested to work a lot of times, or because you've seen someone having lots and/or repeated success with it.

2.3 "Feedback & Clarifications" Thread Are for Personal Feedback

The "Feedback & Clarification" thread has become a great place to improve one's own emotional intelligence and social effectiveness.

That thread is for feedback on peole's behavior and action relating to social and power dynamics, and for effective interpersonal communication.

3. Address One Issue At A Time (One Topic, One Topic Only)

Open one single topic for one single issue, example, or question.

This is far better for forum usability, and it helps to keep the post on the topic.

What's in it for you when you only address one issue per post?
When you address one single issue per post, you control the topic and what gets answered.

On the other hand, if you raise several issues and questions per topic, you give away power to those who answer, because they will pick and choose what they prefer to answer.

4. Use Clear Titles

Use clear and descriptive titles.

The best titles are a summary of the question or topic you are addressing.

See here one example:

example of proper forums' titles

The original title was "dominant men".

But that says little about the asker's question.
She wanted to find, meet, and attract dominant men.
The new title I used "dominant men: how to meet, date, and attract them" covers her question, and is clear and on point.

This is important for forum usability.
With correct titles, people know what interests them and what they can skip. And that also makes it a matter of respect towards others: poor titles waste our time.

But it's also important for you.
People who are short tend to be "risk-averse" when it comes to time, and they aren't going to open generic titles.
So the clearer (and catchier) the title, the more likely it is that high-wisdom users will open your post (and reply to it).
The more generic the title, the less likely it is that high-wisdom users will want to open it and read it.

Here is another example:

proper forum communication

Short titles sometimes can work if the question is simple or the topic if very general.

But in doubt, err on the side of specificity: better a few more words that make the title more specific, than a short and generic title.

5. KISC: Keep It Short & Clear

These are life skills:

  • Simplifying events
  • Teasing out the main lessons learned
  • Presenting them in a clear and captivating form
  • Keeping it brief

Here are some good steps on how to do it effectively:

  1. Clarify it to yourself first: it's common not being sure about what happened, or what you want. Taking a few moments to gain clarity for yourself first is not just a precondition for great communication, but also an opportunity for personal growth
  2. Put yourself in other people's shoes: now you might have a better idea about what you want to say or ask, but remind yourself that others have still no idea. So your job is to:
  3. Present it in a way that's clear to them: with all the information needed to gain clarity and understanding, but no more. Because:
  4. Present in a format that is as simple & as brief as possible: imagine communication like running against a clock. Because that's what it is. Everyone is running on a very limited budget of time and attention. You must grab that attention and keep it until the end. The best way, is with a short and captivating format (more on it later)

Look at communicating effectively in this way:

Mindset: I must share all the most important details, while also keeping it as brief as possible

That's the task:

  1. Clarity
  2. Exhaustiveness
  3. In as short a space as possible

6. If It's A Question, Answer It Yourself First

You might not be sure how to act or react to a certain situation, but try to answer your own question first.

Why would you want to answer your own question first?

  1. You know the situation better than anyone else: social strategies are highly contextual. You know the context better than anyone, don't waste that vantage point by withholding your own solutions
  2. It provides more insights to yourself and others: as you share possible solutions, you also share more insights on the situation, increasing awareness both to yourself, and to others
  3. It increases your effectiveness: you know the proverb about fishes and fishing, right? The more you strategize for your own life, the more you learn and internalize the actual skills that will serve you for a lifetime
  4. You start owning the problem, which helps you develop an "ownership" mindset and a "can-do" attitude
  5. You increase participation: people who might have had no idea, can build on your original thoughts, or give you feedback

And, finally:

  • You obey the "WIIFM" and the law of social exchange: dumping questions and letting others do all the work is the lazy man's approach. Show you've done your homework first, that you are a smart, eager individual who is willing to think things through and contribute opinions and ideas, and people will be more willing to help you as well

6.2. Address The Whole Community (AKA: Avoid "Hi Lucio.. ")

When you open a post, address the whole community.

If you address Lucio only, other readers who might have had great inputs on the subject will feel cut out and might refrain from providing ideas and/or joining the discussion later on.

If you need someone's specific input, you can use "@".
But don't overuse it: remember that asking is taking, and you don't want to come across like a value-drainer.

7. Quote the Relevant Section Only

If you are quoting someone, quote only the relevant part within their message that is relevant to your reply or question.

Take this message for example:

example of poor forum skills

He asks me one single question.
Not too specific but IF he had quote a small line, it would have been easy for me to understand what he was referring to.

But now look at how he quoted my initial message:

example of ineffective communication on digital forums


I wanted to answer this question.
But doing so would have required big investment from my side: re-read all my old message, then try to guess what he was referring to, then replying.

Too much effort.

And that also breaks the law of social exchange.
Even though I wanted to help, he needed an answer, so he should have made it easy for me to provide one. Since he didn't, he created the preconditions for a very unbalanced relationship where one party does all the work, and one gets all the benefits. Too big of a gap.

8. Make It Captivating

"Captivating" means holding people's attention.

That means more replies and more input if you're asking something, or bigger audience and influence if you're providing something.

Some ways to write in a more captivating format:

8.2. Break Up Your Message

The true basic of effective communication.

Whenever I see walls of text I'd tear my hair out, if I'd had any.

wall of text picture example from thepowermoves forum

When people are in front of your message, it's as if they were starting a journey.

Breaking up the message is like offering breaks and stops in between that journey.

A wall of text instead is like telling people: now go, start walking, 1.000 miles without a single stop.

What will people do?
They will resist starting in the first place, because it feels like an impossible journey. They will fear to start that journey. They think they will die along the way without the possibility of catching their breath.

A skilled digital communicator will take it upon himself to make that digital reading journey seem easier and more inviting.

Some ways of doing it:

8.3. Highlight & Grab Attention

How would you feel listening to someone with a robotic, monotone voice?

You probably wouldn't be exactly enthralled by their presentation.

Instead, the charismatic public speakers "mark-up" their script, to use Roger Love's expression.
Such as, they change melody, volume, and pace to grab people's attention and to highlight what they want to highlight which, again, gives them control over their own message.

Well, it's the same for written text.

Long texts without highlights are the written equivalent of robotic, droning voices.
They make people tune out.

To make your text "alive":

  1. Line breaks
  2. Paragraphs
  3. Highlights / bold text
  4. Images (such huge attention grabbers!)
  5. One-liners: super short sentences standing on their own line (a true communication hack)

8.4. Use Blockquotes

Imagine you're reading these dialogues:

I said it was a good idea, then B said it was a good idea, and I replied let's proceed.

  • I said it was a good idea
  • B said it was a good idea
  • I said let's proceed

Me: I think it's a good idea
Him: I agree it's a good idea
Me: Alright, great, let's proceed then!

Which one is easier to read, comprehend, and also more likely to be read by others?

It's the latter.
So use the blockquote format when trascribing dialogues.

9. Seek to Give, Take Smartly, & Keep a Balanced Social Account (Enlightened Collaboration)

This is the same in a forum, as much as anywhere else in life.

Indeed, this goes at the core of general life's (social) success.

In the specifics of the forum, keep in mind that asking questions only means to ask for value, so that makes you value-taking, and puts you at a negative social balance.

Likely, you will not get lots of value if you ask a lot of questions in a row without giving back since people will instinctively brand you as a taker, and will want to stop dealing with you.

That's another great advantage of providing your own answer first: you give something first, as people can learn something even from a bad approach.
And you make it easier for others to reply, since they can provide feedback on your approach first.

There is also another easy way to ask questions and still give something back:

9.2. If you get an answer, give value back with feedback, your thoughts, and pdate, or... Just say "thanks"

Remember that "value" includes emotions and attitudes.

Gratitude or appreciation are also part of giving back.

Now to understand this point, ask yourself this:

Who asks a question, gets an answer, and then disappears?

Is it a value taker, or someone who seeks balanced exchanges?

When people give answers and get nothing back, how are they likely to feel? Would they feel happy and validated that they helped, or would they feel like someone took from them and didn't give anything back?
Obviously, it's the latter.

Asking and disappearing is the equivalent of a social hit and run.

Don't be a social hit and run, ask, give feedback, add your own thoughts, or say thanks to those who have taken the time to help you -true both in the forum, and in life-.

10. If You're Linking a Video Or Resource, Summarize the Key Point(s) In Your Message

Here's the truth:

Most people aren't going to watch a video that is longer than a few seconds.

And, they're right.
This is, again, a case of "make it easy for people to process the information you're sharing.

Dropping a link or a video is "information-dumping".
And you don't want to dump on your audience.
Remember: it's your duty as the communicator to present information in a way that is easy and captivating to absorb and process.

So instead of "video-dumping", link the video or external resource, but right below it:

  1. Quote the relevant dialogue, or
  2. Write the main message / lesson learned in bullet point

This also applies to your email communication: rather than just dropping attachments, explain what those attachments are, or quote the most important bits.

If you're referring to more than one section, put down the minute mark you're referring to.
Speaking of which:

10.2. If You're Linking to a Specific Time In a Video, Link to That Specific time

Right-click on the loading bar, select "copy video URL at current time":

Or, alternatively, click "share" right below the video and then click the option "start at".

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

great set of smart rules!

I thought I read it, but I just read the beginning. Now I read it all. I've seen a few things I will apply from now on.

I did the 'leave after having question asked' thing a few times. Oops. I'll do my best to give back from now on.

Thanks Lucio - we all kind of know this etiquette but often get focused on what WE WANT to know.  You only have to go for a drive to see how often people forget the rules.  Nice set of social ground rules and critical thinking 101.