I love the concept of charitable reading posted by Meredith Farkas:
My post earlier in the week may just have gotten more comments than anything I’ve ever written. I believe Steve Lawson called it “a great trainwreck of a comments thread.” In addition, I have received a dozen e-mails and IMs from readers of my blog extending their support. One of those e-mails was from my friend Josh Neff. He mentioned a term that I’d never heard before and that really struck a chord with me: charitable reading. I hope he doesn’t mind that I quote him here:
Having spent years on web forums where people got in the pissiest, snarkiest arguments I’ve ever seen (and sometimes been a part of), I’ve picked up on one thing that I think is crucial for any kind of internet discussion: charitable reading. Read what I’ve written assuming that I mean the best possible thing, not the worst.
So often in online communities people start with the assumption of being attacked or negative writing. Or they assume nefarious intent in someone's writing. How many flame wars have you seen that start due to a misunderstanding? (There are plenty that are started with an accelerant-laced post too.)
So, make a commitment to assume the best, rather than the worst, as you read e-mail, blogs, and discussions in your various communities.