We’ve all been there, happily reading the timeline of posts shared by our friends on Facebook or followed accounts on Twitter, and then there it is - a post which makes your blood boil!
Maybe it’s a customer complaint, a political or religious view that you disagree with or just a friend who’s got a bit carried away with their opinions. Whatever it is the natural human reaction is to do something about it RIGHT NOW!!! You want to respond with a pointed, fact heavy explanation of why exactly the offending post is completely wrong….
….but we all know where that can lead.
All too soon opinions, accusations and even threats are being banded to and fro across cyberspace and in extreme cases friendships, family relationships and reputations can be left in tatters. There are no winners, just bad feeling and messy situations to sort out.
I recently heard the following statement that immediately struck a cord with me - ‘All communication is heartfelt appreciation or a cry for help'. So which of these do you think the offending post is? And what should we do next?
Here are three questions you might like to ask yourself before responding. They may not solve every specific problem but it’s our guess they'll prevent many from drifting in meltdown…
1. How big a problem is it really?
Yes, you’re offended, upset and maybe even a few tears have been shed but time is a great healer and most problems aren’t as big as you think they are, especially after giving yourself a little time to calm down.
Some years ago I met someone who is, to this day, the calmest person I have ever known. No matter what the disaster was he simply shrug his shoulders and asked how we could solve the problem. When I asked a mutual colleague how he stayed so calm he explained that the person concerned used to be an air traffic controller and to him, unless several hundred people were about to die, the problem wasn’t really that big. His philosophy stays with me every day.
2. What might happen if I respond angrily?
What’s the ‘worst case’ scenario? Could I end up offending an even wider group with my own opinion and how could that damage me and / or my business?
If you still feel a reply is needed, use this simple procedure for crafting a balanced response – but only if you absolutely have to!
- Write your response in a separate place. If your using Twitter or Facebook write your response first into Word or another text editor. Taking the problem out of its natural environment will help ensure the response is balanced. Also, it means you're much less likely to post it by mistake before you're finished!
- Leave it for five minutes. Make a cup of tea or coffee, do something else and then come back to your draft response. Is it still appropriate, balanced and what you REALLY need to say? You may wish to edit at this point...
- Finally, show your response to a trusted friend. Someone who will give you an honest opinion as to how your reply might be received. You're probably too close to the situation to have the clearest opinion, so this step is vital.
3. Is there a better way to discuss this?
When it comes to sorting out interpersonal issues, online is rarely the right forum to do it. Why not make time to sit down with the original poster and explain clearly and calmly how their post has affected you, and how others might react to it.
Most people are inherently good but in the seclusion of the Internet some feel protected and free to express whatever views are filling their head, regardless of consequence. The social filter that normally sits between a thought in the brain and words expressed can quickly become erroded or removed completely when people are no longer face to face. A sit down chat or even a phone call is likely to be a much more effective way of explaining yourself than an online response.
And that’s it!
While we can’t guarantee the above method will deliver a perfect outcome every time, it's served us very well in the past. On that note, we’ll leave you with an old saying that applies nicely to this subject…
'The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.' Shakespeare, in Henry IV, Part One