Web 2.0 Conflict

VERY GOOD (IMO) blog posting which although rather basic needs a whole lot more distribution…


HOW TO: Deal With Social Media Conflict

February 22, 2009 – 12:00 pm PDT – by Sharlyn Lauby

No matter how knowledgeable you are and how much research you do, there will come a time when someone disagrees with something you write. Might be a friend on Facebook or a stranger on Twitter or your blog. How you handle a differing opinion will speak volumes about you and can either enhance (or undermine) your personal credibility.

When you encounter conflict in the face-to-face work environment, you can go into that person’s office, have a private chat, talk out the matter then go out for a beer. But, how do you handle it in the world of social media? And with the whole world watching?

Let’s use an example. Say you’re a Mac and I’m a PC. You write something about how great Macs are…and I decide to write a vivid response about my differing view. There are 3 things to remember when responding to differing points of view.

1. Don’t take it personally

Chances are the negative comment is not about you personally. It’s about something that you wrote. Yes, there’s a difference. No one is calling you stupid, ugly or talking trash about a close family member. They’re just saying they don’t agree with what you wrote.

So let’s use the example above. You write an article about how great Macs are and I write a reply that Macs are lame because you can’t right click. (Might seem like a simplistic example but people can get very attached to their computers.)

2. Process before responding

You might be tempted to shoot off an immediate knee-jerk reply but resist that urge. It’s important to take time, fully understand the other guy’s position, and compose your thoughts. Determine the purpose of your reply. (And, as tempting as it may be…the purpose is not pwning the guy back.)

The other thing to remember is…by just allowing a little bit of time, other people could give you some creative inspiration or maybe even help fight your battle. For example, someone recently posted a comment on my blog. Something that I needed to respond to. As I was compiling my thoughts, another comment came in. That next comment was directed at the same person and helped me refine my reply. So patience can indeed be a virtue.

3. Find something to agree with

This is important. Try to find something…even if it seems minor, that you can agree with. It helps to balance the conversation.

Using our Mac/PC example, you might say you agree the no right click capability is a pain but the stability of the operating system far outweighs the inconvenience of the no right click feature. You’ve found some common ground. That opening statement immediately takes the sting out of anything else you might say.

Don’t forget when responding to differing views that conversation is key. It’s obvious that this person felt comfortable expressing their negative or alternative view with you. The last thing you want to do is betray that trust.

So while you can’t have a private convo and buy this person a drink afterward, it’s possible to have a productive and beneficial difference of opinion. You might need this person’s PC view some day…and you will be able to tap into them as a resource. In the end, following these three steps might mean you are achieving the goal of conversation…which is pretty much what social media is all about, right?

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Amy Hooker

Good post. Sometimes when you feel really passionate about what you do, it’s difficult not to take things personally–but like you said, you can’t. Just because you *can* write and send a comment back in 2 seconds doesn’t mean you should. I think that the ‘sit on it for a few hours and then decide if you feel the same’ approach is the way to go.

It’s also good, however, to be able to discern between a dissenting opinion and a troll…the latter requires different handling altogether. 🙂