How to Tear Down the Walls of Online Conflict
Technology connects us in so many ways. Yet the jury is still out on whether it consistently builds meaningful connections and supports the relationships you know are essential for effective, sustainable business communications and operations. For instance, do you ever struggle to just pull yourself away from your phone to have a face-to-face conversation with a colleague? Or, have you ever found yourself inadvertently embroiled in an email battle at work? It happens all the time within organizations. People frequently hide behind their virtual walls arguing in conflict, which prevents them from developing real solutions to problems. In the end, this habit can take its toll on time, money, emotions and other precious resources. If you’ve got a tendency to do this or have observed it causing problems for those you lead, do yourself a favor and put a stop to it. Know when to step from behind the screen to talk personally to someone when it’s truly something that matters.
Here are some pointers to help:
1. Watch Out For “Trolls”
There will always be people who provoke us in life. Some of them like to do it through social media, some like to do it through emails, and others like to do it no matter where they’re hanging out. These folks are like trolls, grumbling about their day, waiting to launch a verbal attack. By their very nature, trolls tend to get nasty and delight in being this way. As world-renown social media expert Tara Hunt discusses in one of her recent “Truly Social With Tara” videos, when you encounter such a troll, be very careful and back away slowly. In other words, disengage with the person—in that platform. The sooner you create some space, the less power they immediately have over you. If you really feel you must re-engage with that person, make sure you’ve got a solid strategy for how you’re going to handle the situation. Build a good plan, document your activities, and consider bringing in backup and any other reinforcements you might need.
2. Build Your Awareness Of This Habit
If you’re getting caught up in online or email conflicts, just try to objectively notice what’s going on and why. Are you replying without thinking first? Perhaps reading too much into what others are writing and then reacting defensively or overreacting in general? Are you using bad words, offensive language or other expressions of anger (e.g., shouting in ALL CAPS) that you’d never use if talking to someone’s face? Or do you notice it’s easier to state how you feel behind the screen versus in person? Start asking these and other “noticing” questions, tracking when you’re feeling triggered, what’s factually happening, and why you might be practicing any habits that aren’t serving you (or others) well. Simply creating awareness around your habits is powerful, particularly if you’re considering any type of change.
3. Remember The Goal
Whether you are feeling triggered by someone’s email or another person is feeling triggered by something you’ve written, typing away on your keyboard and further engaging in this activity is highly unlikely to work in anyone’s favor. The best, first course of action is to remember your goal: effective and professional communication. Then, keeping that top of mind, find a means to tackle the tough talk personally. When you or someone else is getting heated up about something, back away from the screen, take some deep breaths, reflect on a better, more productive way to converse, and then go speak to this individual calmly and in person if you can or via phone if you can’t. You may need some time to get your nerve up. Or you might want to practice what you want to say first. Do what you need to do (within reason) to make your communication goal a success.
Research shows Americans spend over 10 hours a day online! How much time do you spend engaged online and “connected”? What percentage of that time is productive? (Consider time at and away from work.)