VITALSMART consultancy gives eight tips for holding crucial conversations via social media:
1. Check your motives. Social media has not only changed the way we communicate, it has modified our motives. Ask yourself, “Is my goal to get lots of ‘likes’ (or even provoke controversy)?” or “Do I want healthy dialogue?”
2. Use the 4X rule. Since others cannot see or hear you, realise they will amplify the emotion of anything you write fourfold.
3. Write it twice. Before posting your comments, re-read your message and ask yourself, “How might someone misunderstand my intent?” Then rewrite it to ensure your true feelings come across.
4. Replace hot words. If your goal is to make a point rather than score a point, replace “hot” words that provoke offence with words that help others understand your position. For example, replace “that is idiotic” with “I disagree for the following reasons”, and list the reasons.
5. Pause to put emotions in check. Never post a comment when you are feeling emotional. Never! If you wait four hours you are likely to respond differently.
6. Agree before you disagree. It is fine to disagree, but do not point out your disagreement until you acknowledge areas where you agree. Often, arguers agree on 80% of the topic but create a false sense of conflict when they spend all their time arguing over the other 20%.
7. Trust your gut. When reading a response to your post and you feel the conversation is getting too emotional for an online exchange – you are right! Stop. Take it offline. Or better yet, face to face.
8. Apologies take twice as long. If, in the end, you have offended someone, “sorry” is not nearly long enough. Express your remorse in an extended enough form to demonstrate your sincerity.
Vermaak concludes that recently there have been a number of celebrity faux pas in the social media space. “Perhaps if they had applied the above guidelines they would not be finding themselves in these awkward situations.”