As an alternative dispute professional whose job is to navigate conflict daily, I am often asked how I would handle certain situations. Recently, I was asked how to avoid engaging in social media battles.
What a timely and apropos question! Neuroscience tells us that we may not be the best versions of ourselves when we are in conflict, whether that’s in person or virtually. The part of our brain responsible for rational thought, the amygdala, is hijacked, and our ability to use executive function is suspended. Here are five tips to help you THINK and resist the urge to respond when you see a triggering post.
T – Test yourself. Ask yourself these questions: Do you have all of the facts? Should you engage, ignore, send a private message or take the conversation offline? Make an informed decision. People often share their thoughts on a breaking story before all the information has been released, and they end up having to issue an apology. Make sure that you have all the information before posting anything.
H – Have a plan. The main issue with social media arguments is that people can become ensnared in an escalating whirlwind of nastiness without even realizing it. Think about what you want to accomplish by participating in the exchange. Be aware of your triggers and have a strategy to navigate them if they are set off. How would you feel if your employer had access to your social media accounts? While some companies have been public about their support of certain movements, others have remained silent or even come out against certain movements. Do your due diligence to make sure that you have selected a company that shares your values.
I – Intent vs. impact. With social media, there may be a big difference between the intent of your message and how it is perceived by others. Take some time to gather your thoughts and consider the impact of your message. You may feel differently a day or a week later.
N – Never take the bait. Some people get a rise out of saying incendiary things on social media just to incite people. Don’t let them lure you in.
K – Know when to fold ’em. Sometimes people engage in a discussion that becomes personal and devolves into nonsense. You must know when to disengage.
Even when people immediately delete something that they posted, there is still a record of it, and oftentimes the damage has already been done. Use THINK to be more present and thoughtful instead of reactive and regretful.
A variation of this post was previously published on the BreakthroughADR website.