I suppose now that we’ve been formally inducted into the digital age, it’s bound to happen to all of us. The angry email from a friend, relative, or co-worker who has an axe to grind about something we did or didn’t do. The Facebook comment about how completely wrong you were to post a specific comment or status. The text message with the angry eyes emoticon repeated several times in succession. How do you handle it? In many situations a face-to-face meeting to discuss the issue will be impossible. Here are a few thoughts on how to respond wisely.
1. Don’t feel obligated to respond.
This is perhaps the best advice I’ve ever been given about wisely handling these types of situations. Often, there will be no reason or cause to respond when you receive this kind of message. Sometimes, I find myself halfway through a type-written answer to a piece of anger mail only to realize that the only reason I’m responding is to vindicate myself while giving the other person a piece of my mind. That’s not a good enough reason to waste the time or effort to formulate a response. Sometimes saying nothing is the wisest course of action. Refuse to let someone write you into their drama. You’ve got better things to do.Refuse to let someone write you into their drama. You’ve got better things to do. Click To Tweet
Proverbs 26:4 (NLT)
4 Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.
2. When you must respond, spend some time formulating a response. Do not respond in a moment of anger.
Time is your friend. That first blush moment of anger that we all feel when someone really misjudges our character or inaccurately portrays us (especially in a public forum like social media) is a very bad time to formulate decisions or phrase responses. In those moments, the best thing we can do is set it aside for a bit, allow ourselves to calm down, and then decide how to respond. If possible, talk to someone you consider to be very balanced and wise. Share your intended response with them. See what they think.
Proverbs 15:28a (NLT)
28 The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking…
3. Use an economy of words.
This is really just an extra thought that belongs with the last point, but was so important that I gave it its own heading. Don’t say more than you have to. That’s great life advice in general, but probably no more important than in this arena, where everything you say and do is often public record. Think through the main message that should be conveyed, and then decide how to say it in the least verbose way. Don’t wax eloquent, and resist the urge to chase rabbit trails. Stay on topic, be brief, be succinct, and be done.
4. Use a friendly tone.
Just because someone used an angry or aggressive tone with you in their post, message, or email, doesn’t mean that you should follow suit. In fact, the best thing you can do is to refuse to match tone with them.
When I was studying broadcasting in college, I learned the importance of smiling even when people can’t see you. My radio professor told me, “Jonathan, they can hear your smile over the radio. Smile… even if you don’t love what the caller had to say. No point in letting one caller tank your whole show.” That was good advice for working with call-in shows, and it’s good advice for this topic as well. When you type that email, text message, or social media post, try to use a friendly tone. Don’t let the anger of the person that provoked you dictate your mood. Find a way to rise above the drama. It’ll pay off in the long run.
I hope this has been helpful. What do you find to be a helpful strategy in responding to digital slights?