We’ve all encountered someone online whose statements and views grate on us. It’s at that point that we need to decide whether it’s worth directly engaging with the individual, and if so, what our ultimate goal is. (Of course there are times when there’s a need to take a public position about something someone’s said, but that’s not what we’re talking about here since those communications tend to be less direct and therefore potentially less explosive than a personal back-and-forth with another individual.)
So let’s assume our goal is not to intentionally antagonize or personally attack this person – after all, that would be immature and a sign of weak self-control – but rather to get them to reconsider their position and possibly even and correct it. So far so good.
The next thing to look at is what type of online communication style this person has. If it contains the following items, then stop and think carefully about whether it’s worth your time and emotional energy to engage with him or her. You’re unlikely to change their mind, may escalate the situation, and are likely putting yourself in the line of fire.
- Highly emotional and reactionary
- Frequent use of absolute language (e.g. always, never, etc.)
- Excessive use of sarcasm and snark
- Intentionally selective omission of information that proves their position or statement wrong
- Personal attacks on others, direct or indirect
- Name calling of others
- Character assassination of others
- A desire to “win” instead of getting at the truth or moving forward on an issue
- A history of online arguments and fights