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Crucial Applications: Antisocial Networks? How to Hold Effective Crucial Conversations on Social Media

According to our recent poll, social networks are becoming increasingly hostile, with 78 percent of users reporting rising incivility online and two in five blocking, unsubscribing, or “unfriending” someone over an argument on social media.

Specific findings include:

  • 76 percent have witnessed an argument over social media
  • 19 percent have decreased in-person contact with someone because of something they said online
  • 88 percent believe people are less polite on social media than in person
  • 81 percent say the difficult or emotionally charged conversations they have held over social media remain unresolved

Social media platforms aren’t the problem, it’s how people are using them that is causing a degradation of dialogue that has potential to destroy our most meaningful personal relationships.

Here are five tips for communicating both candidly and respectfully on social media:

  1. Check your motives. Social media hasn’t 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. Replace hot words. If your goal is to make a point rather than score a point, replace “hot” words that provoke offense with words that help others understand your position. For example, replace “that is idiotic” with “I disagree for the following reasons . . .”
  3. Pause to put emotions in check. Never post a comment when you’re feeling emotionally triggered. Never! If you wait four hours you’re likely to respond differently.
  4. Agree before you disagree. It’s fine to disagree, but don’t point out your disagreement until you acknowledge areas where you agree. Often, arguers agree on 80 percent of the topic but create a false sense of conflict when they spend all their time arguing over the other 20 percent.
  5. Trust your gut. When reading a response to your post and you feel the conversation is getting too emotional for an online exchange—you’re right! Stop. Take it offline. Or better yet, face-to-face.

For additional advice, including ten things NOT to do when communicating via social media, download our free e-book, “When Crucial Conversations Go Social: How to Handle Heated Discussions via Social Media.”

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