With the growing prevalence of technologies and virtual forums like instant
messaging, texting, and social media, on-screen communication is nearly
replacing face-to-face dialogue, says Helene Vermaak, Principal Consultant at
The Human Edge, a leading South African training and consulting company.
Vermaak says that according to research undertaken by international
social networks are becoming increasingly hostile. In fact, 78 percent of
respondents report rising incivility online and 2 in 5 admit to blocking,
unsubscribing, or "unfriending' someone due to an argument they had via social
"Social media has enabled us to link with people in and out of our social
circles and ultimately develop relationships in ways that weren?t possible
before,' says Vermaak. "But as with all new things, etiquette and rules around
how to use these platforms haven?t caught up with the massive growth in
Vermaak suggests that it?s time that we all followed a few simple rules to
ensure that crucial conversations held via social media remain informal, but are
She quotes eight tips from VitalSmarts for holding crucial conversations via
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. Use the 4X rule. Since others can?t see or hear you, realise they?ll 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 re-write 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 offense with words that help others
understand your position. For example, replace "that is idiotic' with "I disagree
for the following reasons.'
5. 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
6. 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.
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?re right!
Stop. Take it offline. Or better yet, face-to-face.
8. Apologies take twice as long. If, in the end, you?ve offended someone,
"sorry' isn?t 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.'