Dealing with negativity in online communities (NHBPM 14)

The most effective piece of advice for dealing with negativity is this – don’t spread fires, put them out.


That doesn’t just mean swift removal of trolls (which is a rather more well-known issue) but also this: assume the best intentions until proven otherwise. That is, don’t be naive – but take everything with grace.

When you write something, it is often very difficult to convey the exact feelings you have which go alongside the piece. The shorter your writing, the less context you can give it – and that leaves much room for misinterpretation. Even face to face, how many times have we had arguments due to someone else’s misunderstanding of our intent, or something we mis-phrased?

It is equally hard to pick up on the exact sentiments someone is conveying when you read something. You may assume due to certain words that they are angry – they may be joking. A smiley emote may make you think they are laughing at you – actually, they are trying to reassure you. It is very easy to quickly anger over the assumed intention of someone else’s words, but it may also be entirely unwarranted.

When we look at our own actions, we see behind them all our fears and feelings, everything that lead up to them and from them which excuses us in our own eyes from harsh judgement. Very rarely are we purely spiteful (or so I would hope). Extent to others the same grace you give yourself – if something angers you, allow them to explain it. If someone disagrees, do not take their violent words as hostility against you, but against the subject itself. Leave room for error. Acknowledge that people make mistakes, and often talk from what they feel instead of what they know.

Don’t spread fires – put them out.


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