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Constructively, Positively Social

The online environment is filled with all sorts of people with all sorts of motives and influences. And, unfortunately what’s true in real life is even more pronounced online: it’s easier to tear things down than to build them up. Frank Eliason, SVP of Social Media for Citibank, is calling for a time out – a day to reflect and be positive. Today is #PositivelySocial and Frank has outlined some specifics of what that means here. He encourages you to think about contributing something good that you see happening in the world – whether online or off.

While we think it’s a great idea to spend a day reflecting on what we post and how we interact online, we can also sympathize with the alternative perspective offered by Doug Haslam in that it’s important to disagree too and that we should make an effort to be positive and constructive every day.

Regardless of how you feel about participating in #PositivelySocial today, we think community managers have a unique responsibility to help people better communicate online. Community managers can take any and all of the following steps to help people interact in more constructive ways:

  • Lead by example. Empathize, be curious instead of defensive, and assert your own opinions while acknowledging and providing room for alternate points of view. Think twice before using words like ‘always, everyone, forever, never’ as well as the obvious name calling.
  • Assume the best and assist people in re-framing or re-phrasing how they are expressing their perspectives or ask clarifying questions. In most cases, the dialogue will benefit. In a minority of cases, you’ll expose a position that is more intentionally antagonistic.
  • Take it offline. If a conflict is gaining steam and being disruptive, it is often useful to get the participants on the phone.
  • Get involved by backchanneling. If people are piling on, stepping in with a simple reminder to be constructive can often put an end to things. We can all get caught up in conversations from behind a keyboard and for most of us, a simple reminder that we’ve gone too far is enough.
  • Don’t feed the trolls. Encourage others not to either. People who express their opinions poorly and trolls are very different and it’s easy to tell the difference if you have some experience.

For more information on how to manage online conflict, please check out these resources at Civilination, an organizations looking to counteract online hostility and foster civil online dialogue.

What techniques have worked for you in defusing destructive dialog? Are you celebrating #PositivelySocial today?

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