Conflict: Fight? Flight? Freeze?

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If you spend any time on social media today, you are just as likely to see conflict as you see cute baby animals and funny GIFs. And if you manage a social media community, you’re already familiar with that moment when you see an uncomfortable post, tweet or comment.

“Do I engage?”

“Do I pretend to disappear?”

“And in the meantime, I think I’ll just freeze.”

Conflict on social media leaves an account manager, if anything, conflicted. These difficult moments are where communications leaders are made — and the decisions are often less tricky than they might feel. Here are the questions I ask myself when I find myself navigating a conflict in our district’s social media community.

  • Q: Is this person in violation of our community guidelines?
    If yes, I will take a screen shot of the post for documentation and then delete the post as quickly as possible. I will also notify the person who posted or commented that the content was in violation of our guidelines and therefore removed.
  • Q: Is this person just looking for a fight?
    If yes, I will respond once, calmly, and likely not engage again. I will continue to monitor and document, if needed.
  • Q: Is this person seeking a solution?
    If yes, I will engage as long as the conversation is constructive and respectful. If a conversation longer than 2-3 comments is required, it’s best to take it offline.
  • Q: Is this person hurting or scared?
    If yes, I will comment and seek a way to take the conversation offline. It can be very difficult for a person to communicate clearly in search of a solution, if he or she is afraid — perhaps worried about their child’s well being or in pain from a difficult situation. If I sense this to be the case, I opt for a private message, email or phone call to help resolve the situation in a safe and private place.
  • Q: Do we (or someone who works for our district) owe this person an apology?
    If yes, I will apologize, briefly and sincerely, without delay. An effective apology costs me nothing when procedures or activities don’t go as intended. It’s a chance to express our regret, explain that our expectations are higher, and reassure that we are taking steps to do better in the future. A sincere apology — when due — disarms almost any angry person.

While navigating a social media conflict can be challenging, it is also the valuable opportunity to invest in a relationship with one person. And furthermore, it is the priceless opportunity to show all the other people who are watching that you are kind, respectful and deserving of their trust.

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