In some cases, you may feel so strongly about a certain topic and have such an urgency to share it with a large number of people, that maybe it is worth putting out there. Come what may.
But what I’ve personally decided is that most polarizing topics are best discussed real-time one-on-one or in a small group with people who I actually know. That gives me the opportunity to share my perspective in a way that is respectful of my audience. And gives me an opportunity to hear them. We may still not agree in the end. But I’ve actually seen these kinds of personal discussions lead to people changing their minds in a way that I’ve never seen online arguments bring results.
Time-Saving Strategy: Choose to not post something that you know will provoke an argument if you don’t feel it’s a good use of your time to argue online about it. Stop the fight before it starts. Instead share those thoughts and feelings with people who you actually know where you can have a meaningful discussion, journal them out for yourself, or take other productive action in support of your opinions.
Respond From a Place of Strength
When you do decide that it’s worth it to post something online that triggers an argument, you need to choose your response. Sometimes the strongest, most powerful thing that you can do is to simply choose not to engage.
The person with the greatest strength is not the one who always responds but the one who chooses when and how they respond. They may want approval, but don’t need it. And they understand that most people make decisions emotionally and then explain them intellectually. So beating someone over the head with facts likely will do nothing to change their mind, let alone their heart.
When I know that someone is only commenting on something I wrote to create drama and has no genuine interest in a healthy discussion, I will often abstain from responding. I know I could respond, but why would I when the response would only lead to more belligerent comments? That’s a waste of my time and energy. And it’s a waste of yours.
Time-Saving Strategy: If going back and forth all day long is sucking away your attention from activities that actually matter to you, you’re not “winning” by responding to everything. If you truly feel you can engage in a productive discussion, then respond and see where things go. If you know that your reply will only trigger another attack, or the comment comes from a bad-faith argument, either don’t reply or reply with something very neutral such as, “I hear you.” For good measure, consider turning off your notifications so you don’t even see when someone comments until it’s a good time for you to check. If you need to, vent to someone who at least understands you. It will feel more satisfying and validating than online fighting.
Comment With Humanity
People typically express anger when they’re feeling vulnerable—often times the emotion they’re actually feeling below the surface is hurt, fear, or anxiety. When someone shares something online from a place of fear, you need to really think about whether sharing your comment will add anything to the situation or simply make them more anxious and volatile.
Have you ever changed your mind about something important because someone wrote a scathing comment? Nope. You probably just felt hurt and angry and even more adamant that you would never agree with them.
If you actually want someone to change their view, you typically need to come from a place of acknowledging your common humanity. Share your perspective in a way that’s not charged with negative emotions and then give them time and space to decide what they will do.