October is National Bullying Prevention Month. So in this article we’re looking at something that’s a bit of an internet phenomenon – what to do when people write spiteful, judgemental or mean comments online.
People say things online they would never dare say to your face. It’s easier to be mean online – they’re talking to a machine or a photograph, not YOU. These cyber bullies and snarks often have no idea who you are, where you’re coming from – and little or no real idea of the impact of their comments.
But bullying is still bullying whether it’s in person – or online. And mean comments are no less hurtful simply because they’re on a computer screen. So, what should we do?
Well, here are 7 Ways to Deal with Spiteful, Judgemental or Mean Comments Online:
- Simply IGNORE the comment. The end.
- DELETE the comment (most websites have an option to do this).
- And/or BLOCK the person entirely, ‘unfriend’ them, remove them from your circles and lists.
WHEN: If you don’t know the person well – or when you don’t want to waste your time responding to them.
- Depending on the level of abuse and how you feel you can REPORT their comment and behaviour to the site administrator (most websites have a ‘report’ function these days).
WHEN: If they are making sexist, racist, homophobic or any other ‘phobic’ comments, if they are a repeat offender or if they’re abusive or threatening.
Respond (Stand up for Yourself):
- Call them on it. Tell them that you find their comment inappropriate. TIP: It can be helpful to stop right there and ignore anything else they say to avoid being drawn into an argument.
- Set the facts straight. Take each of their points and respond clearly and factually. For each point you make, ask yourself, is this FACT or opinion? This strategy takes time to do well so make sure it is worth your while.
WHEN: If the mean comments negatively affect your career/business – especially if their comment can’t be deleted.
- Let them know the impact of their behaviour. Tell them how their comments affected you. This strategy is not about making them feel bad, it’s about letting them know the impact of their comments so that they might think twice about doing it again.
WHEN: If you feel someone could benefit from hearing the impact of their comments on others. NOTE: This strategy takes real courage. By sharing your feelings, you are showing your vulnerability to the wider world. Only do this if you feel confident and can emotionally deal with a mean response - like being ridiculed or further attacked.
What NOT to do when Responding: DON’T try and change their mind or get them to apologise. If someone is being spiteful or abusive then you can be sure there is another agenda behind their mean comments – they have ALREADY made up their minds. Don’t waste your precious time and energy on a fruitless task.
In Summary: Each situation is unique – there is no one-size fits all response to mean and unpleasant comments. You can use any combination of these strategies at any time, just follow your integrity and your intuition. If you do ‘Respond’, be polite, direct and factual, don’t fall down the slippery slope of becoming a bully yourself. And know that by making a conscious decision about the action you will take – even if that decision is to ‘Ignore’ or delete the mean comments – you’ve reclaimed your power.
Remember: If the mean comments persist or are abusive – online or not – it IS bullying.
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