Navigating online debates can be a minefield, especially when emotions run high and trolls are out in full force. Reacting impulsively might feel satisfying in the moment, but it rarely leads to productive conversations or changed perspectives.
Henry Ortiz, a Gestalt psychologist, warns against the quick win mentality, emphasizing that arguing and trying to have the last word rarely win people over to your perspective. So, how do you avoid saying something you might regret? Five experts share their insights.
Put things in perspective:
When emotions are high, reactions often stem from past pains and fears. Bernasha Anderson, a psychologist, suggests recognizing the underlying issues and understanding that your current argument may be tapping into deeper-seated emotions. Circumstances matter too, as overwhelming situations in other areas of life can contribute to heightened tensions.
Pause and take it all in:
Brad Bushman, a social psychologist, advocates for a moment of pause. Acknowledge your emotional state and ask for a break from the conversation if needed. Michelle Drouin suggests setting boundaries in online discussions, making it clear that certain issues are off-limits publicly but open for private discussion.
Lead with empathy:
Joy Harden Bradford, a psychologist, recommends starting difficult conversations with empathy. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings and express your own without attacking. View differences of opinion as interesting rather than threatening, and listen actively.
Focus on a solution:
Recognize that fights may be about underlying issues. Instead of viewing the other person as an adversary, approach it as a team effort to address the real problem. Apologize if necessary and discuss how to move forward. If the argument stems from a feeling of powerlessness over broader issues, channel that energy into more productive actions.
Plan for the future:
Tough conversations will arise again, so plan how to handle them better in the future. Establish boundaries for fair fighting and decide what topics are off-limits. Be empathetic and understanding, realizing that not every disagreement is a make-or-break moment in a relationship.
In the heat of an argument, remember the humanity of the person you’re engaging with, as well as your own. Be intentional about giving yourself compassion and forgiving both yourself and others. In a world marked by dehumanization, maintaining empathy and understanding is crucial.