Saturday, August 27, 2011

I can't explain

This blog title was the name of a 1960s hit by The Who. It is also the key to using social media without turning into a boor. Let me, um, explain...

Say someone posts something. Someone else doesn't like it - and posts a comment saying so. Then the first person responds by explaining their position. The second person still doesn't like it. Invariably the first person usually keeps explaining, and explaining, and explaining some more.

Does it work? Never.

When people don't agree with you, online or in the real world, you can't explain. At least at first. If someone doesn't like your political position, explaining it further will not change their mind. If what you posted offended someone, explaining it will only make you sound defensive. And if someone is ranting, explaining your rational position usually leads to more ranting.

If you want to see an example of this in action, look no further than the comments section of just about any online news story. Some troll posts something that annoys people, someone else takes offense and responds, the troll responds with more trollishness, and they go back and forth at it until everyone is exhausted and gives up. Does anyone ever "see the light" in these discussions? Nope.

So how can you respond to someone else's negativity online? You really only have three choices:

1) Apologize. Apologizing when you offend someone does not diminish you. It enhances you. Unfortunately, most people react the opposite way because they do not get this.

2) Own your truth. If you firmly believe what you write, and someone else disagrees with you, don't try to convince them they are wrong – convince them how firmly you believe in yourself. There is all the difference in the world between "Here are X reasons why I am correct" versus "I respect your view. I see why you feel that way. And I have a different view."

3) Walk away. For example, lots of people post reviews of my books in places like Most of them are just ducky. Recently, one wasn't very complimentary at all. My response? No response. First, I respect whatever the marketplace thinks of my wares – but more important, nothing I could possibly say would matter. So often, the best answer of all is the lack of one.

All of these revolve around the subtle difference between engaging people versus defending yourself. One approach works and the other doesn't. If you feel differently, you would have to somehow explain it to me. No, wait, scratch that.


Richard Bradley said...

I agree with you and I think you are brilliant, Rich!

Rich Gallagher said...

Thank you Richard - you're the best!