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Ourselves Online: Addressing Conflict Virtually

Ourselves Online: Addressing Conflict Virtually


The Conflict Center believes that conflict is an opportunity to solve problems and build relationships. When conflict shows up virtually it can feel hard to address it, so we may be tempted to simply not respond, block, hide or unfriend. Or, alternatively, to get caught up in the moment and respond in kind. Typically, those responses are not in line with how we want to “be” in the world and do not address conflict effectively. 

As we spend more time virtually, here are some reminders and tips:

1. Think about what you would do if you were in person

If someone shared something you knew was inaccurate, told an offensive joke or simply said something that hurt your feelings at the dinner table, how would you respond?  Sometimes we ignore the situation then too, however, we are more likely to talk to the person one on one and share our feelings. The same should hold true online. Reach out privately through messenger to share your concerns or pick up the phone to have a conversation.  When you feel that it is important to more publicly address the situation, remember to focus on the behavior of the person and not attack the character of the person. 


2. Pause before responding online

The benefit of social media or texts, is that you can take some time to calm down before responding.  Avoid the temptation to fire off a response. Instead give yourself time to think about what you want to say and how you want to show up. 


3. Remember that video conferencing isn’t the same as in-person

While video conferencing has the benefit of feeling more like in-person connections, remembering that it isn’t the same as in-person connections is important. While it definitely helps to be able to see people’s facial expressions and hear tone, the distance still requires that we check in about our assumptions and the stories we tell ourselves.  Instead of thinking “wow, she was clearly really angry about what I said,” check it out. Something like, “it seems like you had a strong reaction to my last comment, can we talk about that?” is helpful for initiating open and clear communication. 


4. Review your posts and interactions in social media

Conduct a self audit of what you have posted, shared or said online.  Ask yourself if your posts are representations of your values. Our behaviors and actions (including online) are a part of the story we tell others about who we are.  Do you like the story you are telling? Our values are not something we simply profess. They are actions and choices we make with every post, comment, like, forward and conversation.