Here are four guidelines for resolving disputes online that will keep tempers at bay and keep both parties focused on resolving the issues at hand
Attack the argument, not the person
You may derive some temporary satisfaction from demeaning your adversary or ‘showing them who’s boss’, but this often backfires. It puts the other person on the defensive and starts a vicious cycle of attacks that diverts the focus away from resolving the issues and puts it onto protecting one’s ego. It might be tempting to be a smart-ass and a bully when you’re conversing at safe distances across the internet, but a prudent rule of thumb is not to say anything online that you would not say to that person while standing face-to-face. And for those of you who would say it face-to-face, just don’t.
Avoid CAPS LOCK
Most people are aware of this, but just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, take note that typing in ALL CAPS is the same as SCREAMING at someone in person. You would be amazed at how seriously people take this. If you want the person you’re conversing with to think “WTF did he just say to me?!” by all means, type in CAPS. Otherwise, standard formatting and punctuation is recommended.
Read Twice, Write Once. Avoid Embarrassment
There are few things more embarrassing than ranting and raving about what someone wrote to you only to receive the response: “that’s not what I said – read my comment again.” When you’re in a tense situation, it’s very easy to misread or misinterpret what the other party has written. We have a tendency to see what we want to see and find hidden meanings that weren’t intended. The old saying “measure twice, cut once” holds true in online dispute resolution. Take advantage of the medium – one that does not have to be in real-time: take your time, read everything carefully, consider your options and only then, respond. This will help keep you from making stupid mistakes and putting your foot in your mouth.
Don’t Fake It
Keep in mind that people appreciate the genuine article. Whenever possible, use your real name and real identity when trying to resolve a dispute online. Remember that when you go to court or when you speak to someone in person, you’re not in disguise, so avoid disguises on the internet. What you have to say will be taken more seriously and people will tend to show you more respect. Although, if you’re going to be saying something that could have legal ramifications, there may be good reason to remain anonymous.
The important thing to remember when resolving any dispute online is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yes, it’s the same idea as resolving a dispute across a boardroom table, or the dining room table. If handled correctly, resolving your disputes online will give you the opportunity to be calm, cool and collected. You will have the advantage of forethought and the opportunity to think before you speak. This should allow you to put your best foot forward, instead of in your mouth, and resolve your dispute quickly and fairly with as little inconvenience and expense as possible.
Give eQuibbly a try the next time you have a dispute and see whether these guidelines help you resolve your dispute.