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posted on the Netdynam mailing list 6/96; revised 4/97
HOW TO FIGHT FAIR ONLINE
copyright 1996, 2005 by Tracy Marks
Boston area psychotherapist and Internet trainer
Feeling hurt or angry after reading an email message from friend, family member, colleague or online acquaintance? Here are twelve guidelines for conflict resolution via email - many of them also useful for in-person relationships. If your conflict is occurring between you and another member in an online group, deal with the conflict outside of the group.
1. Clarify the INTENT of your communication. Is it primarily to justify
yourself or are you seeking resolution with the other party? Can you
2. Try to maintain AWARENESS of the other person on the receiving
end, and the effect your communication is likely to have upon him or
her. Attempt to be conscious of both SELF and OTHER as you write.
3. Write as DIRECTLY and clearly as possible. Consider how the
other person might misinterpret your language, and take more time
to explain thoughts that might easily be misinterpreted.
4. If the other person understands them, use EMOTICONS or other
forms of Internet shorthand (such as <grin> <frown> <wink) if doing
so helps clarify your communication. Sometimes, using emoticons
(such as :-) for smiling, or :-( for frowning) understood by
both parties can help lighten the interaction, and ease the conflict.
If the other person doesn't understand the emoticon, you can still use it - just indicate its meaning! (For a list and description of recommended emoticons, see recommended emoticons page).
5. Establish some EMPATHIC resonance with the other person first
....agreeing or joining him in his thoughts or feelings, before moving
away and further explaining your point of view. Don't start by
putting him on the defensive. Let him know you hear him.
6. Be aware that due to your personal history, and the fears or
desires that you hold in regard to the other person, that you may
misinterpret his or her message. If you're not sure about his or her
meaning or intent, communicate your confusion. ASK before you
make assumptions which may not be accurate, and before you treat
those assumptions as if they are fact.
7. Take RESPONSIBILITY for your part in the conflict, and try to
find and express the part of yourself that generally regrets the role
you played, and wishes to meet the other halfway. If you know you
are overreacting, acknowledge it (and the past baggage you carry). APOLOGIZE...honestly
8. DON'T HIT below the belt. If you know the other person's
vulnerabilities, stay away from them, as tempted as you may feel
to score a bullseye. If you need to do so, write a long email message
targetting the other person headon, then delete it...or bitch to your
offline friends. Don't send a response until you have at least some
investment in ending the battle, rather than merely intensifying it.
9. If you need TIME to work through your raw feelings or clarify
your reactions and thoughts or to feel ready to communicate
openly with the other person, take the time. Take as long as you
need. If you can. Let the other person know you need time out to
process, and will return when you've cooled off and are ready to
engage in a real attempt at resolution.
10. Don't get lost in the content of the argument. Stay close to how
you feel and how the other person feels. Aim to heal the hurt or
angry FEELINGS rather than change the other's perception of
reality. He/she may not be able to see your point of view.
11. If a part of you seeks the other person's validation, take the time
with yourself to VALIDATE yourself, and let go of attachment to
their response. If you need some validation from others before you
can do such letting go, then communicate with a friend who is not
involved in the conflict and seek validation from him or her.
12. Know when to LET GO. You may not be able to change another
person's perceptions or interpretations of a situation, and may have
to validate yourself or look for validation elsewhere if the other
person can't fully grasp your point of view.
Aim to ACCEPT your differences and your separateness, to let go
of the issue, to say, "Ok, this is my experience, and this is yours,
and we're not going to get anywhere by pursuing this further. We
have different perceptions and memories. So I'll allow you to exist
with a different reality than my own reality, and hopefully we can
both move on...."
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Thanks to the listmembers of NetDynam,
and especially Roy Winkler, for inspiring the above guidelines.
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