Remember Who You’re Talking To

A little over twe…  >koff koff<  years ago, I yelled at my roommate’s son to, “Stop acting like a child!”

He looked at me, so perplexed and replied, “But I AM a child!”


Generally, emotions make poor decisions ~ especially in emails or on the internet. People who post when they’re upset cause more strife and angst in community forums than anything else. Political posts, people who are breaking up and simple differences of opinion can cause the average, even-tempered person to “lose it” on line.

When moderating, it’s important to keep in mind which persona you’re interacting with. People who are upset are often not interested in “being reasonable.” In other words, they’re angry or hurt. Telling them to stop being or acting like it is not helpful. Be gentle with them.

If you can find something positive in their post, praise it. If you can’t, commiserate with them. This one can be tricky.  Saying, “I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that jerk,” looks like you’re taking their side and that is counterproductive.

Instead, try using a sandwich approach.  Start by saying something like, “I’m sorry to see that you’re having a hard time.” Then you can tell them what you’ve done or ask them to dial things back. The last thing to do is revisit the praise or commiseration. Make sure you rephrase it so that they don’t feel like they’re being copied and pasted a form letter. Also, make sure that what you’re saying is sincere.

Finally, remember that you, yourself and you can also lose your temper and emotions generally make poor decisions. If you’re upset with your member when you’re trying to moderate them, write your message as a draft and wait to send it. Better yet, if you have a teammate, ask them to review your message to see what they think.

You’re not dealing with pixels on a screen. There is a real person on the other side. Speak to them in a tone that is appropriate for the situation and guide them in the direction you need them to go.  Moderating can be a delicate task, but remember who you’re talking to. That goes a long way toward making it easy.

4 thoughts on “Remember Who You’re Talking To”

  1. People certainly seem to get a lot louder and more ambitious in online forums. I like to assume it’s because they don’t have to face the person they are talking to. You don’t have to think about what consequences your words will have once you turn off your computer.


  2. Great post, I think that in today’s society we have developed this idea that we can’t hurt people if we can’t see them. Or the bold among us taunt, make fun of, purposely cause strife or worse, simply because a lot of us think its not gonna catch up to us. I used to be a moderator for a radio station, and had to deal with happy people, unhappy people, and very disagreeable people. As you said, you can’t just force someone to behave, playing to your strengths and theirs is crucial to find a common ground and diffuse the situation. Keep up the good work!


  3. This is a great post. For someone who deals with anxiety I need people to understand that when I’m upset it’s very hard to come out of that state, and telling me to get over it just makes it worse. I really like the sandwich technique. I feel like it softens the blow a little bit. And I really do think we need to be more understanding of those that are on the internet. We have so many cyber bullies in this world and if we would all just understand that there is someone else on the other side we might change how we talk.

    I particularly liked how you talked about writing a draft. I’ve done this in the past, it helps me realize that my problem wasn’t as large as I made it out to be in the beginning. I recommend this to everyone!

    Again, great post!



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