Handling Online Professional Scuffles When discussions across fields get heated, here’s how to defuse them. Get Social
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Get Social  |   November 01, 2016
Handling Online Professional Scuffles
Author Notes
  • Tanya Coyle, MSc, a school-based SLP in Ontario, Canada, helped establish the speech-language community on Twitter in 2010. She proposed and has curated The ASHA Leader’s Get Social series since it launched in August 2013. Coyle has also authored speech-language and educational apps and co-founded YappGuru.com. SLPTanya@gmail.com
    Tanya Coyle, MSc, a school-based SLP in Ontario, Canada, helped establish the speech-language community on Twitter in 2010. She proposed and has curated The ASHA Leader’s Get Social series since it launched in August 2013. Coyle has also authored speech-language and educational apps and co-founded YappGuru.com. SLPTanya@gmail.com×
Article Information
Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / Get Social
Get Social   |   November 01, 2016
Handling Online Professional Scuffles
The ASHA Leader, November 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.GS.21112016.np
The ASHA Leader, November 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.GS.21112016.np
With so many audiologists and speech-language pathologists on various social media platforms and online channels, disagreements are bound to occur. Many of these debates end up being lively and mostly professional.
However, it’s much easier to “say” things online that you’d probably never say in person. People can also misinterpret your tone in print. These two reasons, among others, cause even professionals to occasionally get themselves into trouble online.
Often, one clinician doesn’t agree with what another posts or shares through social media. This disagreement usually leads to back-and-forth banter or an enlightening commentary—as long as everyone approaches the conversation with mutual respect.
On some occasions, however, the person who objects to the original content starts harassing the poster publicly. Others often jump on the bandwagon by commenting or posting on other public domains about the disagreement, blaming the original poster for sharing something they feel is wrong or supporting harassment of that poster. Even if you disagree with or consider a viewpoint not backed by evidence (so you feel 100-percent justified in commenting strongly), it’s never OK to harass someone by writing negative, disrespectful things about them online.
Not only might other professionals view you as attacking the original poster, they frequently will distance themselves from you digitally by blocking your comments and/or “un-friending” you. In addition to being mean and unprofessional, harassing someone online can damage your reputation and networking connections.
The Duhaime Legal Dictionary describes cyber-bullying as “using the Internet to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm someone else.” If you’re in a professional dispute with someone online and find yourself writing something or rallying others to offend someone else in any way—regardless of why—stop and think before you irreparably damage your own reputation.
Consider these three guidelines when discussing professional matters on or offline:
1. Isolate any tense discussion.
Don’t call people out publicly, especially if you feel strongly about a situation. If you see a post that troubles you professionally, let the poster know through a private channel. If a lively online discussion turns angry, take your comments to a quiet corner of the Internet or walk away. People naturally get defensive to avoid being made to look foolish in front of their peers. The fight-or-flight response naturally kicks in.
2. Engage in mutual respect.
Stay respectful by treating others the way you want yourself, a friend or mentor to be treated. Calm, professional tone, language, comments and interactions allow you to disagree without hurting anyone’s reputations. Hostility, snark, attempts to publicly humiliate, and/or active recruitment of others to join your “cause” (but you isolated the disagreement already, so you can’t gang up on them, right?) will hurt you professionally, regardless of who “wins” the fight. Just because you don’t agree—even with evidence to back up your opinion—doesn’t give you the right to treat others disrespectfully.
Jean Gibbs, creator of the Tribes Learning Community philosophy, suggests you approach every argument:
  • With the intent to learn. Get past your own ego or feeling of being attacked so you can gain new knowledge about the situation, person or issue—and why they’re upset or disagree with you if you’re on the receiving end of a scuffle.

  • Identifying the problem instead of the superficial issues. Sometimes people get upset over something relatively minor because they are already upset about something else and aren’t saying so. Or are you the one doing that?

  • Assuming a win-win is possible. Find a solution where everyone comes out happy. It’s not just about you and your opinion. It’s also not about “winning” and “losing.”

3. Just walk away.
Consider just dropping out of the fray and walking away if you’re getting worked up. It’s better to leave a discussion unfinished—even just for a while—than to risk hurting your own reputation. SLP and Speech Adventures blogger Mary Huston made a rule for herself that anything she posts must be “true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind.” If her post doesn’t fit these criteria, she walks away. Good advice for all of us.
If you disagree with someone else, always keep a respectful outlook and don’t post anything you wouldn’t be OK with someone else posting about (or to) someone you respect and admire.
1 Comment
December 2, 2016
Melissa Page Deutsch
Online Etiquette
Excellent! Thank you for this timely, common-sense article. I love the tips and will share - because I find this “true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind.”
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November 2016
Volume 21, Issue 11