At one time or another in our lives, we’ve been in the hard situation where we want to express our opinion, but we’re afraid that our opinion may be offensive. When this happens, we may overcome our fear and express our opinion with no mind to others’ feelings, or we may clam up and keep our opinion to ourselves to avoid being rude.
Don’t be a troll…
Some people use the Internet to speak their mind because it can provide a sense of anonymity. Many people leave comments on blog posts or websites under a pseudonym. Hiding behind this secret identity gives them the confidence to speak their mind without worrying about the wrath they may receive from others.
People who use inappropriate or offensive messages on the Internet or who use public forums to stir up controversy are known as trolls. Trolls hide behind some form of anonymity on the Internet to say offensive and degrading things and get people into a debate. But if you have something to say, and you think it may be offensive, trolling is not the answer. There are actually plenty of ways you can express your opinion without offending others. It just takes a bit of practice.
1. Remember That Etiquette is not Only for Face-to-Face Contact.
Chances are, your parents instilled the basic forms of etiquette into you at an early age. You know how to say please and thank you. You know to be kind to your elders, and you believe in doing unto others as you would have done to you. When it comes to face-to-face interactions, we tend to follow these basic forms of etiquette, but when we get behind a computer screen, we tend to throw etiquette to the wind. Just because you’re staring at a computer screen doesn’t mean there is not another human being on the other side of the blog, chat room or public forum.
Don’t spout off obscenities and use offensive language. Instead, remain polite and use clear and concise messaging to deliver your opinion. If you utilize good grammar and basic etiquette techniques, your opinion will be taken seriously and will be less likely to be deemed as offensive.
2. Only Make Educated Opinions.
While this may seem like an oxymoron, it’s actually very important that you have facts to back up your opinion. Even if you say something in the most polite way possible, if you have no evidence to back up your opinion, other trolls will start eating you alive.
The more evidence you can use to prove you have a valid reason for your opinion will incline people to have an open mind and hear you out. If your points are valid, you may make others join in on your opinion, or people will respect you enough to agree to disagree without getting nasty.
3. Stick to the Facts.
This somewhat goes along with #2, but with more emphasis on your delivery. When you are sharing your opinion, you need to focus on the facts and not on your personal experiences. For example, you should say, “I think the Chicago Bulls are the best basketball team in the NBA because they have Derek Rose, who was last year’s MVP, and they have the best record.” Using facts exudes confidence, but it doesn’t make you sound conceited, and more people are willing to accept your opinion if it contains facts. If you said, “I think the Chicago Bulls are the best basketball team in the NBA because they are awesome and I love watching them”, your lack of facts is going to stir this statement into an Internet frenzy.
4. Pretend you’re Talking Directly to Someone’s Face.
Some things may simply be better left unsaid. When you’re typing out a statement to post online that you may consider to be offensive, first pretend that you are saying it directly to someone’s face. Would you still say it? People use the Internet to express their displeasure, their dislikes and their downright hatreds about anything and everything. If you are planning on using the Internet to say something mean or derogatory about someone else, consider if you would say it to their face or if you’re only saying it because you feel as if the Internet makes you unreachable. If there is no way you would say this to someone’s face, there is no reason to say it on the Internet.
Remember that the Internet is permanent. What you say on the Internet, even if it occurs behind a pseudonym, will be around forever. You may be able to delete a post or comment, but if the message has already gone viral, the damage has already been done.
Anonymity doesn’t give you the right to be mean. You can still be judged by strangers. The Internet may make you faceless to countless others who utilize it everyday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be judged. Rather than judge you based on your height, weight, ethnicity, hair, clothes or any other facet that people use to pass judgement, they’ll judge you based on the words that you write. Instead of judging you for being old or short or overweight, people will judge you for being mean or offensive.
Remember that just because you’re behind a computer doesn’t mean that you can irritate and offend people as often as you want. Instead, remain courteous, use facts and decide whether or not your statement is worth saying. When you do all of this, you can express your opinion without worrying about being offensive.
Charlie Adams is a tech guru and internet expert who loves to write about internet conduct and any kind of technology. When he is not sitting at home being a computer geek he loves to go out with his friends and enjoy the Vegas nightlife.
Photo Credit: kevinthoule
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