For the most part, Twitter is a friendly place. There’s something about the connecting process between two strangers on a social network that encourages both of them to act in a polite and civil manner.
(As an aside, this can often contrast quite sharply with how our so-called real friends behave.)
However, from time-to-time, often regardless of how well you conduct yourself, things are going to get ugly. Indeed, it’s fair to say that the better you get at doing it right, the more likely it is that you’ll start to develop a sub-following of critics and haters, all of whom will gladly go out of their way to tell you that you’re actually doing it wrong. At least, in their opinion.
For you, this is actually a positive. It means you matter. As Colin Powell once said:
“Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable if you’re honourable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset.”
While it’s often true that haters are actually some of your biggest fans in disguise, a growing number of them will be unpleasant, often seemingly bitter people, arguing endlessly and clearly for the sake of it. It’s a trap, and no matter how hard you try, sometimes you’re going to get caught.
It’s these folks I want to address in this article, and in doing so I’d like to pay homage to the words of the great philosopher James Dalton, whose guidance seems very appropriate here.
When push comes to shove, you’ll need to ask yourself – what would Dalton do?
All you have to do is follow three simple rules.
1. Never Underestimate Your Opponent
Opponent perhaps seems like too strong a word, but sometimes you’ll come up against individuals on Twitter who are so hostile and so aggressive that it’s almost like you’ve been shoved into a verbal boxing match – and you’re the only one wearing gloves.
Okay, so he’s wearing a denim waistcoat. It doesn’t mean you
shouldn’t do your research. If anything, it’s even more essential.
Expect the unexpected. Often your attackers will arrive seemingly out of nowhere, swinging wildly and dismissing your every response. In these instances, you have to remember a couple of things. First, stay calm. Second, take a moment to evaluate the aggressor. Visit their profile page – is this their normal and consistent behaviour, or are they saving it just for you?
Next, go to Twitter search, and analyse the tweets they are receiving from users in their network (to:username). How do others engage with them? Is it friendly? Confrontational?
Do a Google search for their name. Have a look at their blog.
You’re doing all of this to build a picture of the person. Who are they? The who can often tell you a lot about the why.
Then, consider the basis for their reaction. What exactly are they unhappy about? Have you behaved appropriately, or do they actually have a point? There’s never any real excuse for rudeness, certainly from the start, but if there is a chance you have caused genuine upset through an ill-conceived remark then it’s important that you address that.
I did door work for two years. (Prior to this, I was a bond trader, but I’ll save those stories for another time.) To qualify for this enviable position, I had to do a course (and an exam). This lasted about a week, and actually taught me quite a lot about the psychology of the profession.