I live in a tense part of the world and have observed many discussions on social media where people trying to convince others they are right. I convince people for a living, so I am jotting down some thoughts below on how to engage in these discussions, and hopefully turn war-like exchanges into dialogues.

In order not to have this post hijacked by a political discussion, I am leaving my political viewpoints out here. Here we go in no particular order:
  1. Be polite, correct, calm, composed, rational. Nobody believes a screaming maniac.
  2. Listen, listen, listen and look for a very specific mistake, misconception that can be corrected. Generic statements that answer another point then the ones raised are not useful and ignored.
  3. Set your ambition level. You are unlikely to correct someone's fundamental beliefs in just 1 paragraph.
  4. Realise that your most important audience might not be the person you are interacting with, but rather the many more that glance over the comments, the secondary audience is bigger
  5. Make your point very personal, human, and show that there is a normal person on the other side of the line
  6. Nobody likes to see more detail of gory images or screaming graphics
  7. Be short and to the point, on social media, nobody reads long paragraphs. If your text is longer, add lots of paragraph breaks
  8. Be sure to engage/correct a big opinion leader with lots of followers/readers: polite, super short, very specific fact to correct a very specific mistake/misconception
  9. Use sources that are credible, close to the opposite site of you. Linking to a highly biassed patriotic web sites full of the wrong flags is not going to make people read them
  10. Highlight facts or details that are not widely known/used in the media
  11. Try not to start with me, me, me, but start with the opposing viewpoint and show why it is causing a problem. Understand the stereotype that the other side might have of you, and try to soften it (you can even refer to it directly).
If successful, you came across as a reasonable (maybe even nice) guy/girl who did not confirm a stereotype. And hopefully you started to turn a social media war into a social media dialogue.

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to daily updates about presentation design via email? Just blog posts, no spam. You can find Jan Schultink on Twitter here.