Last week, we published a post on the blog sharing some of the helpful resources that we’ve come across in our efforts to inform ourselves about racial injustice in America, as well as actions that we can take to address it right now. When we shared the post on social media, we asked for people to share additional resources, and encouraged conversation about what’s happening in our country right now. We wanted to foster a productive, thoughtful conversation that would encourage deeper thinking and better understanding.
What we primarily saw, instead, was a lot of anger and, at times, outright racism and hatred. We grappled with how to respond – should we engage at all? Should we hide the hateful posts? Should we address each person individually? We were torn about how to respond in a way that felt productive, without fanning the flames further.
After internal discussion, we decided to respond to the hateful comments, in order to correct some of the inaccurate and out of context facts being shared and ensure that our perspective was clearly represented. Through that experience, we realized that, as we continue to address issues and events that could potentially elicit responses that are hateful, discriminatory, or even threatening, we need to think through how we plan to handle these conversations going forward. We don’t want to avoid discussion around difficult topics just because they might provoke negative responses, but we do want to be prepared to address those responses as they arise.
If you’re an activist online – whether you’re speaking as an individual or a business – and are thinking about doing the same, here are our thoughts:
Develop a policy
As an individual or a company, you can develop an internal policy for managing responses to the things that you share and discuss with the online community. For example: Will you encourage people to comment directly on your page, or reach out to you via private message? If you opt for public commentary, will you remove certain messages? If so, how will you determine which messages you will remove? Will you respond to difficult posts via private message?
To avoid feeling required to keep all posts live on your page, especially the ones that are overtly hateful or threatening, you can develop and publish guidelines for appropriate behavior on your page in advance. For example, you can decide that any posts that contain profane or threatening language will be removed from your page, or to engage in a certain amount of public dialogue before turning to private messaging.
Your policy may evolve as you continue to navigate these kinds of comments and conversations, but it will help to have a starting place and a set of standards that you can use to guide your responses.
Align your policy with your values
When developing your policy for these types of discussions, it’s crucial to ensure that it aligns with your values. At WhyWhisper, we’ve put a lot of time into developing a set of values that guide everything that we do, from selecting projects, to working as a team to, now more than ever, engaging in public dialogue. These values of accountability, positivity, purpose, learning, and empowerment are what prompted us to respond to the comments that we encountered last week, and they will continue to guide our policy for future conversations. Your policy, whatever it may be, should reflect your company values, so you can ensure that you respond in a way that is both authentic and empowered.
Prep yourself with facts and support
If you decide to engage in online conversations around polarizing issues, or those that could cause tension or conflict, arm yourself with facts that will help you present your perspective clearly and articulately. While it certainly doesn’t always mean that you’ll be able to turn a negative dialogue into one that is respectful and educational, it will allow you to ensure that the dialogue is not one-sided, and that anyone else who is considering engaging has as much information as possible before they do so.
To all those who chose to engage in last week’s conversation in loving, respectful, engaging ways – thank you. We hope to continue to learn from you, moving forward.
If you have anything to add to the conversation around participating in these types of dialogues online, we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to reach out on social – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn – via email, or in the comments below.