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Don’t Feed the Monster

by Randall Craig on October 28, 2010

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , ,

Have you ever found yourself in an email argument with someone? Or a flamewar, where there is a public, angry disagreement between you and someone else that goes on without end? If so, you’re not alone. Each minute that is spent is both agitating and unproductive, so it behooves us to extricate ourselves from the activity as quickly as possible.

Here are six different ways to do this:

1) Deflate the issue: Recognize that something that you said caused one person to take offense. And if there is one person, there could very well be many. Consider apologizing, and then hopefully they will move on.

2) Watch for fighters: There are some people who just enjoy arguing or fighting. Good news is that there is engagement with your ideas; bad news is that it is has gotten out of control. Ignore their baiting and so will others.

3) Watch for frauds: If you are in a competitive industry, consider the possibility that an unscrupulous employee or agency person is writing the problematic posts. If you can trace the person back to their employer, a public “outing” will stop them in their tracks.

4) Solicit supporters. Instead of responding directly, ask others to read the exchange and comment on it themselves. And if there are thumbs up/thumbs down voting buttons, ask that they vote “up” any posts that support your position.

5) Change the venue. Some conversations are better held over the phone, or if possible, in person. Suggest to the troublemaker that you’d like to call them up to “understand” their perspective. You may be able to clear up a silly misunderstanding. And if you don’t, you’ll blunt their knife: it’s tougher to flame a real person you’ve met than an impersonal computer.

6) Fight back. If it’s a reputational issue, you may find you have no choice but to fight. Bear in mind that the fight need not be exclusively online: it can also be fought with a lawyer’s letter, or even in the courts.

This week’s action plan: These strategies are not just for blog flamewars. Think about the in-person disagreements that you’ve had with colleagues, friends, and family. Too often, instead of seeking resolution, we feed the monster and make the problem worse. This week, at the first sign of trouble, put the monster on a diet: consider these six approaches before you respond, and you might be able to prevent the issue from escalating in the first place.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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