How to be tactful to avoid conflict in commenting

how to be tactful

Someone asked me on Twitter about what to write when you know more than the other commenters on a post. This got me thinking about how to be tactful when commenting, especially when it comes to correcting people.

It can be very disparaging to come across many stupid responses on a post when you know you have a much better answer. You know your reply will stand out above the others because it is either correct or more relevant, but how do you go about adding it in without offending anyone?

The last thing you want is to be mistaken for a troll. You aren't out to cause trouble, just to put things right. Thus the need for this infographic to guide you in how to be tactful when commenting:

How to be tactful to avoid conflict in commenting

And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.

Think before you write

Probably the rubbish comments which got you riled up were written with little thought, consideration or attention. That is generally the way with comments nowadays. I very much doubt the post was even properly read before these people answered.

However, as well as you thinking carefully about your response, to make sure it is relevant and valuable, take time to consider how it will be perceived by others. Especially if you are angry or pissed off. It is important to be in the right frame of mind before writing a comment, as well as having the correct facts.

Since commenting is a spontaneous reaction to a post or update, it takes a real pro to write something appropriate every time. It's worth thinking carefully about what you want to say before connecting your fingers/thumbs to your keyboard/phone. Otherwise you may regret it later.

Consider other people

How other people perceive what you write may not always interpreted the same as your intentions. This may be aggravated by cultural differences, or by your turn of phrase. This is why it is important to understand how to be tactful when giving your response.

Also, everybody is entitled to have their say. Thank goodness we live in an environment which welcomes free speech. Focus on the common ground if you wish to avoid conflict. How can you turn the subject on its head to satisfy everybody? Quite a tall order, but most gratifying when you achieve it.

Look between the lines within the other comments. It may not be only a lack of understanding or knowledge. Perhaps they are trying to say the same as you, but cannot communicate effectively enough. Never assume everybody else is stupid because they appear to come across as wrong.

Deflect negativity

Negativity breeds negativity, so avoid replying in the same vein. This is what trolls and other similar unfortunates do. This kind of behaviour can easily exasperate into something much larger and nastier than it meant to be at the beginning.

Learning how to be tactful is about understanding sensitivity, diplomacy and courtesy. Empathy also goes a long way. Try to come down to the same level or wavelength of the other commenter to fully understand them. Sometimes this may not be possible, but at least give it a go.

If you see negativity happening in the other comments, avoid getting involved. Even if you think you can disperse it. If you desperately need to say something which would counteract it, do so independently. The other readers/commenters will notice this, and even be relieved to find a sane comment amongst the mire.

Enforce positivity

One of the main objectives for commenting is to get yourself noticed, for the right reasons. This may be to spread your knowledge to help others, to expose your expertise to boost your reputation, or merely to show your appreciation in order to be kind.

Therefore a positive and forthcoming attitude within your comments needs to be infectious enough to encourage others to do the same. If you want to maintain your hard-won profile, come across as someone who always sees the better side of things. People will latch onto positivity, even though negativity seems to gets more attention.

Aim to be seen as the commenter who breezes in exuding positivity. Blend this with value, helpfulness and tact, and you'll have a winning combination. Then when you offer the correct solution to a problem, or the sought-after answer to a question, people will be more likely to take heed.

Mind your words

The kind of vocabulary you use is vital to avoid misinterpretation. Causing offence is the usual reaction from someone who thinks they're being corrected. They will be under the disillusionment only they know the answer. Breaking that particular bubble can sometimes be hard to bear.

How you deliver your knowledge is necessary not only for the person being corrected, but for the others who also read it. They need to be suitably convinced of your prowess in order to believe you. Your credibility is on the line here.

Selecting similar words your readers would use goes a long way towards knowing how to be tactful. You need every aspect of your comment to be understood for its value to be absorbed and acted upon. Otherwise you may find yourself dismissed as another crank who thinks he knows the answer.

Correct carefully

If you have to offer an amendment which goes against the grain, make sure you have sufficient evidence or facts to hand. Blurting out some fake news you overheard without satisfactory backing could cause more harm than good. You will become no more than the other commenters.

But if you know your comment is correct, deliver it with respect, subtlety and diplomacy. Acknowledge the other commenter without being condescending. Destroying their limelight for the sake of being proved right is not a good idea. The last thing you want is to create unnecessary enemies.

Another aspect of how to be tactful is knowing how honestly deliver necessary feedback. Avoiding upsetting the other person's feelings is always tricky. Perhaps here the public commenting arena isn't appropriate, and instead a quiet Direct Message might be more appreciated.

Now you know how to be tactful

Isaac Newton is claimed to have said: "Tact is the act of making a point without making an enemy.". Always commenting to correct people could get yourself seen as an annoying know-it-all, rather than someone who spreads vital knowledge.

Therefore it is necessary to be able to clearly communicate your message if you want to excel in how to be tactful when commenting. Never be put-off from educating people in what you know. However, it's important to understand the techniques involved to make this easier for both you and those who receive it.

If you have any examples of where being tactful has been fruitful, or even disastrous, please let us know in the comments below. Your tips and experiences will be gratefully appreciated.

Alice Elliott
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