How to Understand and Deal with Internet Bullies
By Rene A. Bastarache, CI
How do you deal with a bully? Do you confront them face-to-face, do you turn and run, do you give-in or do you simply ignore them? This is a situation that has become epidemic especially with the advent of the Internet. Unfortunately most people have no idea how to deal with it so they become stressed, upset and carry the situation with them all day. In this article I’d like to address a few ways to deal with bullies that you may not have considered before.
What do you think of when you hear the word bully?
To some it brings to mind images of the big, mean kid on the playground beating up the smaller kids and extorting them for their lunch money. However when you get older you realize that bullies can be found virtually anywhere. There are coworkers and pushy bosses at work. The busybodies and gossip mongers you find in virtually any club or organization sitting together in safety telling you how you should act, dress or what you should be doing. You find them in the grocery stores, politics, religion, government and the list is virtually endless.
If you run a business that operates primarily over the Internet with a Blog, YouTube videos or e-mail on a regular basis then chances are that your interaction with bullies has just increased tenfold. These are the new “cyber-bullies” that most people aren’t familiar dealing with and they’re the focus of this article.
What’s the difference between a cyber-bully and a “traditional or in-person bully? Actually there’s quite a bit of difference. The traditional bully is usually someone who’s bigger and meaner than you and has the physical or financial power to back you into a corner to where you cannot resist
The Internet bully however can be anyone because they’re hiding behind a computer screen. They realize no one can see them nor find out who they are and that they’ll never have personal contact with who they’re bullying. They’re male, female, adult, elderly, teenagers and even younger. In fact surveys conducted recently showed that approximately 70% of the negative or “hater” comments given on YouTube videos are posted by teenagers under the age of 14 and most of them were girls.
Think of that next time you’re trying to explain yourself to a negative commenter. You may just be burdening your soul to an 11-year-old girl who was just typing negative comments to every video at random for fun with six of her friends from school. Kind of sets a whole different light on the topic doesn’t it.
Having a business that operates primarily over the Internet we receive many of these types of messages on a variety of topics. Just one of them as an example would be about our online hypnosis manual giveaway program we offer. I still find it amazing that if someone doesn’t receive their free manual after entering their name and hitting the “Enter button” how they’ll immediately write us angrily commanding us to send them their copy. Sometimes these messages include profanity and even threats.
Of course after receiving an e-mail like this your first response may be to tell them to “get a life” or you may even feel like responding with something more colorful. Keep in mind if someone was bold enough to bully you over not receiving a “free product” chances are if you write something negative they’ll continue to respond with even worse comments the next time. You don’t want to “fan the flames” and make them bigger as my mother used to say.
In order to know how to deal with these type comments its first important to understand the motivation of the person sending them. Here’s several different types of Internet bullies to consider:
1. This is the one that’s obviously under the age of 17 that’s just trying to get your attention and having fun with their friends. Giving them your attention validates their importance and frankly gives them something to do.
Example: I saw a wonderful makeup tutorial video posted by one of Ralucas’ friends on YouTube recently where a comment by a viewer viciously attacked her choice in wallpaper.
2. This is a person who’s simply having a bad day and wants to take it out on someone else. You can usually notice these by the use of vulgarities and threats in their comments which again are usually unfounded and baseless.
They’re basically directing their own inadequacies towards you, but remember “It’s not about you”. In business it’s not personal it’s just business. They don’t usually even know who their typing to so don’t take it personally.
3. Then there’s those who actually have a “valid concern” but have simply not been taught manners by their parents before. They’ll often times threaten you, try to intimidate you, voice their displeasure and even command you to do something to appease them immediately.
So how do you deal with them?
For # 1 & 2: There’s really not much you can do and it may be best that you do nothing. They’re looking for attention or confrontation only. If you have a way of banning, spamming, or permanently deleting them, that would probably be a good start.
For #3: If the comment is actually a valid concern then it must be addressed.
Once receiving this letter there’s a few things you must first realize:
1. Right up to the point your received this negative e-mail you may have had been having a wonderful day. If so then you must not let the e-mail change the direction of your attitude.
2. Realize that the e-mail is that persons personal agenda and not yours. In other words don’t drop everything frantically to handle it unless it has to be done immediately. If you normally handle your e-mails at a certain time of day then they can wait just like everyone else does. Just remember that “bad behavior” should not give you better treatment than those who know how to behave.
3. Handle the problem in a courteous, professional manner, get to the point, solve the problem the best you can and move on. No need to address every complaint if you have rectified the situation.
4. Once you’ve handled the problem, stop talking about the e-mail and forget it altogether.
I just had a thought that made me smile while typing number four above. Every time I finish up with a negative e-mail from one of these online bullies and still seem to be a little frustrated I usually hear Ralucas’ voice yelling to me from her office the word “NEXT”. This usually makes me smile and realize that the negativity was their agenda and not mine and to get back to doing what makes me happy.
Yes it’s unfortunate that in such an enlightened age that a few people still don’t know how to act. I think we’ll find that throughout our entire lives however even though others may choose to act this way you still have the ability to not make it about you rather than reacting. By doing this you have “beat” the bully. So congratulate yourself and move on…