If you’re a passionate person, it is inevitable. The day will come when you express an opinion and are caught completely off guard by someone who thinks you just called them a bad mother or a bad person. Instead of responding to your words, your facts, or your opinions, they’ll lash out with insults and accusations.
As advocates and activists, we want the world to change. We need the world to change. That means, sometimes, criticizing the way that things are done now and advocating for a better way of doing them. But when we advocate for change, we’re often called out for shaming other people.
- If we advocate for more support for breastfeeding mothers, does that equate to shaming every mother who used formula?
- If we advocate for more midwives and other conditions that will increase the natural birth rate, does that equate to shaming every mother who had a c-section?
- If we advocate for easier and more affordable access to healthy foods, does that equate to shaming every person who ever indulges in junk food or fast food?
- If we advocate for improved public transportation, does that equate to shaming people who drive their cars to work?
- If we say that chocolate bars should not be available for purchase in schools, does that amount to shaming every parent who every put a piece of chocolate in their child’s lunch?
Do we really want to live in a world where we are afraid to advocate for change because it makes us feel guilt and shame? Are you haunted by the fear of what people might do if you take greater action in advocating for change? Do we need to fall silent on the issues that are important to us because we don’t want to deal with conflict?
Conflict may not always be avoidable, but how you handle it can make all the difference in the world in terms of how effective you are as an advocate and also how it impacts on your personal brand. Will you come out of the argument being seen as someone who is intelligent, empathetic and passionate? Or will you come out of it being seen as a bully and ultimately hurting your cause when detractors dig their heels in and further promote the things you believe are harmful?
Join Annie and Jo at ShiftCon to talk about tactics and techniques for keeping your cool and coming out on top when you’re faced with conflict online. There is more to it than having a thick skin and Annie and Jo can speak from their experience handling, observing and researching conflicts online to give you pointers that will make you a more effective advocate and keep disagreements from unravelling into a pissing match.
Annie has been blogging about parenting, feminism and social change on the PhD in Parenting Blog since May 2008. She is a social, political and consumer advocate on issues of importance to parents, women, children and the earth and regularly uses her blog as a platform to create awareness and to advocate for change. Through her advocacy work, she’s been entangled in numerous online controversies and has learned from experience what to do when people get really upset. Annie lives near Ottawa, Canada with her partner and two children.
Jo White is an academic who is no stranger to online controversy. Her Masters thesis (2010) considered the engagement and effect a Nestle-sponsored weekend event had on attending bloggers and their online communities. On her blog, Mediamum, Jo highlights contentious and passionate areas such as immigration and women’s issues, particularly as they are reported in media. She spends the majority of every day in her position as a PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her dissertation work looks at how people with animals use information communication technologies and social media during disasters.