4 Horseman of the Relationship Apocalypse—Want Them for Members of Your Writing Community?

dejected literary goatOf the long-term, previously stable writing communities in which I’m involved, guess how many have suffered through some sort of meltdown in the past few months.  (By “meltdown” I mean disagreements which became personal, broadly eroded trust and collegiality, and judging by early signs, from which some communities might not fully recover.)

If you went with “too many,” you’d be right, though I’m not sure that deserves a cookie so much as a barf bag. While I can navigate it when required, I don’t particularly enjoy conflict.

In such situations, as a former family doc married to an engineer, I’m pretty much doomed to conduct forensic analyses of what went wrong. (Including my own far-from-perfect behavior, because I’d like to do better.)

The good news? I think there are a few, discernible patterns.

The better news? Some relatively simply tools might have made a difference if broadly known and applied.

The best news? These tools are multi-purpose in that they’ll come in handy wherever people disagree, which is to say throughout all of life. Further, in some instances, they can work retroactively to repair damaged relationships. Stick around, and I’ll pass them on in a list of resources, including a list of what NOT to do.

If I had to guess what drove the groups to conflict, here are the culprits:

1. Me. It had to be said. I’m the one commonality to all groups. Since I’m clearly a rabble-rouser, woe unto a community which welcomes me into its bosom, whether of the supported or bra-less variety. (A distinction important to some readers here. *cough Keith cough*)

2. Free-floating anxiety in search of a goat to scape. There are a lot of people on edge right now, a lot of fear to do with the state of the economy, the budget, high-profile sexual assaults, North Korea, the environment, etc. It’s a long list, isn’t it? While we’re bombarded by news stories which emphasize the awfulness, have you noticed how few include resources, or ways you can help?

According to Dr. Srinivasan S. Pillay in his book Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear, it takes 10 milliseconds of exposure to a threatening stimulus before our brains go on alert. (The stimulus can be as minor as a photo of someone with widened eyes!) It takes another 20 milliseconds of exposure before our brains consciously register fear. In other words, we can be physiologically aroused, prepared for an assault, yet be unaware that we are feeling afraid or why.

With primed neural circuitry, Pillay says we will regularly perceive threats where none exist or overreact to minor provocation. So if we read a single line of dialogue where a character shouts, “Fire,” we’ll assume the setting is a theater and the consequence a trampling. When relaxed, the same words conjure a Girl Scout jamboree, the scent of roasting marshmallows, the promise of s’mores for dessert.

3. Well-oiled indignation machines.

Once the insult occurs, have you noticed how efficient we’re getting at being annoyed with one another? Back in 2011, Nathan Bransford wrote about virtual witch hunts, calling for restraint and compassion in how we deal with our colleagues. Sadly, if anything, I think we’ve reduced our response times since that post. It’s almost like we’ve worked out the procedure manual.

  • Industry Person A misbehaves or says something controversial.
  • Industry People B through Z use their contact lists to fan out evidence of the “crime.”
  • All gather outside the shed, which I imagine to be organized the way my father keeps his garden tools. (Pegboard walls, labeled slots, outlines done in black marker so that you could never misplace an implement except on purpose.)
  • “Pitchforks on the right. Torches on the left. Don’t forget to turn out the light when you leave.”

Why Moderators and Site Owners Can’t Be the Only Ones Keeping the Peace

Unless you’ve moderated a large group, it’s almost impossible to understand the challenges which come with the job. To get a sense, can you tolerate a metaphor? Consider a North American family in the grip of some sort of long-term, wearying relationship dysfunction. Then something triggers a crisis—perhaps Little Johnny or Janey acts out a school. The family seeks help.

Even with skilled counselors and privacy, so that people can become their vulnerable and ragged selves without fear of public shaming, committed partnerships struggle to survive. Imagine if we changed the therapy sessions thusly:

  • Replace Johnny and Janey with a family of 20-200 children.
  • In some cases, we’d throw the doors open and let all interested parties participate, whether they’ve engaged with the family beforehand or not, whether they’ll stick around afterward to pick up the bill or pieces of furniture, or whether their career interests mean they’ll benefit by stirring the pot.
  • Let’s let people trickle in or slip out according to their schedule. The majority of the family might have moved on, prepared for peace and reconciliation, but to the newcomers’ eyes, the drama is fresh.
  • Let’s maintain a visual record of every insult or mistake made and rehash it at will, both within the group and in public.
  • Oh, and that therapist? They’re probably unpaid, have no professional training, and no professional body to back them in the event of serious disputes. Further, they are expected to demonstrate excellence in mediation 24/7. For days.

I’m being melodramatic, sure, but honestly, given the challenges, it’s marvelous how often groups function, even excel in their generosity.

In fact, I’d like to pause to give momentary thanks to the people who do this work tirelessly on behalf of WU. (Blog Mamas Therese and Kathleen; Facebook Page Mod Squad leader Vaughn and his Texas Trio of Kim, Valerie, and Heather, all listed in the right sidebar.) It’s a tribute to their skill and behind-the-scenes efforts that you do not know how often they save us from ourselves. ;-)

When moderators get overwhelmed by a conflict—and boy, can disputes go from hot to boiling-over in no time flat—there are three possible outcomes:

1. Community erosion to the point of interactions being officially or unofficially impaired.

What this looks like: People stay away or engage at a superficial level. Posts or records have to be erased, comments shut down on a temporary or permanent basis. If it gets bad enough, I’ve seen once-thriving message boards frozen altogether.

2. Communities become irrelevant to all but the squabblers. (You’ll see this in the comment threads of most large news outlets.)

In either case, if they aren’t careful and self-aware, people leave feeling more fearful. They take that sense of lessened safety into other writing communities, potentially creating a domino effect.

3. The best-case scenario. The kind all pointy-headed dreamers like myself want to see: We understand what’s at risk and work to become self-aware and self-correcting, so that the norm becomes thoughtful disagreement rather than outright combat. We learn to be gentler with one another. We take responsibility for our part of the interaction, no matter the provocation. We learn forgiveness and to let things go, not because we don’t notice or care, but because it’s kind.

And we understand we all have the capacity for boneheaded moves. On the day we finally make ours, we’d like to be greeted with a culture of compassion.

Assuming that you’re interested, here are some resources I find helpful and intriguing:

 1. The Four Horseman of the Relationship Apocalypse: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, Stonewalling

This is the work of Dr. John Gottman, who can observe a couple’s communication and predict within 3 minutes with greater than 90% accuracy whether they will remain together and be happy, assuming they don’t change the pattern of interaction. (I recognize his research wasn’t on writing communities, but I think you’ll see its relevance.)

Here’s a video which explains the 4 Horseman and the differences between the couples Gottman calls the Masters versus the Disasters. (Hint: They don’t begin by forwarding this post to their partner with the subject line “I suspected you had issues.”)

2. For rules on fair fighting, because disagreements are inevitable but destruction is not:

3. For self-soothing and insight, so that you can reduce your reactivity to insults, pick your battles, then employ effective tools which don’t undermine your own position:

Now, peeps, I’d love to hear about other resources you can recommend. (I’d be particularly interested if you have research and references which address online conflict.) Talk to me of exemplary and generous writing communities and cultures. To what do you attribute their success? 


About Jan O'Hara

Jan O'Hara left her writing dreams behind for years to practice family medicine, but has found her way back to the world of fiction. Currently the voice of the Unpublished Writer here at Writer Unboxed, she hopes one day soon to become unqualified for the position.


  1. says

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I have been on both sides of this fence and also on the sidelines. Our society is in a communication transition, we are so skilled at looking for non-verbal clues during a discussion or conversation, that we flounder online and not even the liberal sprinkling of smiley emoticons or LOLs & OMGs can remedy.

    I was once tossed from a group for responding to a question about ‘whether it is okay to sometimes ‘take’ drawings and photos from websites if you really need them but don’t have actual permission’ My answer: ‘stealing is stealing is stealing, a rose by any other name is still stealing” and I still stand by my response but had these designers been in the room with me to see my sweet smile maybe they wouldn’t have voted me out for being a Big Meany… but they weren’t, so they did. When the moderator informed me I was out, she invited me to join the super secret professional group… I would have been happier if the legal issues of copyright infringement were resolved but the other group was a professional gold-mine.

    You bring up very good points and over the last 15 years or so, the only sites that really handle this well are rigidly controlled by moderators who are well liked and respected as virtual parents -it’s their way or the highway.
    Cris Gasser´s last blog post ..Cleveland Rocks! and so does their Contest!

    • says

      Hello to my fellow rabble-rouser. ;)

      Perhaps you are right, and we’re in the learning stages of Internet use. We can remember the limitations of the medium, and learn to check for the intent of a message before we take umbrage.

      As I’m writing this note, I’m remembering the time I wrote a blog post which I thought would be a humorous piece. It inadvertently attracted a crowd which didn’t know me in any other context. They misunderstood my tone–common enough. The remarkable thing is that one of my visitors thought to ask for clarification. (They were a moderator for a fan page, funnily enough.)

      But because of their skillset, that one questioning comment turned what promised to be an imminent wrath-storm into a fun encounter. A few visitors even went on to promote my post. Sometimes it takes one thoughtful person to change it all.

  2. says

    Whew! A very informative article on handling conflict in this virtual world.

    My tried-and-true suggestion (or maybe TIRED and true) is to THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. Or write…or post…or whatever the case may be. Do NOT let emotions override intellect, which seems to be the case when these types of things get out of hand.

    Remember my ire over name-calling that I brought up on the WU FB page? My initial reaction was to stab back, to sink to that level. I was running on emotion…but took a moment to bounce it off my peers before acting upon it. I took a step back and realized what I was doing, and adjusted accordingly. I let my head rule my heart.

    In other words…I was an adult about it, and didn’t allow that insolent inner child to have a temper tantrum.

    Great post, Jan!
    ML Swift´s last blog post ..You CAN Unplug from Social Mania!

    • says

      At the time it feels like it would be fun to have a temper tantrum, doesn’t it? Yet we’ve all been that restaurant patron whose meal has been interrupted by a screaming child, and we know in the long run it’s a miserable experience for all parties. I missed the drama you’re describing, but I’m so glad you knew to hit the pause button. We all need a pause button!

      • says

        Oh…there was never any drama at all. I just posed a question concerning a thorn in my side and received good advice from the WU community. But see, I used my head, talked it over with friends, and calmed down before ever reacting to the situation.
        ML Swift´s last blog post ..You CAN Unplug from Social Mania!

  3. says

    I love this blog … one great post after another!

    So, here’s a situation which visited a huge writer’s group I belong to. A couple of years ago, a person arrived and made an announcement after listening to three or four people do a critique of an offered piece of writing.

    “It would be better if we could do ‘praise cookies’.”

    “Huh? What’s a ‘praise cookie’?” many of us thought.

    It seems a “praise cookie” is negative sandwiched between positive … praise, critique, praise. Apparently, it’s was developed by Toastmasters.

    On it’s face, this SEEMS to be a terrific idea, but it’s predicated on an error, on the notion that critique is bad. Criticism IS bad, but critique is good … it’s the reason many of us found ourselves in writer’s groups in the first place. In most cases, praise is part of the critique, it just may have not been fashioned into a “cookie.”

    This person ended up leaving the group. Our group is full of very talented young writers who can be brusque, but they are generally fair. They did not care for the “praise cookie” idea. We also have some more experienced writers who deliver critique as the gift it is, another set of precious eyes on one’s work, of incredible value to the critiquee. Compared to what these writers offer others, a “praise cookie” seemed a contrivance.

    Good writers’ groups seem to be self-regulating, and when they aren’t, perhaps their day is done.

    When it comes to community writing blogs (like WU), it IS all about the moderation. It would be nice if folks read books on how to fight fair but the problem with that is that the people who need those books the most think they ARE fighting fair! They are victims of meanness/jealousy/cliquishness/criticism and BEING MISUNDERSTOOD.

    And, sadly, some of them don’t really want to be good writers.
    Rosemary Freeman´s last blog post ..This Week’s Writer’s Exercise

    • says

      In my less-than-mannerly world we’d call the praise-cookie concept a sh*t sandwich. ;) Personally, I think they’re a useful technique, particularly in certain contexts: a new group where trust hasn’t been established, or times when the free-floating anxiety threatens to break through and trust is in jeopardy. There’s also a human tendency to expect people to know what they did well. (“If I didn’t mention it, it must be great.”) So it’s a good mechanism to make a critique well-rounded, ensure people become cognizant of their strengths as well as their vulnerabilities.

      That said, sometimes groups don’t need the structure. With time and familiarity, it’s possible your newcomer might have become comfortable with a more casual style. Or not. You might be right in that the resistance was to critique itself, rather than the mechanism. No way to know without a long conversation.
      Jan O’Hara´s last blog post ..Ongoing Brain Wars (Plus Writer Unboxed Redirect)

  4. says

    Great stuff. I think it’s mostly number 3 – our “well-oiled indignation machines.” Never before have we had such easy access to digital torches and pitchforks, and we break them out on the slightest provocation. There’s an instantaneous mob mentality that the Internet enables, which exerts a powerful pull even on those who are normally mild-mannered and conflict-averse.

    But I must take issue with your implication that I have saggy breasts. For one thing, I much prefer to call them “pecs,” and frankly I consider them to be rather perky.

    • says

      Re the pull of the Internet: It could be my perception or that the news articles I’m thinking of hold a particular stickiness, but I don’t think so. Canadians are generally slow to rile. In the past few weeks, I’ve seen an “invasion” of name-calling, snarkiness, and cynicism in the comments of our news websites like never before. I’d love to know a sociologist who researches this stuff to know if I’m right. If so, Dejected Literary Goat might well go into hiding.

      Re the pecs: I will accept your goodhearted rebuke and hide the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, then. And thanks for being such a genial joke-recipient.
      Jan O’Hara´s last blog post ..Ongoing Brain Wars (Plus Writer Unboxed Redirect)

  5. says

    First, thanks for the shout out. I must say, I’d be lost without The Texans, and the guiding hand of blog-mama Therese.

    I also want to say how fortunate I feel. We’ve had our share of dust-ups on the page. But, for a group of over 2500, the vast majority of members are über-professional. There is a prevailing atmosphere of fair-mindedness and support that, from my perspective, is unmatched for our size.

    I must point out that the roots of this attitude go back to this very spot. The atmosphere of the WU group has grown from the spirit of the founders and contributors here. And much was learned and addressed in the early days, when you, Jan, were a force in moderation wisdom. One wise move was the zero-tolerance on self-promo (which, if you’ll recall, was very controversial when it was announced, and for months after, when we first started enforcing it). I think being firm but fair, always willing to consider new ways to skin a cat, has led to one of the best and most congenial ongoing writerly conversations I’ve seen on the interwebs. I may be a bit biased. ;-)

    Kudos to my (three) WU bosses: Therese and Kathleen. And you, Jan, for all you’ve done to make WU what it is. And kudos to our awesome membership. Wishing you peace in your other communities, Boss.
    Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Backstory—Fiction’s Foundation

    • says

      I’ve been wondering if the promotion-free policy has become easier to enforce. Sounds as though it has. If so, I’m delighted.

      A good beginning helps, but in my experience, it’s insufficient. I know the Mod Squad and Mamas work to keep the culture one of ongoing learning and mutual respect, and to keep one another honest in that pursuit. As of this moment, absolute power hasn’t corrupted. ;)
      Jan O’Hara´s last blog post ..Ongoing Brain Wars (Plus Writer Unboxed Redirect)

  6. says

    Fantastic post and resource-share, Jan.

    I think we’ve become a society that idolizes conflict. All you have to do is look at the prime-time lineup any night to see it everywhere–fighting for contestants, with contestants, for love, for food, for fashion, for business, for “survival,” whatever. We put a spotlight on reality-TV couples and families but only when there’s a promise of High Conflict.

    As writers, we know the value of conflict. But it’s so uncool in a writing community.

    Thanks for your note about the WU community–our FB page (w00t to the Mod Squad!) and our site here. Of course I see conflict as a mama here, much of it behind-the-scenes. Should that comment go through or be deleted? Should that commenter be contacted? And there’s a whole psychology to communicating with people who are incensed about whatever it is there’s incensed about. Can they be reasoned with, or will they be delivering an e-cleat to the head regardless? Will they be name-calling the moderators, delivering ultimatums, trying in fresh ways to down the ship? I’ve seen and dealt with all of this.

    Thankfully, the vast majority of our community members here at WU are peace-keepers–kind and considerate and lovely–and Issue Days are few and far between. (Ironically, I received an email through the WU inbox six or so months back criticizing a lack of opposition via comments to posts across the board at WU. I replied that comments are thoughtful 99% of the time, whether the commenter agrees or disagrees with the post; our members are mindful and respectful of different points of view. She e-shrugged, and that was that.)

    This is becoming a too-long comment, so I’ll wrap it up with this thought: If you’re a member of an online community, and you’re about to add a comment to a post or thread that has become contentious, stop a sec. Has your point of view already been heard? Tag the “like” option if it’s available instead of throwing a match on the situation. Is your goal to help the masses consider an alternate point of view, or are you about to deliver a few new gallons of gas to the scene? Do you live in a glass house? Even if you live in one made of timber, you are not immune to the potential ravaging effects of fire that may come your way one random day. How would you want others to respond to you then? Soap Box Out. ;-)

    • says

      *vows to get a can of paint so she can refresh T’s soapbox* ;)

      I’ve often wondered two things:
      1. How much of the writing world’s drama is exactly because we work in the field of conflict-chasing. i.e. How many brain loops light up when we get to say, “Ah-ha! A difference I can use for my evil pleasure.”
      2. How much different WU would be if you didn’t have your Masters in psychology. (I’m quite sincere in this.)
      Jan O’Hara´s last blog post ..Ongoing Brain Wars (Plus Writer Unboxed Redirect)

    • says

      PS: Re the person who thought we don’t disagree with one another enough: I wonder if it’s a question of taste, perception, or expectations–or all three–because that’s not my experience of WU. They might prefer more grit in their disagreements, which is fair. Or perhaps they don’t recognize dissent unless it comes with contempt. Hard to say.
      Jan O’Hara´s last blog post ..Ongoing Brain Wars (Plus Writer Unboxed Redirect)

  7. says

    Junior high and high school used to be the enclosed fight cage. Now every utterance hits the Internet and time to pick sides. This idea now floats through real life.
    Mary Jo Burke´s last blog post ..Hello world!

  8. says

    Thanks for tackling this difficult subject, and for all the work you put into compiling helpful resources. I know I will be reading them thoughtfully. I belong to two on-line critique groups, with members flung far and wide, and I suspect, with differing political and social views. However, we have managed to weather two successful years due largely to the fact that in addition to critiquing, early on we agreed that slack would be cut for each member if life got in the way. Yes, there are times when it’s difficult not to be peeved when a member wants their crit pronto, but has been late three times in a row. But a shared confidence about a tough home situation goes a long way to elicit understanding and soothe any aggravation.
    Coincidentally, for further ideas on deflating rivalries within the writing community you can check out my latest blog post.
    Melissa Shaw-Smith´s last blog post ..High Jinks in the Harem

  9. says

    Great post, Jan. Sometimes internet communities remind me of overcrowded rooms, with people of all political and social backgrounds standing cheek to jowl. What’s amazing to me is that there aren’t MORE blowups, since the potential for friction and misunderstanding is so great. You’ve made some excellent points on how to avoid conflict, Jan. (I’m always a fan of the Golden Rule, too — treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Second only to if you can’t say something nice, shut up. : )

  10. says

    Jan, may I encourage you to consider expanding this post into a magazine article or essay on dealing with the current culture of conflict? The writers’ group examples can easily be replicated in virtually every other subculture — most of which now have huge online presences. Beyond what you said about effective online communication — very important — I was really struck by your observations about free-floating anxiety and the indignation machines, and how our culture seems to promote that.

    Thank you for an excellent post.

  11. says

    Looking at your resources right now. Another one: Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World, by Harold Kushner (2009), the rabbi who wrote Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. A calming, common-sense approach to pushing through fear.

    • says

      I’ll consolidate my comments here, if that’s okay.

      First, thank you for the suggestion on doing more with this! I will ponder. (Had considered it briefly prior to posting, interestingly, but not for long.) If you had a suggestion about market, I’d be all ears.

      Re Rabbi Kushner: I’m familiar with his “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” Enjoyed it very much, so will check this out. Thanks.

  12. says

    Excellent post, Jan. My best advice is for people to stay out of other people’s business. When I see the Facebook fights escalate is when people feel like they have to chime in their two-cents, whether it be in support or against the intitial combatants.

    Another weird thing I’ve noticed is people’s willingness to call other people on behavior, when they never would in public. Like, if someone makes a disparaging comment on someone’s post, then another person makes a comment about how rude the disparaging comment was, even though they, themselves, are being rude. Then you end up with everyone feeling they have to protect their besties and it gets ugly.

    You’ve got some great tips and resources for fair fighting, and it’s quite nice that you thought of sharing ways to make it better!

    • says

      I’m coming here after the Boston Marathon bombing, Lara, so forgive me if I’m distracted. Kind of puts all our squabbles into perspective, doesn’t it?

      I’m glad you chimed in. I thought you’d have interesting things to say. Good reminder not to triangulate a quarrel, if at all possible.

  13. says

    Excellent post, as always, Jan. I couldn’t agree more with your analysis. And with Therese’s comment about adding fuel to the fire, too. I’ve seen some of that online.

    I adore my online friends, many of whom I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person, but so many different backgrounds and temperaments in a single forum is a challenging thing to navigate. I tend to want to be the peacemaker in such situations, but growing up, that seemed to backfire often. I’d try to mend fences between fighting friends and somehow end up with them talking to each other and upset with me. So these days, I do as Liz and Therese said—observe the golden rule, and keep my trap shut if I’m not adding anything, no matter how badly my fingers itch to try and calm things down.

    I love your resolution suggestions!
    LynDee Walker´s last blog post ..Just one of the coolest things ever

    • says

      Hoo boy, do I relate. It’s easy to replicate familial roles in the broader world, or in my case, forget that I’m no longer a trained professional whose been asked for assistance. ;) Good reminder, LynDee, about the power of conditioning and the need to break it. Thanks.

  14. says

    I hate to be another me, too, but I also think this is an important issue to address and this is a great post. I love that you started with yourself as someone to evaluate: it models the kind of behavior you need in a successful group; i.e., that everyone takes responsibility for their actions. (Yes, I know there’s no number agreement between everyone and their. Don’t care; my prediction is that it will become acceptable usage within the next fifty years, by which time it won’t matter to me unless I’m editing in the afterlife.)

    The issues change to some extent when you’re talking about a group of peers in which you’re an equal member and the group you moderate (even if otherwise the group is equal).

    A key factor I’d add to your list is that boundaries must be set early and rigorously maintained. Most people I know (including myself) don’t have a good idea of how to set and maintain boundaries without a lot of work. The style in which you maintain them can be casual or formal (in my opinion, casual and kind and firm is the best mix) but establishing the group norm for boundaries is important.

    Having said that, people are people and they screw up. And we all have button issues that others may not be aware they’ve pressed. Everyone has a day when they’re off and touchy or grumpy. And we moderators screw up, bringing me back to the initial “Go, you!” sentiment for being willing to take responsibility and model the behavior you want to see.

    I know that readers of this blog would *hate* to hear about another book, but one I loved and used back when I was teaching at a community college is “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project.

    Best, Jodi

    • says

      I’m a believer in the principle of modeling ideal behaviors. It never worked well to shout “be quiet” at my kids. Can’t imagine grownups being any more pliable. ;)

      Gentle, casual and firm boundaries? That’s consistent with the groups I know which demonstrate the highest levels of trust. Similar to what I’ve noticed about contracts, too. The more equitable the agreement, the shorter contracts tend to be, the more accessible the language. I’ve known groups which were stable for years on the basis of a handshake and willingness to look after one another; others that couldn’t make it six months with a phone book contract which covered all angles.

      Thank you for the book recommendation! Sounds like one I’d enjoy.

  15. says

    Great post. I’ve been on both sides. On a Delphi Forum a group of us got together and came up with ideas for how to keep the diverse group from becoming a flame war. In the years since those suggestions have become rules on a number of groups I moderated.

    I used to keep the list posted next to my computer screen to remind me to “stop & think” before posting/responding. Now I have the list on my website and occasionally post links to it when online discussions look about ready to get out-of-hand and have been pleasantly surprised to see the discussions change in tone as everyone takes a few moments to calm down.
    Tasha Turner´s last blog post ..Celebrating 1 year anniversary since being hit by Mack truck

  16. says

    I was part of a message board that got out of hand. It did have moderators of sorts — only two, which wasn’t enough for the message board, and they didn’t have the authority to boot people. One writer “discovered” writing, and declared his methods were the one true path. If anyone posted a method different than his, he went after them and pummeled them until they either gave up and left or conceded. No one stood their ground with him, which was bad, and the moderators had no enforcement other than telling him to stop. Eventually, he drove most of the people away, so he wandered to a new message board in search of people to convert to his way.

    This one was heavily moderated, and not just by the moderators, but by the members. The first time he popped up with the ‘true way,’ a handful of people jumped in and cheerily said, “And here’s how I do it!” with something different. He tried to steer onto his method, and that got people telling him “Everyone’s method is different.” He kept trying to bring it back to his methods, and they kept telling him it’s not the only way. They were actually nice about it, but they didn’t let him gain any ground at all. After a week, he deleted all his posts and bailed. Even his blog disappeared at the same time.
    Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller´s last blog post ..Rule M: Make checklists for your story

    • says

      It doesn’t take much to undermine a message board if mods don’t have clout and options, or they don’t have the backing of a savvy membership. You’ve heard the expression “kill them with kindness?” I always thought of that as an oxymoron, because true kindness doesn’t permit murderous intent. But if people are spoiling for a fight and don’t get it, they often go elsewhere, where I assume people are happy to grant them their wish.

  17. says

    That’s encouraging, Tasha–that people pulled themselves back from the brink. Perhaps it’s that you got buy-in to the rules by creating them as a group?

    Pardon my ignorance, but what is a Delphi Forum?

    Lastly, if the rules are brief, I’d love if you posted them here. Some of us might be on the hunt for ideas. If they’re longish and online, would you post a link?

  18. says

    I have been trying to read this post for two days, and I am SO glad I finally was able.

    I love your brave statements, as they are levelheaded and wise. I also love John Gottman. One of those Gottman trained therapists helped save my marriage. :)

    I was confronted (at my Bible study) on Thursday by a woman who was disturbed about a post I had written 16 months ago. I’ll be chatting with her further tonight, and I welcome your thoughtful ideas and suggestions about confrontation and productive communication.

    Love you, Ms. Jan-o-rama!
    Sarah Callender´s last blog post ..Discomfort

  19. says

    REALLY on the Gottman connection? How neat.

    Wishing you luck in your conversation! That she’d speak to you this much after the fact implies she cares enough to talk it through, and trusts you to be receptive. IMHO a good beginning.

    Jan-o-rama? Heh. I love the name and return the sentiment. Thanks, Sarah.