18 ways to deal with mean people online

by Toni Birdsong
Mean people will always be part of life’s equation. And yes, this reality can multiply when you decide to go public with your biblical values online. Take it from us: With a name like “@stickyJesus” we’ve been in our share of cyber clashes . . . and emerged with God’s glory in tact.

God’s Truth will always bring out the toxins of this world. No one knew this better than Jesus—a magnet for persecution but a master at maintaining His cool. Thankfully, He taught us how to respond when the bullets fly and how incredible things can happen when we choose His ways over our own.

So here you go—18 ways to help you deal mean people online:

  1. Step away from the keyboard. When you are attacked, never respond immediately. Give yourself time to pray. Ask God to fill your heart with His thoughts and His words. This may take one minute, five minutes, or even a few hours. (Read: Prov. 29:20)
  2. Re-read your post or tweet. Did you express yourself clearly? Could you be to blame for the misunderstanding? (Read: Psalm 19:14)
  3. If you are wrong, say so. If you’ve misspoken or communicated in haste admit it. Don’t delete previous comments or flee from the conversation. God is bigger than your missteps. Truth transforms moreso than appearing right. (Read: Prov. 17:9)
  4. Ask God for new eyes. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you supernatural eyes to see what your critic is going through. Open your mind to the Holy Spirit’s lead and ready yourself for God to turn a harsh encounter completely around. (This is SO much fun!) (Read: Prov. 15:1).
  5. Don’t take it personally. Treat your critic as a smart and capable person. Picture God’s hands lovingly creating that person, sculpting, and molding them. Remind yourself that God loves that person deeply and that them showing up in your digital stream could be a divine appointment. Realize and respect that they have a journey you know nothing about and that pain likely fuels their anger.
  6. Be realistic. Although your words can prove very impactful, don’t attempt to change an angry person in 140 characters. If the Holy Spirit leads, ask your critic to take the conversation to a Direct Message or email.
  7. Model self-control. When you are online you are on a public stage. People see you being attacked and they see your response. God’s power in you is able to love even difficult people and give you self control. (Read 2 Timothy 1:7)
  8. Remember where you are. This is not your home—it’s a war zone. Don’t allow the language, actions, and words of this culture to surprise you or mortally wound you. Hurt, lost people hurt other people but healed people (YOU) can actually heal other people. Stay in the game—in His power and in His name! Never forget the enemy has come to destroy, not just annoy. Satan’s guns are loaded and gunning straight for you.
  9. Check your attitude. It sounds cliché but ask yourself: How would Jesus respond to this person? Learn to delete your words and upload Christ into the conversation. (Read: John 8:31)
  10. Show respect. Instead of lashing out, tell your critic that while you don’t share his/her opinion, you respect their right to say it.
  11. Pray for your critic. If the context is right, tell the person you will be praying for them. Add a smiley face (the smiley face covers many sins and seems to disarm quickly online) :). (Read: Proverbs 18:21)
  12. Seek first to understand. Instead of drawing battle lines, listen. Ask questions that dive deeper such as: “Tell me more, I’m listening” or “wow, sounds like you’ve had some pretty tough experiences in that area.”
  13. Use the word “I” and not “you” when responding. Use phrases such as “I understand” “I am listening” “I see it differently” “I hear you” “I’m trying to understand.”
  14. Be positive. Turn a negative comment into a positive. If someone says to you: “Life sucks and so do your sappy tweets. God doesn’t care about anyone.” Come back with: “I hear you, friend. Sounds like things are especially tough for you today. I’ll be praying you up big time! Bless you! :)”
  15. Use gentle humor or light sarcasm. If appropriate, lighten up the heaviness with humor like: “Wow, guess I hit a nerve. Here –> \_/ <— this cup of coffee is on me!”
  16. Circle back. Once you’ve diffused a person and connected in a positive way, circle back in a day or two to say hello and connect with your new critic-turned-friend. This small, caring gesture can go a very long way.
  17. Be kind but don’t compromise. You can be kind and lend an ear to an angry person but that doesn’t mean you change your biblical perspective just to win someone to your point of view. God’s not so crazy about lukewarm Christians. (Read: Revelation 3:16)
  18. Don’t get abused. If a person shows no sign of mellowing, continues to curse profusely, or seems threatening, block or defriend them and move on. Let the Lord deal with them on His turf. (Read: Prov. 25:26)

No doubt, a conflict online can shake you up and rock your world. Going public as salt and light in a world feasting on a diet of reality TV and moral mediocrity isn’t for sissies. Expect a few zingers now and then. But also expect God to meet you in the fire, protect you, heal you, and build your heart even stronger for the next opportunity to show a difficult person the love of Jesus Christ.

How do you deal with mean people online? What have you learned from those encounters?

Post/Tweet this today:
Being salt and light online isn’t for sissies. When you get knocked down, get back up—in His name, for His fame. #LiveSticky

Tags: , , ,

  • Coenraad Fick

    What an appropriate post, after what I have gone through in the last couple of days. I wrote a post, which was not 100% theologically correct, however, the people that I journey with closely understood what I was saying, and agreed. Some people that read my blog showed me out on the theological error that I made. This started a conversation that left a sour taste in my mouth, and I subsequently wrote a post on how to treat people with grace online, pointing the parties our directly.

    Luckily this enabled us to get to a point where we understand what each was saying, and why we said it. Forgiveness has happened, and I duly went back and edited my original post to be more correct, but still get my point across.

    Thanks for this post, it gives on relevant tips on how to handle situations like this, which I probably did not do 100%.

  • http://chrisvonada.com chris vonada

    This is Excellent Tami, thank you for posting. Anytime we raise our head above the crowd… we always have to remember Who’s we are :)

  • Tami Heim

    God knows your heart and it sounds like you did the right thing.  That’s happened to us a couple of times here. 
    The key is to stay open to the feedback and then respond in love. (Especially if you are in the theology waters) When you gather the grace to understand over being understood (#12) it bridges the gaps of confusion much faster. That’s my ‘go-to’ reaction when someone calls me out on something or I learn my point wasn’t clear. 
    Remember there’s someone on the other side and you may have no idea what they’re going through right now. There’s alway ‘more to the story.’ Thanks for sharing. Be encouraged – press on to do what you know you’ve been called to do! 

  • Tami Heim

    Thanks Chris – but Toni gets the nod! I think she nailed it for us. Bless you.

  • http://chrisvonada.com chris vonada

    oooops, thank you both and Be Great !!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671101964 Jennifer Adams Klein

    This would be a good thing to print out and hang by the computer…or over the monitor… Thanks! It’s always good to take a look at how Jesus interacted with people. Sometimes He just kept silent…but we’ll never know when to speak or what to say without the Spirit’s guiding….so good that you point that out. Love your heart for the Lord and His kingdom Toni! 

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony Alicea

    Fantastic ideas! It’s especially difficult to operate in grace online if you aren’t intentional about it. I know I’ve fallen victim to a knee-jerk response because I was just frustrated or annoyed. 

    If you keep these tips in mind beforehand, it will definitely help you to respond in grace.

  • Anonymous

    You are SO right — this is a good reminder for ALL of us as we venture into enemy territory every day. I hope you know God has me on a short leash and is training me up in this area as well. I write about the things He continues to  WORK in me. It’s not an easy gettting attacked but it does make us more agile! Love you girl! (Your avatar makes me smile every time I see it. I’m coming to Cali in August and we MUST get together!) 

  • Anonymous

    That’s right @tonyjalicea:disqus . It’s so tough but together, we can spur one another on to greater things in this area. I need prayer and support every day! 

    That’s why we MUST pray and ask for anointing “before” we log on EVERY day, not a second later!

  • http://twitter.com/pathfindernig Yinka Olaito

    What are great way to be a matured person. This list is spot on @stickyjesus

  • Eph61820

    Keeping the piece, writing an email that will not stir up conflict has always been my ‘go-to’ (http://www.peacemaker.net/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=aqKFLTOBIpH&b=1084243&ct=1245855&notoc=1), thanks for the reminder

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-18333720:disqus … “aspiring” toward the heart of Christ—so far from the goal. I pray for myself daily in these areas. Some days I’m more successful than others. Bless you in your witness, brother. Thank you for stopping by.

  • Anonymous

    @0645ab0e6102c0e6a80fc99ea9be87a2:disqus that was a great blog post you shared. Awesome, biblical advice on keeping it cool in your emails! Thank you!

  • Tami Heim

    I agree. Thanks for sharing it with all of us!

  • http://twitter.com/gloriaamez Gloria Amezcua

    Type your comment here.All the suggestions are right on target.  Thank you.

  • http://www.thechoicedrivenlife.com Olga

    Thanks for sharing this…I just let it go to be honest…we are all different.

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    Toni, this is super advice!  But I’m wondering where it could have come from… certainly not from first hand experience, ’cause I can’t imagine any ever being mean to you. :)

  • Anonymous

    @PaulSteinbrueck:disqus you are so funny! you know I am a total brat! I’m a mean-peep magnet! Ha! :)

  • http://www.shyjumathew.com Shyju Mathew

    Awesome brilliant list. Well covered. God bless this ministry.

  • Janiece

    i had a particularly embarrassing expierence with this the other day! i dont really know what i was thinking when i posted a picture of me and this other girl on a forum and asked people who they thought was prettier. i went into it with a sense of humor and in all honesty i wasnt all that surprised when i got attacked for it haha. but let me tell you that stuff hurts! besides a couple mean comments, these people thought i was fake! so i guess i am prettier haha! anyways, i realized that DOESNT matter and that my jealousy and shallowness was realllly immature and i learned a lesson from it in a way. thank you for this post. :) i believe everything happens for a reason!