Conflict in Cyberspace: How To Resolve Conflict OnlineWritten by Kali Munro, M.Ed.
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Discuss situation with someone who knows you
Ask them what they think about post and response you plan to send. Having input from others who are hopefully more objective can help you to step back from situation and look at it differently. Suler recommends getting out of medium in which conflict occurred - in this case talking to someone in person - to gain a better perspective.
Choose whether or not you want to respond
You do have a choice, and you don’t have to respond. You may be too upset to respond in way that you would like, or it may not be worthy of a response. If post is accusatory or inflammatory and person’s style tends to be aggressive or bullying, best strategy is to ignore them.
Assume that people mean well, unless they have a history or pattern of aggression
Everyone has their bad days, gets triggered, reacts insensitively, and writes an email without thinking it through completely. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have good intentions.
On other hand, some people pick fights no matter how kind and patient you are with them. They distort what you say, quote you out of context, and make all sorts of accusations all to vilify and antagonize you. Don't take "bait" by engaging in a struggle with them - they'll never stop. Sometimes, best strategy is to have nothing more to do with someone.
Clarify what was meant
We all misinterpret what we hear and read, particularly when we feel hurt or upset. It’s a good idea to check out that you understood them correctly. For example, you could ask, “When you said...did you mean...or, what did you mean by...?” Or, “when you said...I heard...is that what you meant?” Often times, what we think someone said is not even close to what they meant to say. Give them benefit of doubt and chance to be clear about what they meant.
Think about what you want to accomplish by your communication
Are you trying to connect with this person? Are you trying to understand them and be understood? What is message you hope to convey? What is tone you want to communicate? Consider how you can convey that.
Verbalize what you want to accomplish
Here are some examples, “I want to understand what you’re saying.” “I feel hurt by some stuff that you said. I want to talk about it in a way that we both feel heard and understood.” “I want to find a way to work this out. I know we don’t agree about everything and that’s okay. I’d like to talk with you about how I felt reading your post.” “I hope we can talk this through because I really like you. I don’t want to be argumentative or blaming.”
Use “I” statements when sharing your feelings or thoughts
For example, “I feel...” versus “You made me feel...”
Use strictly feeling statements
Feeling statements include saying you felt hurt, sad, scared, angry, happy, guilty, remorseful, etc. In everyday conversations, we describe our feelings differently than this. For example, we say that we felt “attacked”, “threatened”, “unsafe”, or “punched in stomach”. When person we’re upset with is not present, or able to read our words, this is an understandable way to express full depth of our feelings and experience. Generally though, these statements are not simply feeling statements because they contain within them unexpressed beliefs. For example, you believe that you were attacked by person, not that it just felt that way. If you want to communicate with person involved (or they can read your words), it is best to stick to simple feeling statements otherwise they will hear you as accusing them of attacking them and be angry or upset with you. Some people get confused why other people get upset with them when they think they are only expressing their feelings; usually in these cases there were unstated beliefs expressed which person reacted to.
Choose your words carefully and thoughtfully, particularly when you’re upset
Do your best to keep in mind that person will read your post alone. You are not physically or virtually present with them to clarify what you meant, and they can’t see kindness in your eyes. They must rely entirely on your words to interpret your meaning, intent, and tone. This is why it’s important to choose your words carefully and thoughtfully. You can still be real and honest while being selective.
Place yourself in other person’s shoes
How might they hear your message? To avoid unnecessary conflict or a lot of hurt feelings, it helps to take into account who you’re writing to. One person might be able to hear you say it exactly how you think it, and another person would be threatened by that style of communication. Think about other person when writing your email or post. Do your best to communicate in a way that is respectful, sensitive, and clear to them. People often say, to do that feels like they’re being controlled and why shouldn’t they just write it way they want to. Of course you can write it any way you want, especially online, but if you want to communicate with this person and have them hear and understand what you’re saying, it helps to think about how they will hear it.
Use emoticons to express your tone
In online communication, visual and auditory cues are replaced by emoticons, for example, smiles, winks, and laughter. It helps to use emoticons to convey your tone. Additionally, if you like person, tell them! Having a conflict or misunderstanding doesn’t mean you don’t like person any more, but people often forget that reality, or don’t think to say it. It may be most needed during a tense interaction.
Start and end your post with positive, affirming, and validating statements
Say what you agree with, what you understand about how they feel, and any other positive statements at beginning of your email. This helps set a positive tone. End on a positive note as well.
The Paradox of Online Communication Handling conflict constructively is hard at best times, and it can be even harder online. It can take a great deal of effort, care, and thoughtfulness to address differences, tensions, and conflicts online. Paradoxically, some of same things that contribute to heightened conflict online can contribute to peaceful resolutions as well. The internet is an ideal place to practice communication and conflict resolution skills. Just as absence of visual and auditory cues, anonymity, invisibility, delayed reactions, and neutralizing of status free us to say what ever negative thing we want, they can also free us to try new, and more positive communication styles and to take all time we need to do that. As with any new technology, internet can be used to enhance our personal growth and relationships, or to alienate us from each other. It’s our choice.
Kali Munro, M.Ed., is a psychotherapist in private practice with twenty years experience. She offers free healing resources at her site, KaliMunro.com
Incest and Child Sexual Abuse: Definitions, Perpetrators, Victims, and EffectsWritten by Kali Munro, M.Ed., Psychotherapist
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Denial is recognizable by a survivor saying, "it didn't happen; I must be making it up; after all how can I be sure anything actually happened; and what if I’m wrong; it probably didn't happen; it couldn’t have happened."
In my experience, some denial even as an adult can be helpful. Denial can help slow process down. We know denial helps a child to survive. We cannot expect someone to simply abandon their hard earned coping strategies even if they are safe now. Safety is not only an external reality it is an internal one as well. Many survivors do not feel safe and may need some denial to cope with how they feel.
Too much denial leads to all sorts of problems as abuse is not addressed. This kind of denial is harmful and is fuelled in part by denial of "False Memory Syndrome" Foundation and other parts of society who would rather deny than face reality of child sexual abuse.
Dissociation, DID, MPD, and Multiplicity
We all dissociate to some extent or another. Babies do it quite regularly. It is a natural physiological response to being overwhelmed. Children who are sexually abused are extraordinarily overwhelmed. Dissociation allows child to literally take a break from abuse, to distance her/himself from what is going on, and ultimately to survive.
Some survivors describe dissociation as feeling as though they were not really there during abuse, but were far away perhaps watching from a distance. Some survivors describe it as they split off from abuse, and floated up to ceiling or into a crack in wall. Some survivors go really far away, deep inside themselves, and create different personalities to deal with abuse. Multiple personalities are usually formed in context of more extreme, frequent, or sadistic abuse.
Dissociation occurs on a continuum from far left where someone is not present in moment and is off somewhere else, they may or may not feel spacey--everyone does this at one time or another. Further along continuum people feel split, or like they are not one person inside, usually there is an adult and a really vulnerable or hurt kid. Further along, survivors have a few dissociated personalities. Even further toward right of continuum, people have many different personalities, identities, parts, fragments, and/or different groups of parts inside. These personalities may or may not have names. Survivors near right end may not have fully formed personalities, but lots of highly fragmented parts. At far right end, survivors lose time which they may or may not be aware of. They may find themselves places, and not remember how they got there and have experience of living different "lives".
In addition to a continuum of dissociation and multiplicity, there is a continuum of co-consciousness--the degree to which parts inside are aware of each other, and communicate and cooperate with one another. Achieving co-consciousness is an important step in healing process. For help responding to different parts inside and developing internal cooperation see my article DID, MPD, or Multiplicity: Responding to Parts Inside With a Focus on Kids
Problems with Boundaries
Because a survivor's boundaries were not respected--they were utterly violated--s/he may have a lot of difficulty knowing where her/his boundaries are, how to maintain them, and how to protect her/himself from those who do not respect or try to violate her/his boundaries. This leaves many survivors vulnerable to further abuse.
It can be very difficult for a survivor to trust anyone. It can be even harder when that person is close to them, and cares for them. Often abuser was that--someone who had a close and trusting relationship with them. Adult relationships, particularly sexual ones, can be quite challenging and triggering for survivors. At same time, they can be a source of great love, safety, and healing too.
Relationship With One's Body
Since abuse took place on and in body, body can become enemy. After all many survivors' carry a great deal of pain and memories in their bodies. Desperately needing ways to cope with this pain can lead to a variety of coping strategies including eating disorders, self-injurious behaviors, numbing, inability to enjoy sex, having lots of sex, poor body image, a generalized separation from and disregard for one's body, dissociation, and gender-identity issues.
There are a whole range of behaviors that survivors may engage in that come from having been sexually abused. They include: addictions, prostitution, isolation, frequent sexual activity, avoidance of sex, over-working, inability to work, high-functioning, low-functioning, argumentativeness, avoiding conflict, perfectionist, and wanting to please others.
All of these behaviors were learned in response to abuse and served an important purpose--staying sane and alive. It is important to not judge your or anyone else's ways of coping--you're here because of them.
These may include nightmares, insomnia, panic attacks, flashbacks, anxiety attacks, terror, inability to go outside, afraid being alone, afraid being with other people, numerous trigger-responses, headaches, and physical problems (yeast infections, bladder infections, anal bleeding, etc.)
A Final Thought
While it may be tempting to focus on how awful it is to be abused, it's important to not lose sight of reality that survivors are full human beings with many gifts and talents to offer world. Some of most sensitive, intuitive, deep, profound, creative, and hopeful people I've known are incest/child sexual abuse survivors. They were able to be that way by not losing touch with their humanity--their soulfulness--in face of others' inhumanity. We can all learn a great deal from survivors.
© Kali Munro, 2000. http://www.KaliMunro.com
Kali Munro, M.Ed., is a psychotherapist in private practice with twenty years experience. She offers free healing resources at her site, http://www.KaliMunro.com