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How To Avoid Flames

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#1 Ran


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Posted 02 November 2005 - 10:52 AM

A few tips to very fresh newbies, who want to avoid being 'stamped' :

"How to handle my first flame!"

You have just posted something (a bit opiniated, perhaps?), and hope to get some positive responses.
Instead, you are flamed. What do you do?

1) Reflection.

*Don't* post immediately, however much you desire to.
Stop. Think. Read your own post once more, read the flamer's post once more.

Now, are you able to see where the flamer's coming from? Is it obvious that you goofed, or not?

*3 possibilities:

a) You realize that you goofed.

Solution: Say that you're sorry, and that you did not mean any harm. If possible, explain your real intent. Leave it at that.

Don'ts: Avoid coming forth as snarky in any way - the bigger the offense (and hence the more pissed the flamer), the harder you should avoid this.

b) You're not sure if/where you goofed (depending on the flamers post, and how you've interpreted it, of course).

Solution: Say that you don't quite understand what is the problem, and if anyone (no need to leave it for the flamer only) could explain where you stepped wrong, it would be most appreciated. This shows genuine interest in learning from mistakes, which always is good, even if you haven't done any mistakes.

Don'ts: Same as under a).
Try to avoid asking in a fashion that gives a sense of doubt about whether there is any problem at all.

c) You're pretty sure you haven't goofed.

Solution and don'ts: same as under b).

2) Reaction.

* Under scenario a) - if the flamer leaves the matter, everything's a-OK.
If he persists...well, now you have a bit of leeway.

It is generally unseemly to badger a guy who gave a sincere apology (though this is again somewhat related to the offense at hand).
Thus, you can react in a few different ways.

+You can say you're sorry again. Every post he keeps on flaming, and you say you're sorry, he paints himself as an ogre. Usually, this does not last very long, as most such flamers soon realize that they are making asses of themselves.

In the meantime, you can take satisfaction (secretly - gloating is unseemly) from the fact that he's making an idiot of himself.
However, make sure you don't simply repeat yourself - this will affect whether the apology is seen as genuine, or not. Be creative - and reasonable.

+You can 'flame' back.
By 'flame' I do *not* mean vicious ad hominem attacks - just say that you think she's acting unreasonable; that she should stop harassing you since you said you were sorry, and that you can't do anything *more* than say you're sorry, etc.
This achieves virtually the same as the above - the flamer paints himself as an ogre for every acidic post he sends. Presumably, some posters will feel their toes stepped upon, and wish to defend themselves a bit more aggressively.

+You can simply leave it be.
This is the most adult way of ending the flames, and is the approach that gives most points with me. Say that you've already apologized, and you can do little more than that, and that you won't contribute to a flame war. The flamer cannot do anything but give a reply...and if you don't fall for the temptation to give another reply, the whole thing fizzles out. If he keeps posting, he is essentially talking to himself...which looks fairly imbecilic.
(though he may try to nudge you into another flame war elsewhere, by small needlepricks now and then)

* Under scenario b), the flamer can either explain, or flame, or both.
If there is a hint of explanation, read it, and ignore the flames.
Address it. If you think the explanation reasonable, go to scenario a).
If not, analyze the explanation, address the points you think are faux, and ask the flamer to elaborate his position.

Now, if you're _honest_ about this; genuinely interested in getting things in the open, rather than obfuscating, things should be revealed pretty soon.
If the flamer is just taking cheap shots, this will be clear very soon. If she has genuine complaint, this will also be clear very soon...and you react accordingly.

If cheap shot - you've now exposed him (support from lots of other posters is usually a good sign), and can flame him a bit, if you so wish. Just don't make it too long - remember, flame wars get stupendously dull very fast.

If genuine complaint, go to a).

* Same holds for c) as for b) - in essence; if in doubt, err on the side of caution.