Are you “cool” under social media fire?

Most of us have probably read a social media post that has infuriated us or, at least, prompted a desire to fire off a snarky or snipe-filled response. Here’s a couple I captured off the internet:

I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motor city and yet no one here knows how to [expletive] drive.” This was written by an auto industry contractor, who probably didn’t think it would offend anyone, unless of course you’re from Detroit or work for an auto manufacturer. The message here is know your audience, and most importantly, consider who it is that pays your salary.

The truth is going to bury you and your entire camp.” This threat was sent out by an NFL football player via Twitter in 2014 and resulted in the player being suspended by the NFL, released by the team he was playing for and a lawsuit. Plus, he irrevocably damaged his reputation. Eleven words that changed his life.

It’s always a good idea to take a breath when tweeting, posting or responding to anything that raises an eyebrow on the first take. That’s not an easy thing to do and, certainly, there is always a time and place for a direct response to anything that offends or irritates.

Being calm under fire is certainly one of the traits that most people aspire to, but it can be a challenge. Knowing when to respond can be just as important as how you respond. In many ways, disputes over email and social media have replaced face-to-face arguments as a principal source of friction in the workplace and the size of the company doesn’t matter. Many of the major companies in the U.S. have had some rather embarrassing public exchanges on social media. No one is immune from it. Good employees can make mistakes, and unintended meanings or unexpected responses are certainly part of the spontaneously combustible world of instant communication.

In the past, when you had to walk down a hallway to interact with a boss or a fellow employee, you at least had time to consider what it was you were going to say. With the advent of email and social media, you can literally fire off a response in seconds. That’s definitely not enough time to decompress, edit, or even reconsider your thoughts.

Whether you’re extremely agitated by something you read, or just want to add your “two cents” to a conversation taking place on social media, think carefully about what you say, before you say it. A moment of thoughtful contemplation may save you from a whole lot of heartache. Doing so will allow you to add careful and considerate to your list of personal skill sets. Your reputation and your boss may thank you later.