How do you handle a sensitive situation in a Facebook group? That’s a very real question if you lead a group. There will always be competing interests that you have to mediate like your need to have an engaged group vs the groups need to be a spam-free environment vs an individual rights. What’s a leader to do when one member wants Facebook another member removed?
Tricky. Last week, I shared what poor emotional intelligence looks like from an entrepreneur (an attorney) who responded poorly to this question.
I asked you to take a look at the messenger exchange and offer up your thoughts on what work and what didn’t work in terms of that message.
How to do emotional intelligence right on Facebook
This week, I’m showing you how I would handle this kind of situation. Facebook is the 900 pound gorilla in the social space, don’t you think? You may not like it but you have to have a presence there. Typically, that’s a Facebook group.
I see folks like Caitlin Bacher giving advice on how to grow engagement in your Facebook group. Ask simple questions that require simple yes or no answers. That type of thing.
What I don’t see is anyone talking about how to manage the dynamics of the group and the personality conflicts that are bound to arise. I’ve been bullied before in a very engaged group and the leader did nothing to help.
It’s your responsibility to plan how to manage interactions in your group, even the unpleasant ones. Do NOT wing it because you will get a less than good result. That’s what happened with last week’s message. The leader didn’t consider how her words would impact me. OK so let’s set the stage.
Let’s pretend. Imagine that you are the leader of a group for lady lawyers. Someone in the group points out privately that another member is not a lawyer. What do you do?
Here’s the list that I would run through…
1. Consider the rules. Have I be uber clear about what the rules for joining and participating are?
2. Consider the source. Why is this person telling me about this? What do they have to gain or lose?
3. Investigate the situation. Take a moment to determine if what is alleged is actually true. Is there a quick way to verify?
4. Reach out for more information without a judgement. Share the situation and ask the person accused to offer feedback. Restate the rule if necessary.
5. Be transparent. Share that this is a tough situation and that the way forward is not a bright line.
6. Collaborate on a solution. Don’t feel the pressure to have all the answers. Enlist the two other people to create the solution.
7. Rehabilitate the accused member. Help explain what happened if the accused plans to rejoin the group. People will wonder and in absence of a good story will make up their own.
8. Apologize. Say you are sorry to the accused member for the entire situation. You can make a decision to terminate them from the group and still be unhappy about having to do it. Saying sorry acknowledges that there are hurt feelings all around.
Getting all the Feels right
Emotional intelligence is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to see how the world works for them.
In this case, you can put yourself in the leader’s shoes, the reporter’s shoes and the accused shoes.
How did the reporter feel when she checked and didn’t see legal credentials on the page for the accused? Angry, manipulated, loyal to group? If you walk through the negative emotions eventually you get to emotions that demonstrate the reporter was trying to do a good thing, not tear down the accused. Of course that’s a guess. I don’t really know.
But the guess allows me to assign a better emotion and reason to what happened. I don’t have to hate on the reporter because, at some level, I know she was trying to be a good community member.
What did the leader feel when the reporter contacted her over the issue? Hard to say. Fear, confusion, anger, frustration, sadness and probably much more. The leader says she feels a large responsibility to the group and I believe her.
Nonetheless, she failed as a leader. Why? Her emotional intelligence is obviously low.
She took action too quickly. The leader assumed that the reporter was right about her assumption after only a cursory check. Don’t we all try to get out of an uncomfortable situation as quickly as possible? Yes, however, this kind of situation required more time and thought.
She failed to understand her own feelings. The leader spends more time soothing herself in the note than addressing the situation. It’s clear that her main reason for sending the note is to protect herself.
She failed to think about how her words would land. There’s a concept in the conflict world that talks about impact and intent. You know your intention when you speak but you can’t know the impact those words have on the other person without asking.
This leader didn’t think about how her words would impact me. I felt angry and hurt that I was being called a liar who joined the group under false pretenses. The leader caused me to feel that way because her remarks assume that I am not a lawyer. Even when I tell her directly, she still required more proof like my bar number and when I graduated.
If she was too lazy to check my personal profile on Facebook where I share my law school, I’m guessing she wouldn’t have contacted Massachusetts to confirm my bar admission. So, what was the point of asking for it?? Definitely sending me the ‘I don’t trust you’ message.
All is well that ends well. I provided the necessary information. The leader booted me from the group before even getting the info and didn’t reinstate me after. That’s just as well. I don’t want to do business with or associate with someone who is so unskilled.
How to Handle Issues in your Facebook group
At some point there will be conflict in your Facebook group. Here are my top tips for getting through it feeling good.
1. Be clear. Be sure your community rules are crystal clear so everyone is informed
2. Reserve judgement. Don’t jump on one side or the other until you understand the entire situation.
3. Ask, don’t tell. Share what you’ve seen or heard then ask for clarification. Typically, there is more than meets the eye and it’s respectful to get the other side of the story.
4. Consider your impact & emotions. Use your emotional intelligence to consider what the other people involved might be feeling and to identify your own feelings. That way you’re not acting on uninformed autopilot.
5. Enroll all parties in the conversation to resolve things. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers.
TELL ME in the comments how you’ve handled a similar situation on Facebook or your thoughts about this topic. I love to hear from you!