To decline to respond or engage with a poster can be the best option in certain situations. For example, when confronted with clear violations/danger, you may block a poster and report them to the platform. You can also choose not to engage if the poster or message is in bad faith, or clearly produced by a bot or other bad actor. Finally, you may decline to engage to protect your own mental health.
EXAMPLE: You see posts that clearly violate a platform’s rules and endanger others.
GOALS: Researchers find that responding to online trolls encourages them to continue their behavior, because their motive is to annoy and upset people. When you come across offensive and antisocial behavior online, you do not have to engage with the poster, and you may need to report them to the platform. Also, you may not want to engage with a poster or conversation where there does not appear to be a real willingness to discuss differences of opinion or reach agreement, especially when there is malice. By not engaging with such actors, you can conserve your energy and attention. In this case, you are also not rewarding bad behavior.
To listen is to “hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration” (Merriam Webster). Subsets of this include paraphrasing, where you repeat back a brief version of what the user just said, and silent preparation, where the focus is on you paying close, quiet attention to what is being said.
EXAMPLE: “What I think you’re saying is this. Is that right?”
GOALS: While listening may not seem like much of a response, it is a critical part of a trust-building exchange, especially in situations where one is thinking about the possibilities for longer term dialogue or engagement outside the immediate message being discussed (Bojer et al 2006). By listening silently, participants can understand more about whether to respond or how to respond. For example, it may be that the person you want to engage with isn’t really willing or ready to discuss differences of opinion (Van Til 2011). It can also be that responding to a query only with factual answers misses cues that the message writer is sending about problems they are having.
Also phrased as perspective taking, this mode is the act of viewing a situation from the point of view of others. While empathizing involves sharing others’ emotions, perspective taking helps identify other’s intentions, needs, reactions, and behaviors
EXAMPLE: In preparing for and during a discussion, imagine yourself in the shoes of the other person. Try to understand what the other is thinking. Try to visualize yourself on the other side of the table, in that role, thinking as the other.
GOALS: By doing this, people can identify another person's thoughts and points of view even though they may not agree with them, which may reduce impasses and decrease discrimination.