Response Modes
What can I say?
And how can I say it?
When faced with a statement or conversation in which misinformation is being shared, or the topic is contested and not well understood, it can be difficult to know how to engage and respond.  What does the research say?

In fact, a world of possibilities exist.

Here are some options for conversational responses that reflect the latest research, are effective, and build trust that our team is actively exploring in the ARTT Research Catalog. A more in-depth view of response mode definitions, along with methods and outcomes, can also be found here:

Last updated: July 16, 2023

Response Definitions
Response Modes
Do Not Respond
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.

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.

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. 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. 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.
Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. Empathizing is sharing the emotions of others, an identification with someone else on an emotional level. Empathizing is a key mode of responding in conflictual exchanges where resolution or a transformation of the relationship is the goal.
Take Perspective
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 of others’ emotions, perspective taking helps identify other’s intentions, needs, reactions, and behaviors.

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.
To correct someone in a discussion is to show or tell someone that something is wrong as well as pointing to or explaining what is accurate.

The goals for this approach can vary. One goal may be to correct the speaker about a specific issue such as climate change or vaccination. Another goal might be to equip the speaker with general skills to identify inaccurate information. There might also be times when you want to make sure that others listening in on the conversation have access to correct facts.
To co-verify is to enlist a third party with standing in the community to work on source evaluation and fact-checking.

This is a method that has been observed in practical interventions in which someone offers to undergo source evaluation and fact-checking processes in tandem with someone else.
Encourage Healthy Inquiry
To encourage healthy inquiry is to help others ask questions of the information they are reading, such as “What do other sources say?” or “What’s the evidence?” This response mode is not the same as being skeptical of all information.

Being able to critically evaluate information by not immediately believing new claims is an important part of healthy inquiry. This response mode encompasses a wide set of goals of information and media literacy programs.
De-escalation is a reduction of hostilities between different individuals or groups. A number of methods, such as using humor or reminding the other party about shared values, can help in de-escalating a conflict.

This is an overarching goal of efforts in conflict resolution or transformation. De-escalation is a complex process that overlaps or includes other modes, such as listening.
Invite Sociability
Sometimes it helps to remind people of the ways that we’re connected to one another, whether a shared desire for accuracy or a commitment to moral values. These tips focus on the interpersonal bonds that exist among us.

In our catalog, norms and other shared values are opportunities to reflect on the social bonds that tie us together. This tag includes reminders of social value ascribed to accuracy as well as “nudges” — a non-coercive device that leads people to certain decisions — towards being respectful and open in communication. Some approaches from conflict resolution may also be tagged under this tag.
To share is to something personal into a discussion. Specifically, sharing one’s own story is one way that people explain their reasoning through their own personal experience of navigating a difficult decision.

Sharing information with shared values in mind can be a way to build trust. Personal stories do this, but this is why we’re also reviewing literature around knowledge sharing. In addition, when sharing complicated information, methods around communicating uncertainty may also fall under the Share response mode.