As Christians, we will be called to defend our faith. As social media continues to grow, we will need to be prepared to defend the truth on those platforms. I wrote a post about how to have these conversations effectively, but today, I wanted to focus on when to step away.
There are times where continuing a conversation may do more harm than good. It may add more fuel to their anger about Christ and/or His Church. You should step away and let them calm down rather than adding to their frustration. The other potential harm is to your emotional well-being. As Christians, we may be persecuted. Though our persecution is much less than that of Christians in the Middle East, it’s still ok to acknowledge that words can hurt. While we are called to defend the truth to a certain extent, you are not under the obligation to continue conversing with someone who is being unkind to you.It may add more fuel to their anger about Christ and/or His Church. You should step away. Click To Tweet
Each person will have different limits, and I recommend setting them before you engage in a potentially heated conversation. These are the situations where I have found it is best to step away. Though you certainly can step away from an online conversation without giving a reason, I included some suggestions on what you can say if you’d like to give a reason.
1) You’re becoming too emotional.
We are humans and are bound to experience emotions, especially on topics related to our faith. However, if you recognize that your emotions are getting in the way of having a good conversation, step away.
Say something like, “I would really like to continue this conversation, but I am worried I won’t be able to keep a level head. I’m going to step away from this conversation, but perhaps we can continue it at another time.”
2) They’re getting too emotional.
Remember, you’re talking to another human being. If you see that what you are saying is hurting them, it’s time to apologize and step away.
Say something like, “I think this conversation is becoming too emotional. I know ____ is an emotional topic, so I think it’s better if we respectfully end the conversation rather than saying something that could be misinterpreted.”
3) They’re resorting to personal attacks.
Personally, I’ll warn someone if they say something nasty about me rather than my point but use your own discretion. While we should defend the truth, if they are resorting to personal attacks, chances are they aren’t willing to listen.
Say something like, “I don’t appreciate being called ______. While I accept criticism of my beliefs, I will not put up with personal attacks. I am going to remove myself from this conversation.”
4) They’re moving into inappropriate territory.
I was trying to discuss abortion with someone, but she kept asking intimate questions about my sex life. I asked her to stop, but she refused, claiming it was necessary for the discussion. You are never obligated to talk about personal topics, and if the other person is trying to make that a central part of the discussion, step away.
Start by saying something like “_____ isn’t relevant to our discussion. I’d be happy to answer other questions, but that one is inappropriate.” If they continue, you could say something like “I have already said that I would not answer that question. I’m going to end this conversation.”
5) There is a sticking point.
If the other side won’t let up on a point and you can’t agree to disagree, it may just be better to step away.
Say something like “It seems like we’re both stuck on ____. I don’t think either of us will be able to change each other’s mind today, so I’m going to step away. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciated your insight on _____.”
6) There are too many people chiming in.
I was involved in a Facebook discussion that stemmed from someone claiming that a “dislike” of abortion is no different from disliking tartar sauce. More and more people kept jumping in (all in support of the original post). There were lots of people responding to my comment, but there were also people responding to the original post with questions I was expected to respond to. I couldn’t keep up with responding to all the points. I said as much, and I said I’d be happy to continue the conversation one on one. No one took me up on that, but it showed I was willing to continue the discussion, but in a way that was more conducive to having a discussion.
Say something like “This is a really important topic, and I’d love to keep talking, but I can’t keep up with all the different people. If you’d like to continue this conversation, please reach out to me over ____.”
7) They aren’t responding to your points.
I was talking to a Fundamentalist on Twitter (which is a terrible platform for discussions). He was ignoring some of my questions and responding to things I wasn’t saying. I pointed out that he wasn’t responding to a number of my questions, and he asked for them. I sent them again, and he still ignored them and kept flinging random arguments at me. I asked again for him to stay on topic. When he didn’t, I ended the conversation. If a person isn’t going to respond to your points but expects you to respond to all of theirs, it isn’t going to be a fruitful conversation. Just step away.
If you notice they’re skipping over some of your questions, say something like “Before I respond to your points, I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on my previous question: ____.” if they keep ignoring your questions, say something like “it’s really difficult to have a good conversation when we aren’t responding to each other and are just throwing points at each other. I’m going to respectfully end this conversation.”
Personally, I struggle with stepping away because my pride gets in the way. I worry they’ll think I don’t have an answer and think that I’m dumb. That is actually a perfect reason for me to step away: I’ve let the conversation become about my ability to argue the Truth rather than the Truth itself.I let the conversation become about my ability to argue the Truth rather than the Truth itself. Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, people may keep pushing the issue even though you’ve stepped away. Do not respond. Don’t even look at what they are saying. You can unfollow posts on Facebook so you won’t get notifications. Uninstall the apps or put away your computer. If it is getting particularly ugly, block the person.
What do you do to respectfully end a conversation online?