Words are important. What you say is important, but how you say it is just as important. The words you use shape how your message is interpreted and how people react to it. I always stress this to the staff at my community. Communication is key. We need to be able to communicate our objections and what we must get across, but we need to try to do so in a manner that is not unnecessarily combative.

For this reason, I’ve been known to study my words on meaningful private messages or conversations with well established members, as well as important announcements and policy changes in general. I’m human, but that’s not an excuse (we’ll cover that in a post in the future). You have to consider what you say.

I believe that a great way to showcase this would be to give you a couple of examples of a private message that you might send to a member who had made a spam post on your forums. Here’s the first one.

Ryan,

I pulled your post below because you were being a jerk. If you’d like to keep posting here, don’t do it again.

“That’s your opinion? OMGLOL. YOU ARE A FOOL!”

Patrick

Here’s another one:

Hello Ryan,

Thank you for visiting KarateForums.com.

Unfortunately, I have had to remove your post quoted below as it violated our User Guidelines as inflammatory.

“That’s your opinion? OMGLOL. YOU ARE A FOOL!”

Generally speaking, an inflammatory comment is one that doesn’t add much to a thread outside of hostility.

Please keep this in mind to prevent further violations in the future.

Thank you for your time and cooperation.

Sincerely,

Patrick
KarateForums.com Administrator

The first private message may not seem too bad. But, there are a few issues that jump out at me immediately. “Being a jerk” is very combative and basically makes the issue personal. “Inflammatory” means a similar sort of action, on their behalf,┬ábut it’s easier to swallow and understand.

Similar to advertising/spamming. A lot of people don’t react kindly to being told they’ve done something wrong, but the term “spamming” has a very negative and accusatory connotation. “Advertising” may be the same thing, but it doesn’t carry that baggage and it sounds less like an assault on their character.

“If you’d like to keep posting here…” will potentially be interpreted as a threat. I’m not against invoking a member’s ability to participate, given the proper situation with repeat violators, but on a minor issue or on someone who hasn’t made that many violations, it makes no sense to bring that into the conversation, by default, as it is just asking for confrontation.

There’s no “thank you” or “thanks” anywhere in this message. These types of warnings are best given with a mix of problem description and thanks. Explain the problem and thank them for their time, for visiting, for their cooperation, etc.

I like to relate any post removals directly to our guidelines. So, I didn’t remove the post because someone was being a jerk or spamming, I removed the post because it violated our user guidelines as inflammatory or as advertising. The guidelines are a publicly available document that everyone can read. You want it to be expressed that you are enforcing the guidelines everyone must adhere to, rather than pulling random standards out of your head.

Finally, there is a proper greeting and sign off, indicating I am a member of staff. If it’s in your signature, that’s fine, as well. It seems funny, but the difference between “Ryan,” and “Hello Ryan,” can be meaningful and can either kick the message off in the right or wrong direction.

This is just one example, though. The bigger idea is simply: words matter. Whether it’s in private or in public, the words you use are important. I see too many people that simply throw around words without much thought and those words then make matters worse by putting the recipient on the defensive, in an unnecessary way. As the administrator, you must make sure that you select the proper words to convey your ideas and you must make sure that your staff does the same. Doing so increases your chances of success immeasurably.