If you learn anything about communicating across social channels in 2011, let it be this: Never write anything when you’re angry. I’ll take it one step further and add that you should never  respond to any comments that bring out emotions you feel you cannot control.

Here’s an example: You’re reading a highly critical comment about your company, yourself or one of your colleagues or employees. After the first few sentences you are fuming. You know it’s a lie and you cannot wait to rebut. That is when you have to walk away. You are in no position to respond.

Not yet.

I have seen this time and time again, and the people who would seemingly understand this concept, and the permanence of any content posted online, fall victim to their emotions.

One comment turns into two, unfinished thoughts morph into uncontrollable rants, and when the dust settles, they look like a fool.
Consider the tale of this back and forth on Twitter, as described by MG Siegler over on Techcrunch. This is just one case of bad judgement and it probably won’t have much fallout for those who participated, but it is chronicled on a popular blog, something they may not have expected.

When Scott Stratten (@unmarketing on Twitter)was in my area on his Unmarketing Book Tour last year, he shared several examples of comments posted by business owners on Twitter. A coffee shop owner posted a few unkind comments to a complaining customer, basically telling her not to return.  Do you know why he did that?

He was emotional.

The customer posted something about the lack of seating in the shop and he essentially went on about customers taking advantage of free Wi-fi and setting up shop, spending no money at all.
He shouldn’t have done that, but that comment left him fuming. It hit him in the gut, and from his perspective, he had to go there.
But here’s the thing. You don’t have to go there.

Nothing good comes out of responding to comments or blog posts, or posting crazy messages on Twitter or forums and message boards when in an emotional state.
You will find yourself in a heated discussion and a bad situation.
I know this can be very disheartening, especially for those whose work is targeted on critical websites geared toward their specific industries or professions. Cafe Pharma and JobVent come to mind.
The point here is that anything you write goes on your permanent record, so you have to give your responses some serious thought. I’ve definitely walked away from comments. That’s what community managers do. When your words represent a company, you have to be careful.

I can recall receiving several that literally made my hands start shaking. I left my office, removing myself from the situation before my emotions got the best of me.
Upon my return, I was in a much better state and responded appropriately.
So my advice is simply, walk away. Step away from the computer if you cannot exercise restraint.
You’ll come back smarter, and can then post a response (if you decide that is the most appropriate action) that doesn’t tarnish your image, that of your company’s and doesn’t make you look like a fool.

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