Top 5 Tips for Writing About Controversial Subjects
In our work of marketing and writing, we can come up against controversial subjects. Everyone has an opinion. It’s almost inevitable that we will hit a nerve with someone.
At times, we can do this with focused intention, such as the blog I wrote several years ago called The Health Cripple, after an experience that I later found many family members of those with disabilities experience. I wanted to create conversation around this subject.
And at other times, by complete accident, with all of its consequences intact, such as a PR executive who was fired after Twitter remarks that were made just as she traveled to another country, not finding out about the fall-out until after her 12-hour flight.
Recently, we saw this happen closer to home, at The Mobility Resource, where Barton and I are both guest bloggers. A guest blog was posted: 6 Reasons Why I Never Considered Marrying Someone with a Disability. Many people took offense to this perspective.
Why? Because of dedicated work around independence, inclusion and breaking down barriers for people with disabilities to be able to live full and active lives, which includes healthy relationships and marriage. As a person who married someone with a disability, I found this blog just as limiting in beliefs, and indeed, the author received many negative comments, to the point where her husband even chimed in to defend her.
And “it” doesn’t just happen to other people. The day when I was depressed because my husband had a contract that lost funding (but it wasn’t public yet), I wrote a non-specific post on Facebook, which included reference to a potential job loss and subsequent bad day. To which my bad day turned into a nightmare, with over 75 comments to then manage, all from supportive and well-intentioned friends and family. At the end of the day, I was even more exhausted and overwhelmed.
When we dare to put ourselves, our beliefs, and our words out into the airwaves, we’re bound to run into feedback that we weren’t expecting.
And, in a world where judgment and jury is instantaneous, by people on every side of the perspective sphere, at some point in our professional careers and personal lives, we will cause a stir.
Here are some tips for writing or speaking about controversial subjects:
1. Awareness is key. Know that if you bring up a controversial subjects or viewpoints, there will be comments. Don’t expect your words to slip under other people’s radar. Put on your turtle shell, stand in your beliefs, and be prepared to respond in an appropriate and professional manner.
2. Use common sense with social media. Don’t #ihatemyjob and expect to still keep your job.
3. Choose your battles. If you receive negative comments or pushback, you don’t have to respond to every single one. Be intentional about who to respond to, and how you respond (always aim on the side of professionalism).
4. Let emotions cool. If possible, give yourself some time to let heated emotions cool down before responding over social media or online. It’s easy for a war of words to escalate over the Internet.
5. Be prepared for the fallout. For as many people who support you, there will be others who will disagree with you. There may be unintended consequences that you may have not even considered.
And my EXTRA TIP: If you find you have caused up a stir, when all else fails, take communication off the Internet. Misunderstandings happen all the time, and people will advocate for their position and perspective. And sometimes, all it takes is a phone call to get back on the same page.
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