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Four Ways to Handle Cyber Conflict and Negative Reviews


Anonymous, electronic remarks can be hurtful to your pride and medical practice. Here are four ways to handle potentially detrimental online reviews.

The evolution of technology has dramatically enhanced our ability to connect with one another, a progression that has had both positive and negative effects. Positive, because we can communicate with almost anyone, anywhere, anytime. And negative, because we are increasingly expressing ourselves in a disrespectful manner.

Take doctor-rating websites, for example. A random online search revealed that the same physician was simultaneously evaluated as "kind doctor" in one comment and "quack in a cheap suit" in another. And he's not the only physician with vastly opposing patient comments on his profile; a public profile that he has little, if any, control over unless he "claims" it. How is that fair?

Digital discord has become a fact of life. People seem to develop a false sense of confidence when allowed to let their fingers do the talking. As a result, some are prone to write, post, and share a damaging degree of nasty comments online that they wouldn't dare say out loud when looking someone in the eye.

Such electronic remarks can be hurtful, to both your pride and your practice. Here are four ways to handle negative electronic interactions and potentially detrimental online reviews.

1. Ignore negative comments.

Though difficult to do, it may be best to simply not read what other people are writing about you. Once you get over the initial shock of being slammed by negativity you'll likely see that there's little to be gained by reading further. Though it's wise to keep apprised of what's being posted, that doesn't mean you need to be the one who's doing the reading. Consider assigning the task to a member of your staff, asking them to notify you if they think there's something you need to address personally.

2. Respond with respect.

If you choose to reply to someone's objectionable remarks, do so with patience and a courteous attitude. State your point of view factually, disagree with dignity, and avoid getting into a squabble. Internet trolls and online rabble-rousers pride themselves on their ability to prod people to the point where they respond with anger and emotion. Once you've hit the post or comment button, your words will live forever in cyber-land. If you can't stick to the topic without belittling the writer of the offensive remarks, step away from the computer and cool down until you're able to be more objective.

3. Draw the line.

When enough becomes enough, you need to bring the exchange to a halt. Posting a simple statement like, "This conversation is over. I will no longer read or respond to your remarks," is all you need to write to make your point clear. Then you must follow through on your commitment. Your online adversary might continue to taunt you or bring in reinforcements to pepper you with more malicious comments. Once you've drawn the line don't allow yourself to be lured back.

4. Hire a professional.

At some point it may become necessary to consult an online reputation management firm to help you undo the damage others have done to your status. These companies specialize in reversing poor rankings and removing damaging images and reports. But beware! Some online reputation management companies have been reported to have less than stellar business practices themselves.

No one is immune to digital disrespect. While potential patients will check you out on a variety of virtual platforms, including doctor rating websites, most will take note of the recommendations that appear on your own website and the other online and social media profiles you control. Think about asking patients to provide you with endorsements that you can share publically (while maintaining confidentiality, of course). Then add positive comments from colleagues and staff to round out your cyber profile.

Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO®, a veteran forensic medical investigator turned corporate civility consultant, professional speaker, and author. Jacques helps individuals, businesses, and medical practices create courteous cultures and prosper through professionalism.

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