I’m on a rant today. If this offends anyone, I apologize in advance, but I have to get this off my chest. Many websites today offer community forums; a great place for like-minded people to ask questions; receive feedback and get help. Many forums give their members access to experts, which simply makes the forum that much more valuable. What’s happened though, is that these forums often become a place for people to engage in mean dialogue. There is such a thing as Forum Etiquette and most people who get involved in forums have forgotten this.
I have been invited to be a Caregiver Expert on websites other than The Care Company. This simply means that when asked, I offer my professional opinion to help guide a conversation. It’s not time consuming and I’m delighted to assist. I, however, have made a conscious decision not to have a forum on our site; not because I don’t want to engage with you, but because I want to be able to spend “real time” with you. Personally, I find forums frustrating, but by the numbers of people participating in them, I am willing to admit that I might be in the minority.
Recently I was asked to jump into a discussion on one of these sites. The subject was “hoarding,” and the question was, “My father is a hoarder and I don’t know what to do our how to fix the problem. What should I do?” Sounds like a pretty straightforward question, right? My answer was thorough and clear. I told the person that hoarding is an extremely serious issue and that she would not be able to solve the problem without some professional help. I even gave names of people who could help her in her area. (I did the research for her.)
And you know what happened? Right after I posted the answer, the person who asked the question wrote this: “Thanks a lot for nothing! Just one more expert trying to bleed me of my money! Just one more wasted amount of time on my part. I need real solutions!” I’m not kidding. Those were her exact words. Now certainly she is entitled to her opinion and perhaps my very lengthy answer to her question with a list of referrals was not what she wanted. I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is the lack of respect and gratitude when a professional gives thoughtful, well-researched answers. If you don’t want a truthful answer; then you shouldn’t participate in forums.
There is proper etiquette and it’s not very complicated. I think many people forget that manners are important even if it’s the Internet and we can hide behind our computer screen and false identities. Manners matter. How we show up to others and in our own lives, matters. How we respond matters. Respect for others matters.
So here are my Etiquette Rules for forum participation.
- Post your question and be clear about what information or answers you are seeking.
- If you just want to vent; state it.
- If you seek answers and you get them; say thank you.
- If you get an answer you don’t like, say thank you but I am not able to pay for help at this time.
- If you require more information that better suits your situation; say thank you and ask for more advice. If it comes your way…say thank you again.
Notice that Thank You is the operative word here. It’s not difficult to be grateful for FREE ADVICE. In fact, it’s the unspoken rule of Forum Etiquette. Caregivers need help and support and answers, but when it comes your way with no strings attached and no other expectation on the part of the person giving the help…then the only appropriate response on your part is Thank You! There are 67 million family caregivers in America and there is a lot of power within that segment of the population. You can change the landscape, but you MUST do it with gratitude and focus.
Enter a forum. Ask your question. Get your responses. Evaluate the information provided and above all else, SAY THANK YOU.
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