If you're active and opinionated on social media, especially Twitter, you're going to be attacked at some point.
So what should you do when that happens? Should you attack back? Ignore it all?
Comedian Sarah Silverman did something different. She offered a highly unusual and empathetic response to a Twitter troll that prompted incredible results--and that people can't stop talking about now.
Here's the background. Silverman has been on a mission lately to try to reach across to people she doesn't understand or agree with. It's part of her new Hulu series, I Love You America.
One of her tools is Twitter, and late late last month, a Twitter user named Jeremy Jamrozy replied to one of her tweets by directing a one-word epithet and assault at her: the c-word (which I'm obviously not going to spell out here on Inc.com).
Rather than take the troll down (she's funny; she could do it pretty easily), Silverman took the time to look through his Twitter feed and learn a bit about who the guy was. And, she tweeted this response:
"I believe in you. I read ur timeline & I see what ur doing & your rage is thinly veiled pain. But u know that. I know this feeling. Ps My back [F] sux too. see what happens when u choose love. I see it in you."
8:36 PM - 28 Dec 2017
It completely caught Jamrozy off-guard, and he engaged----constructively, but very sadly:
"I can't choose love. A man that resembles Kevin Spacey took that away when I was 8. I can't find peace, if I could find that guy who ripped my body who stripped my innocence I'd kill him. He [F] me up and I'm poor so it's hard to get help."
Hundreds if not thousands of people watched and commented as Silverman and Jamrozy went back and forth. She asked him to consider joining a support group, and in the days that followed tried to find a doctor in his hometown of San Antonio who might treat his back.
Yo SAN ANTONIO! Any kickass back/neck care specialists willing 2 help my friend @jeremy_jamrozy He has several slipped discs, no insurance, & can't work bc of severe pain. Let's get him back on his feet!! Who's in?-- Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) December 29, 2017
When Jamrozy put up a GoFundMe to try to pay for treatment, she shared it; when it turned out that the cost to repair his five slipped discs was far more than he'd be able to raise, Silverman offered to pay for it herself.
Some might call Silverman's response an example of emotional intelligence--a combination of "emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions," according to one definition. But on a more human level, it was simply compassionate and smart.
Here are five key things to take away from Silverman's response, that will help you to communicate with difficult people in any context.
1. She took a few minutes before replying.
Silverman is a prolific tweeter, and I'm guessing she quickly saw the notification of what Jamrozy had said. Yet, while timing is everything in comedy, she didn't react quickly.
Without having the self-control to pause before reacting, none of the rest of this would have been possible.
2. She took the time to learn the context.
Tim Ferriss says in his book, Tools of Titans: "Everyone is fighting a battle [and has fought battles] you know nothing about."
Silverman seemed to realize this, which is why she took the time to look through Jamrozy's feed. Besides learning about his physical pain, she also would have seen that he's apparently using his real name on Twitter, and that he'd actually tweeted a very nice supportive message at her weeks earlier.
3. She decided to take a chance.
Of course, the safest thing to do might have been simply to ignore Jamrozy's caustic c-word comment. It's the internet; people might be crazy.
But deciding to reply is fully in line with the across-the-spectrum outreach Silverman has been doing recently. She deserves a lot of credit for it.
4. She offered love and understanding, and spoke his language.
Silverman's tweet is something to be proud of. It's authentic, empathetic, and personal. It's the kind of thing you might write to a friend who needed some tough love, more than a total stranger. That's perhaps why it worked.
5. She didn't just drive-by.
One of the nicest things about this story is that it's ongoing. As noted, Silverman didn't just get into a short Twitter conversation and leave; she's stayed involved, as Jamrozy has tried to get a handle on at least one of the underlying things that's bothering him: his back issues. And it's had an effect
"I was once a giving and nice person, but too many things destroyed that and I became bitter and hateful,' Jamrozy told MySanAntonio.com. "Then Sarah showed me the way. Don't get me wrong, I still got a long way to go, but it's a start."