Amy Cuddy Shares How To Deal With Online Trolls

I recently interviewed Amy Cuddy for a SHE INNOVATES podcast episode on the difference between confidence and arrogance. In the interview, we also covered the topic of how to deal with online trolls and bullies. “We all see that it's happening. Just about everyone says bullying is a problem and it's a bigger problem than it was 20 years ago, but very few people will do anything about it,” says Cuddy.

While bullies and online trolls hurt people, Cuddy believes that the real damage happens when bystanders do nothing. “When your friends and your co-workers and your community stands by and sees you getting sort of metaphorically punched in the face and they do nothing to help you, like in the town square, that is what really changes your world view. Right? That's where the damage is done,” she says.

Cuddy says, while bullies might be hard to change, you can change bystander’s behaviors. “They want to change and we have to figure out how to help them change," she says.

I used to worry about the best way to deal with trolls. I would take time in thinking about how to respond.  The thing I quickly found was that by the time I went back to write a reply the online community had responded.

When I told Cuddy about my experience she said, “What's happening is that you're allowing bystanders to see that actually being brave is the right thing to do. We all are bystanders. That doesn't mean that we can't do something good with that. Right?”

The term bystander is often used in a negative way but Cuddy believes that if you give passive bystanders an opportunity to step in and support you, they will. She says when they do they this, it will also create a new positive norm that encourages others to do the same.

I asked Cuddy about how she deals specifically with online trolls, she said that she used to block them more than she does now. “I'm more likely to mute them, so I don't have to hear it, but other people can hear it and respond to it. My followers aren't jerks when they respond to the trolls but they do call them out or they name the bad behaviour. I think that's really wise, doing it that way,” she says.

The most important thing to remember is that it is probably not as bad as you think it is. The internet amplifies the appearance of bullying. “It is the 5% appear to be grossly overrepresented, because they are so active and they use lots of synonyms and it's like they're littering and they're leaving litter everywhere that makes it look as if littering's normal,” says Cuddy. So, really online trolling and bullying appears to be a lot more common than it actually is.

Given this, don’t be intimidated by it. Stand up for the people who are being harassed and support them. You might be surprised how this encourages others to do same.

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