The mask of anonymity is a strong protection. It gives you the power to deliver information without worrying about harsh responses. This makes it easy to abuse. Here are a few suggestions for making sure you deliver admonitions, not badmonitions:
- Be constructive. Make sure the recipient can act upon your admonition. Good: "Please try to make less clicking noises. A lot of people are annoyed by them." Bad: "You suck."
- Admire. Just as the recipient may need your feedback to change behavior that bothers you, they may not be aware of how other aspects of their behavior please you, and even if they are not blind to it, you could encourage them further by giving explicit praise. Use the site to encourage positive behavior as much as you use it to change negative behavior.
- Be gentle. As long as you get the message through, there is no need to be harsh. How you express an admonition can be almost as important as the content. Be mindful of wording, and use softer forms over more harsh alternatives (for example, consider using “could” instead of “should”). Good: "Sometimes you smell of sweat. Perhaps you could shower more often." Bad: "You stink!"
- Be specific. Provide as many details as you can without exposing yourself. Not only is this going to help the recipient identify exactly the problematic aspects of their behavior, it will also encourage them to take you seriously. Good: “When you arrange meetings, sometimes they are ineffective because you don’t stop people when they go off-topic.” Bad: “Your meetings are wasting people’s time.”
- Be concrete. If you can point out specific actions, it will be easier for the recipient to figure out how to change their behavior. Good: "Please clean up more thoroughly after you use the espresso machine." Bad: "Be more clean."
- Don't abuse. It's easy to be mean when anonymity protects you. Remember that the goal is helping your friends, not making them feel miserable.
- Sandwich. People will find it much easier to address your admonitions if you surround them by admirations. Good: "I love your social nature in the office, but sometimes you speak very loudly, and it makes it hard for other people to work." Bad: "You talk loudly in the office all day long."
- Exercise discretion. You're not here to organize the world's information: there may be things that people don't know and they're better off not knowing. Remember the recipient is not perfect and their self-esteem is at stake along with their behavior. Try to avoid admonitions that are likely to generate more harm than good, and think before you click. For example: "She told me just before she got on the plane that she never really loved you."
- Be aware of your power. Place yourself in the recipient’s shoes and imagine how you would feel if you were the one to receive the admonition that you just wrote.