How to Avoid Arguments in IRC

Four Methods:Assuming the BestPutting Space Between You and Your ResponseResolving the Matter Quickly and FairlyPracticing Self Control

IRC, like AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Messenger, is a form of instant messaging that enables a person to join a channel (or specific chat room) to interact with other people around the globe. Because of the diversity amongst IRC users, many people do not have the same opinions and/or beliefs as other people; thus disagreements may lead to arguments. Avoiding arguments in IRC is beneficial for all users and it's a skill everyone can learn.

Method 1
Assuming the Best

  1. 1
    Start from the position of assuming good faith. Typing words is never the same as face-to-face communications. When we cannot see each other, we lose a substantial amount of our ability to communicate. Without seeing the wink, the smiling eyes and the hand signals, for example, you can easily miss that someone is just joking rather than stating something seriously. Sometimes you can tell because you know the personality of the person typing but other times, well, words on a screen can seem quite different from the intention with which they were put across. If you assume first that no ill intent was meant, you can probably unravel lots of problems before they begin.
    • Ask if you don't understand something said. Much woe comes from misattribution of meaning or making up people's feelings from their bland statements. An example of asking for clarification might be: "When you said X, I took this to mean you feel I am wrong. I feel bad if you misunderstood what I was trying to say - perhaps you'd like me to explain what I meant more clearly?"
  2. 2
    If someone is deliberately provoking you, try to look beyond the provocation to find the source of their pain. In some cases, this will be enough to warn you to back off from what is unlikely to be a well constructed discussion. It can also allow you have some compassion for the challenger; maybe this person is in a bad situation and taking it out on others, rather than being a bad person. There can be various reasons behind nasty words, many of which are about the speaker's own state of mind or confusion.
    • If someone feels embarrassed, ashamed or scared, they might be defensive to ward off feelings of inferiority or fear of being attacked.
    • If someone feels that their personal values or moral beliefs have been threatened, they may respond with aggression. Topics that often cause heated argument include gay marriage, stay-at-home moms versus working moms, unemployment subsidies and gun control laws.
    • If someone is pre-disposed to being angry a lot of the time, it's probable that they will be angry in IRC. Whether it's a bad habit, a mental disorder or just the only approach this person ever uses when online, you cannot argue with a highly angry person and come out unscathed. In this case, the moderators will likely need to be involved to keep this person out of the playpen.
    • Watch out for people obsessed with blaming. High conflict individuals are prone to blaming others in a very intense way, using volatile words and accusations, often rapid-fire. Most times, this "blaming" is well out of proportion to something said or done. Realize that this person is not going to listen to reason as they're only interested in making you seem blame-worthy.
  3. 3
    Be aware that you are likely to be mingling with people from different cultures and different countries. Hot buttons for you politically or culturally may not be hot buttons for people living elsewhere. As a result, they may unwittingly be pressing your buttons without meaning anything negative, it's just that the issue isn't so "hot potato" where they come from. For example, some countries don't treat politics very seriously and find it unfathomable how politically touchy people in other countries can get.

Method 2
Putting Space Between You and Your Response

  1. 1
    Avoid flying off the handle. First, know yourself. If you recognize that you are easily angered, be on the alert for the usual signs that warn you you're entering this state. You need to recognize that it is a reaction rather than a considered action, and in many cases, you may simply need to drop out of the chat room and come back later when you've regained your composure.
    • When you are tired, anxious, hungry or already angry about something else, you are more likely to be argumentative than at other times. If any of these states are an issue when you're in the chat room, think about taking a break and coming back later.
    • Competitiveness may set off a desire to react fast. If there seems to be an escalating discussion that appears to require a "win", this can cause out-of-control commenting that slides quickly into argumentation.
    • Be alert to feeling like you need to set someone else straight, punish another user or when you feel what has been said is unfair. Feeling any of these ways can lead you into arguing.
    • Notice when you feel you have a justified comment, but are at risk of using a mean or unfair way of relaying it. Cooling down may be needed before you can compose yourself and make your point factually.
  2. Image titled Keyboard1_269
    Think before typing. Do you even need to respond? Don't assume that responding is your default mode; saying nothing might be the better option. And if you do respond, reflect a little. Say your response out loud to gauge its worth: speak it out loud to yourself, to a pet, or towards the computer monitor instead of taking the time to type it out. If you can't think of any positive words, restrict yourself from typing anything.
    • Avoid name-calling or character assassination. Once you fall into this type of response, you are baited and the arguing can get very nasty. There is also a risk of saying something defamatory.
    • If you're worried that you regret what you're about to type, then your subconscious has already warned you. Any doubt means leave it out.
    • Remember that anything that goes online, stays online. For a very, very long time.
  3. 3
    Find constructive ways to respond. There are various ways to respond should you choose to do so. These will depend on the context, how you feel about responding and what you intend by way of an end result. Some of the more common possibilities for responding include:
    • Neutral comments can work sometimes. For example, a simple "thank you for your concern" without further explanation shows that you will not be drawn into further discussion.
    • Simply make it clear that you've heard the other person. In some cases, this is sufficient. For example, "Thanks for sharing that. I wasn't aware that things were so tough for you."
    • If you are in a position to discuss the matter further off the public record, sometimes letting the person know that you're available for a private chat or email can resolve an issue. This can also allow others seeing the argument to pressure the challenger to accept such a resolution where this is appropriate. Only take this option if you feel strong enough to deal with the challenger in another forum.
    • Point out the bad behavior, never call the person bad. In some situations, pointing directly at the argumentative attitude can bring an end to it. For example, "I appreciate that you're passionate about this topic but that isn't an excuse for using insults."
  4. 4
    Apologize. Sometimes "sorry" is all that is needed. You said something stupid, dopey, thoughtless or even outrageous. It happens sometimes. Apologize and move on. For example: "I'm sorry I said that. It was stupid of me." In most cases, avoid adding an excuse––it reduces the impact of your apology and can sound insincere.
    • "Sorry" can be used to acknowledge another's pain. So, you didn't actually cause the issue being vented about, but it can sometimes soothe the other person if you say something like "I'm sorry to hear that this has upset you. I wish it had been different for you."
  5. 5
    Let the facts speak. If something has been said that is factually incorrect, correct it, especially where the inaccuracy mars your reputation or the reputation of others/your company/your brand, etc. This is one time when not responding is risky. However, this type of response can be done in a very matter-of-fact way without disparaging the other person and it should consist of nothing more than the correction, leaving a firm record that you provided the right facts.

Method 3
Resolving the Matter Quickly and Fairly

  1. Image titled Whisper_971
    Message a channel op privately. The op can then take action by telling the people in question to stop arguing. If the people in question ignore the ops, the ops may step in and use controls, such as silencing or kicking.
  2. Image titled Ignore_978
    Put the challenger on ignore. Arguments continue when someone adds flames to the fire, or when they put their opinions into the situation. The IRC command to ignore someone is /ignore [nickname]. When you ignore someone, you are unable to see what they are writing, but they and everyone else can see what you are writing.
    • It can be useful to state that you are refusing to continuing to engage with the challenger until they return to speaking civilly. This puts the challenger on alert that you really mean what you say, then you can use the ignore command and really do what you said you would.
  3. Image titled Party_950
    Chat with other people who aren't arguing. Be the stronger person and show others that the challenger is not getting to you. Have fun chatting with others... isn't that the purpose of being in a chat room? When the challenger sees you not give in to what they are saying, they might drop the fight or leave the chat room themselves. When they do, pat yourself on the back.

Method 4
Practicing Self Control

  1. Image titled Movie_and_book_509
    Take a break. Close your IRC client/window or change your nickname to your "away" nickname and step away from the computer for awhile. You won't miss anything significant while you're gone, so don't attach yourself to the chat room. Read a book, talk to your friends on the phone, or get outside of the house for a few hours.
    • Try deep breathing. Deep breathing can be helpful because it causes you to slow down, be present and focus on the breathing cycle rather than the arguing.
    • Use self soothing to calm yourself. Self soothing techniques can be used to good effect where you feel that you have been somewhat bludgeoned, blamed or abused, to restore a sense of self and distance. Things to help can be to take a walk somewhere that you love being, eating something you enjoy and savoring it slowly or running a bath filled with bubbles and your favorite scent.
  2. 2
    Know how long it takes you to calm down. Don't go back to the IRC until this period of time has truly passed. The amount of time is likely to vary dependent on the severity of the arguing––likely it will be longer if you felt your personal beliefs were attacked, while making you look silly as the butt of a joke probably requires less time for you to get over. It's very personal and you'll know when you feel steady and calm again.
    • Use self distancing. By removing yourself mentally from what is happening, you can take a detached view of the event and witness it as if were a play or story. You won't feel the aggression or anger when detached.
  3. Image titled Talk Shows On Mute 3718
    Avoid straying into arguments. If you are not a part of the situation, ignore it completely and don't voice opinions or comments about it. One comment may get you a free ticket of trouble. Even after a person leaves, don't say anything negative that is relevant towards the person or situation.
    • Have a side, private conversation with a trusted friend if you really feel the need to discuss what has been said on the channel with someone who was present. This will give you a safer outlet to let off steam than doing so in public. Just be sure to choose someone you really trust.
    • What if the person you wish to respond to isn't in IRC? Resist the temptation to gripe about that person with other IRC users. Will Bowen, founder of the Complaint Free World movement, recommends that you quit gossiping unless what you have to say is a) positive and b) something you'd say if the person were present. Most times your griping will get back to that person and can inflame things.


  • If you believe that you can not handle being civil, it's for the better if you leave the chat room. Leaving is a better option than being kicked or banned. Leaving will not make it seem like you're giving up, but it's giving a signal that you want nothing to do with the fight.
  • Do not feed trolls, under any circumstances. Internet trolls are people who are there to cause trouble. They feed off other people's comments and "grow" stronger from them by responding back. Ignore the trolling behavior and let a channel op handle the situation.
  • IRC chat rooms will be different from one another, depending what rules and regulations are set for each channel. Respect all ground rules for the specific channel you are in.
  • Continuation of arguing and ignoring the word "stop" may end up with a kick or ban. You may be silenced for awhile, so that only the channel ops can discuss matters with you.


  • The reality is that some people are deliberately provocative. Often called a troll, flamer or s*** stirrer (or, more officially, a high conflict individual), this person actually derives pleasure from distressing other online users. Don't waste your energy on such a character. You are best getting this person brought to the attention of the moderators and having them blocked.
  • If anyone brings serious physical threats into the discussion and no channel ops are available to handle it, don't bother the network staff or handle it yourself. Involve the Police immediately but do not use the emergency number unless the nature of the threat is possibly immediate.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Internet Relay Chat