Keyboard Bullies

January 16th 2014

Recently a client had a bit of a bumpy leadership ride. He made a decision too quickly and suffered fairly heavy criticism as a result. I have been thinking about something he said: “It’s not that I mind taking the heat; that’s my job. And I’ve lived long enough to know when I made a mistake, how to apologize for it, and how to fix it. I can do all that and move on. But what bothers me, what I can’t get past just yet, is the venomous nature of the attacks coming my way.”

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It does seem as though we’re living in a particularly poisonous time, communication-wise. Whether through emails, blog comments, or Facebook posts, we feel free to spew and sputter our most negative perspectives. We lob written fireballs at employers, colleagues, and team members with astonishing ferocity. 

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I suppose we can blame all kinds of sources as bad role models: talk radio, reality TV, political haters all come to mind. But it really would be cowardly to hold someone else responsible for communication we initiate. Who’s responsible for our communication, if not us? Nobody forces us to post the threatening or demeaning blog comment. No ghostly hand coerces our finger to hit “send” on an earth-scorching email. We do it all by ourselves.

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Life is so much better when we avoid creating or responding to negativity. This isn’t about pretending everything is perfectly delightful all the time.  And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss what’s wrong. We absolutely must. But we can improve only when we have those discussions respectfully and in person, not from our keyboards. 

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