This blog post had it’s genesis in last week’s Keep Shooting Monday’s video entitled, “Playing Nicely in the Photography Sandbox” where Greg and I talked about how mean people can be to one another, often for the purpose of putting others down to make themselves feel superior. That’s something that hurts my heart. Many of these tips apply not just to photographers, bloggers, and web show hosts, but also to regular ol’ Joes and Janes. Life is not about how many people you can step on to get to the top. As Jackie Robinson, who himself encountered plenty of bullies in his life, said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Following these tips will help make this impact is a positive one.
1. Watch your tone of voice. If I could count the number of times my mother said, “Watch your tone of voice, young lady,” when I was little, I’d be a rich woman. Thankfully, somewhere along the line, the message sank in. Often, how you say something conveys more than the actual words spoken. Written words can have a tone as well, so read and reread your content before you post. If you have any question about how something sounds, run it by a neutral party first. BTW, Mom isn’t neutral. Find someone you trust to tell you if you are being a jerk.
2. Take a time out. Pause before responding to an incendiary e-mail, text, or post. Cool your jets, talk it over with someone (see above), or even write it out and then delete your first draft. You might even consider writing it first on paper, then shredding it. There’s something cathartic about putting pen to paper. Write a real version once you’ve cooled off. When you do respond, make sure the person knows they’ve been heard. You can disagree with them, but it is helpful that others know that their concerns are understood.
3. Consider the sandwich approach when telling someone something negative. I used this technique often during parent-teacher conferences as an elementary school teacher. “Billy is a terrific kid. I really enjoy his comments in class. He’s smart and insightful. I’d be even happier if he’d raise his hand first, however. When he blurts out answers it’s unfair to the the other students who want to contribute. We just have to tweak this little thing because, again, his points are often spot on and I love hearing from him.” Nestled between praise and positive comments was the thing I wanted to see change. You build up the person with whom you are interacting first and set the stage for a positive interaction. You politely introduce the issue and the reason it’s a problem, then close with another positive thing. Your part of the conversation begins and ends positively.
4. Have a little grace. As humans, none of us is immune from making mistakes and having differing opinions. Consider how you wish to be treated. If you made a professional or personal mistake, would you want to be slammed on social media, or would you prefer to have someone professionally ask for your explanation? If someone disagrees with your professional opinion, would you prefer to have someone mock it and make fun of the idea (or even you personally) or would you want to have someone state their case and explain the rationale behind it - or maybe even ask to have a friendly debate about the topic?
5. Don’t hide behind the Internet. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, don’t do it online.
6. Build up, don’t tear down. Tearing others down is more a reflection of you and your character than it is of others. Consider your intentions. What are you trying to prove by bashing someone else publicly? Are you trying to make yourself look bigger by making them look smaller? Do you feel good making someone else feel bad? Such behavior is often the result of insecurity and does not reap the desired results.
7. Embrace the abundance mentality. When we help each other, we all benefit.
8. Refrain from name calling. Calling someone “stupid” or other such names does nothing to add to the conversation. It only serves to make you look petty and weakens whatever argument you may have.
9. Follow Stephen Covey’s Fifth Principle of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits-habit5.php) That means LISTEN to people. And I don’t mean tolerate their speaking until you have the chance to jump in and add your two cents. You may be amazed by what you learn. People are fascinating.
10. Sow good seeds. You reap what you sow, even if it takes awhile. Things have a way of coming back to you, good and bad. Operate with integrity and honesty and you’ll often remain above the fray.