Don’t Let the Adrenalin Cloud Your Thinking
The biggest part of my business life takes place offline. For as much as I’m visible on Twitter and my blog, I’m most often on the phone or in offices listening and talking about how people think and respond in business situations — how we buy, how we create communities, how we rally to cause, and how we are moved by influences.
In those ongoing business conversations, people I work with and for sometimes bring up cases of negative social business behavior. I bring up a four points that we often lose sight of in such situations.
- It’s rare that someone dies or company goes bankrupt because of comment made on Twitter. From the words “Dell Sucks,” through the first time prominent bloggers chose to use and post about K-mart gift cards, to the Motrin ad about “babywearing,” and every iteration large and small debated in the online social business — none that I recall were a life and death situation. And some were obvious attempts by individuals to gain visibility and attention.
- Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. Find out more about everyone and everything before you respond. It’s rare that we work with complete information. Every story has many layers and it’s human nature to lose sight of or devalue the parts that don’t support the position that we favor. If you haven’t considered the restraints and possible good intentions of what you’re criticizing, if you can’t offer a possible way to solve the problem, if you can’t articulate your own version of the same behavior you’re criticizing, if you only have third party access to what happened, then you probably don’t know enough about the situation to call what you’re thinking an informed opinion. It’s impossible, arrogant, and dangerous to think you know other people’s intentions.
- Consider the reliability of the source and what the source’s purpose might be. Who brought the first complaint and what might be their gain for complaining? I’ve seen someone ask “innocently curious” questions on Twitter to start a debate, designed to raise his own profile by rallying folks to kick and scream about something that was really none of his business. Very soon a pile-on occurred. If the questions were really so innocently curious, I wonder why they weren’t asked via email? The difference between innocent curiosity and manipulation in this case was the intent of the asker — he wasn’t interested in the answer. He was interested in the debate and gaining more followers.
- People can see what you do, not why you did it. Stick to your values and your actions will prove them true. Each time an issue occurs I watch social business experts lose sight of how social media tools work. We tell people to listen. Then we forget that they’re listening. What CEO wants to work with the guy who claims on Twitter to be the only person who understands business? What C-Suite executive or small business owner who’s listening will trust the opinion of a person who tears down a company or rants unmercifully on an individual’s opinion? If you know how the tools work, you don’t lose that perspective to join a witch hunt because someone choose to write an ebook.
What to do about negative social business behavior?
Try the rule of fleas and mosquitoes.
What do we do with fleas and mosquitoes? When they keep their distance, we don’t even think about them. They’re irrelevant. When they bite us, we build environments where fleas and mosquitoes don’t thrive and flick them away on occasions we must. Then we get on with what makes our lives worth living, not bothering.
It’s easy to have a knee jerk reaction in a situation where many have tools to reach a few thousand people. So those fleas and mosquitoes, who choose to suck bits of blood for their own advantage can appear to be powerful. But only have the power that we give them. Be aware of what feeds them and remove it from your environment. Starve the fleas and mosquitoes of attention. Gratefully thank them for their wisdom and move on. The folks you want in your community don’t like fleas and mosquitoes either.
Focus your attention on giving food to what keeps you strong and protects you — the folks who already love you. Give the folks who love you even more attention. They’re the ones who deserve the explanations. Give them your commitment to continue doing what they already love about you. Let them know your trust won’t be bent or broken by voices who yell louder than they might. Invite them to be closer to you. Reward them. Celebrate them as heroes.
You’ll never go wrong by valuing the people who love you more than the fleas and mosquitoes.
Keep your head, your heart, and your adrenalin on the mission of the people who share your values.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!