Kindness. It’s the new KPI. I suggest more people try it!
Wooahhhhh. Okay, we all know Covid 19 has a lot to answer for and isolation is an absolutely mind-blowing scenario that none of us knows how to handle - there is a reason as an extreme form of punishment people are sent to isolation - and we have all just found out how punishing it can be. And yes, there is no negating we are under extreme duress, unprecedented stress from so many angles it is nearly unfathomable. Many of us losing livelihoods, not to mention recreation space, routines, sleep, time alone - or on the flip side having too much time alone - and I have not even touched on the incredibly distressing loss of loved ones, or not being able to be there for loved ones. Anxiety approaches us at every turn, in seemingly relentless waves, a tsunami of relentlessness it would seem, and no-one really knows when or how it will finally, truly be over. We are living in fear, uncertainty and anxiety and yes, it is frightening beyond belief. But, when did it turn adults, some adults I should say, but professional adults no less, into cyber bullies?
It would stand to reason that this is a time to support, to reach out, to assist each other, to put differences aside and opt for understanding, no? So, it was with real dismay that I recently noticed something that I personally had not witnessed before on a networking business platform. At some stage, some of the comments became - for want of a better explanation - pure vitriol. Nastiness personified. Some even complete with emojis to push the point (I also have a thing with professional commentary and emojis. I love emojis, I love their communication aspect, but they have a designated position and timeframe in my books). Some of the comments were pushing political agendas, some extreme viewpoints, but most were taking people apart, for no seeming reason other than they did not share their viewpoint.
Seriously? This is (was?) a professional platform, and that aside there is no call, ever, for bullying behaviour.
I love communication platforms, particularly for professional connection, and I love that they are a place for information and discussion and yes, even opposing opinions. What I was not prepared for was an uptick in bad manners - and this seemingly only recently. One participant in this flurry of negativity had re-posted a column from a newspaper writer, deriding the author (who actually is a friend, but that is not the point) who had written a very obviously tongue-in-cheek piece, which I had found spectacularly funny and on-point. I had even written something similar in a blog post, as I could easily identify with the sentiments expressed, and I loved the light-hearted way the writer had approached it. But the re-poster had deliberately, and it seems intently, set out to shame them in no uncertain terms. The re-post - complete with emojis - appeared intent on vilifying the author for saying the opposite of what they believed to be the way forward in this unprecedented time, when seriously, who the hell really knows anything? I wanted to wade in and clarify - to hopefully be a voice of reason and explain how it could be otherwise interpreted (actually I did, and then I promptly deleted my comment), as I did not want to exacerbate the situation. But it has still sat with me that someone could be so scornful, and downright (for want of a better word) bullying about someone else, to personally attack them in such a format. And, for what? For writing a humorous piece that they did not see the humour in?
In another thread of discourse, a personal attack on someone else’s opinion resulted in a not so thinly veiled insinuation of them belonging to the brown shirts – actually the brown shirts were mentioned so it was not even veiled! An incredibly disparaging and untoward comment that, from the thread, appeared to come out of nowhere. Perhaps the two writers had a history, but no matter, the comments section of a business connection platform is not meant to be a personal battleground. For discussion, discourse and even dissent, yes. For personal attack? Never.
Are people truly not aware of how damaging, and destroying this kind of behaviour can be? At any time, let alone in this time frame, when isolation and fear is creating a veritable Pandora’s box of mental health issues, where people’s minds are turning inside out with worry and concern, where the slightest thing can tip people over the edge of that very thin precipice they are balancing on?
Before Corona, one in five people globally suffered from anxiety, in the UK 3 million had anxiety disorders, and in the US 39% of adults felt incredibly anxious. Social anxiety media became a term as people experienced social anxiety for not measuring up, and initiatives such as the Washington Post’s launch of the s(ad) blocker, which allowed people to receive only positive news, were already being established, Such was the need.
I am not saying we cannot comment, that would be denying a fundamental human right if you ask me - like asking someone not to breathe, that is how much I value freedom of information and communication. I am not of the ilk that I cannot tolerate differing opinions, I actually have an issue with how non-resilient we are becoming as a society, and how so few voices can drown out so many with just a well-aimed phrase, such as racist or religious, or sexist. I think debate and opposing viewpoints are integral to formulate any well-valued opinion. I think there should seriously, and quite urgently, be more of it, as it has been proven in our social media filled lives that we are continuously drip-feeding ourselves only support of our own viewpoints, due to the filtering of the tribes we connect with.
What I am saying is that there are ways to comment, ways to have a discussion, to argue a point, to have one’s side of the story heard - and bullying, attacking, disparaging or calling someone names is certainly not it. With or without emojis.
I live by the adage: “I disagree with what you say, but will fight to death your right to say it.” (Attributed to Voltaire, generally). I sincerely suggest it is about time others did as well.
Kindness has recently been touted as the newest KPI for forward-thinking companies. It is a measure of tolerance, empathy and emotional intelligence which is also the new biggie for businesses globally, and one we will be hearing a lot more of. This new focus on kindness and optimism has been fueling a range of positivity movements, to empower people, to reach out and re-connect, to feel good about themselves, but none of this was evident in these posts and comments. These exchanges were anything but kind, let alone tolerant. In fact, it was the exact opposite, they appeared as attempts to eradicate the person’s viewpoint or feeling, if not the very person themselves.
When we as a society are too scared to voice our opinions, when we feel bullied into submission, are too scared to stand up and be counted, too frightened to stand behind our thoughts for fear of retribution, or scathing attack - the freedoms that were so difficult to gain, are quite simply lost. When freedom of thought and opinion is gone - there simply is no freedom.
And when kindness and empathy are eradicated, we simply cease to be human (the kind that anyone wants to know that is)!
And in this current world of distress and instability, there is much to be said with tempering your reactions with positivity and kindness. You do not know what anyone else is dealing with, and it should not matter - kindness costs nothing. I came across a post the other day, asking a simple question of the readers, it had garnered a few likes, but no comments. The author had then placed a further: “please comment”, in the comment sections. It seemed quite straightforward and very evident, made even more compellingly so by the simple reiterated plea that here was a need to connect with others, for whatever personal reason. I assumed all was fine for them as they were typing on a business forum, so I assumed no great tragedy had, so far, befallen them, but they were reaching out for… something. It appeared to me they simply needed to be heard, or acknowledged, and I assumed they needed to know they counted. Maybe I was making too much of a simple request, or maybe I wasn’t, but the fact remains that it didn’t hurt for me, or anyone else for that matter, to comment. The request was plain and clear: “please comment”. It was not even a subject I was interested in, but I was interested in the person behind, even though I had no idea who they were. So, I typed in a comment, a short response answering their question. Maybe I was wrong, maybe they wanted to boost their own profile, maybe it wasn’t as heartfelt as imagined but no matter, it cost me 30 seconds to type in a response in order to show them someone was there, to show them they were being seen. Their return response was immediate, it appears they had been waiting. I hope it helped, no matter what their agenda, because it cost me nothing to oblige.
But more than that, it felt kind.
As UK TV presenter Caroline Flack, who recently took her own life, posted in an incredibly heartfelt message: “In a world where you can be anything – be kind.”
I suggest we all take those words to heart.