Ah, the anonymous Internet, the place where we can revel in knee-jerk reactions with little or no consequences at all. We cry out, “Freedom of speech!” and bash each other viciously with snappy, nasty words.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
The virtual world is a faceless society where we can get away with doing a great deal of damage to other people. Bloggers know all about trollers and flamers, and businesspeople nod at the mention of those hurtful emails they’ve received.
Many a person has sat there hopelessly while watching their blog implode thanks to vehement commentary that makes them wish they’d never begun blogging in the first place. Many a person has sat there re-reading an email from a client thinking, “Wow. What’d I do?”
Because of the lack of face-to-face interaction and wide boundaries of societal rules of engagement, we can write out our reactions and walk away without a care. Take that, you bastard! We can trash people’s feelings, damage their ventures, and undo all their confidence in just a simple paragraph.
We can be nasty, condescending, and hurtful in this electronic society. Then we go to bed and sleep very well indeed with a clear conscience, thinking we’re great people with big hearts.
All Systems Go, Captain
Each of us has a set of internal switches, like a big control panel. This switch panel is the key to our reactions. Flick the switches up or down, hit the right combined pattern, and we react.
We light up like a rocket, whether it’s a good reaction or a bad one. It’s all systems go, the engine is flaring and we’re ready to rock n’ roll.
We could melt and say, “Awww,” because someone flicked all our “content and happy” switches on. We could rise to sudden anger because someone has pushed all our buttons.
Someone’s flicking the switches and pushing the buttons – are we really just mindless machines controlled by other people and running the gamut of emotions they create? Who is in control, here? Whose flight panel is it? Who says we have to take off in the first place?
Flick Your Own Switches
We have a control panel of switches that other people flick up and down, but it’s our control panel, no one else’s. We’re the ones who built it, and we can tinker or even dismantle the switch panel if we choose.
When our switches aren’t flicked into proper position, our engines don’t run as optimally. Maybe some switches are up instead of down. Maybe some are down and not up. If the pattern isn’t right, our ship can’t take off.
We may not have the energy to light up. We might coast a bit and lose steam. Maybe we can’t even get off the ground. It can make the difference between an explosion and just a mild engagement.
Where’s the Instruction Manual?
We have this big control panel full of switches, but no one is ever presented with the instruction manual. It’s up to us to figure out which switch combination produces which reaction. It’s our job to learn to control ourselves instead of letting ourselves explode.
Figuring out the switch sets that create reactions in you is a smart idea. We can learn what makes us react, why we have that reaction and be more aware of the triggers that flick our switches.
Then we can rewire our control panel.
We can dismantle switch sets to reduce our undesirable reactions. We can stop getting upset at certain comments. We can analyze why we feel certain ways, and come to terms with events of the past. We can calm ourselves down, bristle less and think more.
A good thing, no?
Introspection to Interaction
One of the easiest ways to figure out our control panels is to call a halt. Don’t respond. Feel the reaction you have, move your focus off the event that cause the reaction and concentrate on why you have these feelings in the first place.
What upset you? Was it the use of a certain word? Was it a perceived tone? What fears are causing the reaction? Why do you have these fears?
Question your own perspective, too. Have you read emotion into the comment or email that may not be present? Did you misinterpret the tone? Are you assuming what the person is thinking and feeling? Could you be making snap judgments without knowing the truth?
Silly questions? Not at all. When we being to explore our feelings and learn what upsets us – and what upsets others as well – we can work on tempering our reactions, correcting them or even increasing them to achieve better behavior and more positive results.
We’re lucky with our blog and our business. We built a thriving comment section full of great discussion, and people are always respectful of each other’s views. Our clients and colleagues are a pleasure to work with, too.
But many blogs aren’t like ours. Many clients aren’t like ours either. And for those of you who have to deal with flaming, snappy tones and troller comments, take heart. There’s hope.
Just take some time before responding to those hot emails or snarky comments. Curb the urge to snap back an answer. That cool-down period gives you a chance to think about why the message upset you and how to respond in a way that defuses the situation gracefully instead of exploding it.