Not sure if this is the same for you, but my world, or rather the ability for others to ‘be in my world’ has changed so drastically in the past two to three years. Heck, it’s changed year to year, and even month to month. There are thousands more people that I know since I changed my career path in 2017 and began creating content on Microsoft Dynamics.

If I think back to a time when my social circles were small, it was before I did anything on social media. People typically fit in to one of a few groups. I either knew people from secondary school, from University or from a place of employment. Sometimes those groups crossed, mostly they didn’t. Anyone I knew, I had met in person and had some kind of relationship with.

Now, I know people, but don’t really know most of them. When you put yourself out there and you share enough content, if that content is decent people will find you. You’ll ‘meet’ people online virtually on Twitter and LinkedIn, then you’ll be introduced to someone by someone else you know. You’ll likely end up going to events and doing presentations which means even more people know who you are. This is both good and bad.

Responding To Emails

If you’ve ever worked in a role where you send emails at some point you might have sent an email you’ve regretted. Or if you haven’t, you’ll know someone who has. I remember a friend at work who was frustrated with a client and the back and forth over a report she was writing for him. She wanted to share her frustrations with another colleague so went to forward it to someone else within our organisation using some choice words. Within seconds she realised she’d not actually hit the forward button and instead had replied, back to the client.

Thankfully I have never done that before, and hopefully I never will, but it happens, and most times it’s something you can smooth over. A humble and remorseful apology to the person you’ve upset or offended might be all it needs. Fingers crossed you didn’t break any company rules that could lead to you loosing your job but I would expect a meeting with the boss is probably on the cards too! In the case of my friend, she was well liked and REALLY good at her job, so she got away with a slap on the wrists and being red faced when she next spoke to the client.

Hasty Responses Can Lead To Instant Regret

Whenever we respond to things with emotion at the forefront, we will likely do or say something we regret. It’s taken some really good mentors and bosses over the years to learn how to phrase responses in a way to help defuse a situation or get my point across without offending, but it is NOT always easy. I also get emails from clients and people who’ve read one of my blogs and have questions or comments. The work emails are obvious in terms of how to respond. They are from paying clients, so I respond quickly and professionally and often diplomacy might be needed. That’s fine, that’s how it should be.

The challenge for me is when it comes to community-related emails. I might have 20 or more a week. I don’t get paid for blogging or creating content, which is fine because I love it. I also love helping people. And yes, there is a but coming…. I often struggle with responding to things if I take them as being rude or offensive. Could I just delete emails like that? Sure, but I also view it as an extension of my reputation. If I can help someone quickly, I will. What I find rude are the ones that are basically demanding that I give them information on how to achieve something quickly because THEY NEED IT TO DO A PROJECT! That’s where a paid consultant might be needed, not demanding someone do something in their free time.

I have responded at times in haste, and then regretted it. I’ve been sarcastic in my reply or felt it my responsibility to point out why the sender was rude. Yes, ironic I know, when my response likely came across rude to them. I felt pleased I had put them in their place, and that feeling may have lasted all of 10 minutes before I questioned what I really gained from it.

When To Respond

I honestly always try to respond to every single email I get. Originally I wanted to try and make sure no-one could say that I was ignorant or lazy or big headed and wouldn’t respond to people. I realised that’s kind of setting unrealistic expectations on myself. I still respond but maybe not right away as I once felt I needed to do. I also am less inclined to research the answer myself if I don’t know it. If someone asks a question and I think it would be good for a piece of content, then fine. If they ask and it’s about something I just don’t cover and would have to Google to figure it out, I will respond and suggest they do more research or point them to a forum or message board they can use to ask it. They will get people with more knowledge in that area that could respond, plus way more people who could help them!

Recently I had an email from someone that had taken the trouble to email me about a blog post I wrote in 2017. The comments section is turned on for my main tech blog but gets disabled for posts over year old. He took the time to go to the contact page and share about how my blog was wrong in great detail. His points provided more detail but didn’t exactly negate or prove what I said in my blog was wrong. It pissed me off! It felt rude and condescending. I could have deleted it sure. What I really wanted to do was respond and tell him what I thought. Instead, I just replied with ‘Thanks for the info’.

I figure people have different motives for what they do. Maybe that guy genuinely thought he was helping me and felt it his duty to let me know. Maybe he was on a power trip and felt the need to man-splain. I don’t know. I didn’t care to ask, but I also thought it better to at least acknowledge his email and thank him.

When To Walk Away

There are so many times I can think to walk away, but mostly I would say it’s when it’s related to social media. I started using Twitter in 2009 and I cringe if I look back far enough and see some of my tweets. If I felt wronged I would go to town and engage in a war of words, trying to come up with the cleverest or most cutting responses. I felt entitled to and that I had a need to defend myself or my opinions at all costs.

Emotions. If they are involved, it’s often the time to walk away.

Ask Yourself Some Questions First

  • Is your reputation genuinely at stake? If yes, would it be better (if possible) to address offline with the person who has shared something on social media about you and ask them to retract or take it down?
  • Will your responses make you look as petty/angry/bad as the original poster? If so, your silence may have more impact then engaging in a battle online for the world to see
  • Did you post something that others have taken offence to? If so, are you able to step back and understand why it’s been perceived a different way to the one you intended?
  • Ask a respected friend or family member for their opinion. Be careful though, and don’t ask someone who wants you to be ready to fight and encourages you to engage every time! See if they read and interpret things in the same way. If not, try and understand why before engaging online
  • Will your comments prove a valid and important point, or just make you feel good for a fleeting moment? If the latter, is it even worth commenting?

Rally The Troops

Honestly, if someone really has posted something or shared something about you or in response to something you’ve done and it’s in a negative way, sometimes the absolute best thing to do is tell someone else about it. Having a friend or colleague comment on it in your defence can work wonders. You get away with not having to comment at all meaning you didn’t engage in something that could get messy, and you also have others defending you in a public forum. It can squash something quickly assuming your friends do it in a polite and professional way too.

Mostly, I try to think about if what I type out either for an email, LinkedIn message or Twitter post has value. Does it have a point, and is it polite. What do you think? Does it matter to you what you post online, and also how you respond to others? Let me know what you think, but please be polite. 😊

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