Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 5 | Words DO Hurt

13139249_10153931221552819_4713360848051877835_nToday, while taking a mental/emotional break from the negative stress and duties that my line of work brings to me, I stumbled across this picture on a social media post.  The quote “The tongue has no bones, but it is strong enough to break a heart.  So be careful with your words.”  Given all that I have experienced in life, and all that I see through my career path right now, I can tell you that this is such a powerful and true statement.  Words do hurt…and while the focus used to be on what is being said verbally, now with a majority of our communications being electronic and we have seemingly lost the human connection because of it, now more than ever, it counts for the written word as well.

STICKS AND STONES:  Yes, I am well aware of the old saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.”   You know, to an extent that is true.  People can say what they want but it’s not like anyone is going to take away your birthday with words.  I also think that people need to have a certain level of a thick skin and ability to cope because some people are just giant jerks…but life does go on.  People grow up, people learn to move past their own hurt that causes them to feel the need to hurt others, they learn from their mistakes, change their attitudes, break bad habits, and so on.  So to all the “suck it up buttercup” minded people…I can agree…to an extent.  I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have if I let everyone who said an unkind word to me really get to me.  In fact, in some instances, it was only fuel to my fire for working hard to become better…better at whatever they were trying to tear me down over.

IT’S A DIFFERENT WORLD: At the same time, we are living in an entirely different world today.  We have adults who don’t really understand the types of bullying and harassment that can go on now.  Consequently that means that when their children, or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, come to them with problems relating to bullying now…they don’t really have an idea on how to address it.  Heck, I know a lot of adults that don’t even know how to address it because it’s not just an issue targeting youth – many adults are now the subject of attacks, be it personally or maybe through reviews of their business.  Now, of course, there is some basics and wisdom that we can all draw upon from when we were young…but there are other dynamics that are involved.  It’s not because us “older” people are stupid and don’t know what it is like to be bullied – it’s just different…and in many cases, way worse than any of us ever had it growing up because we didn’t have all of this instant access and technology.  More and more we are hearing stories of kids killing themselves because of bullying.  I’ve read the stories – it’s heartbreaking.  And why?  What is the root cause?  Is it because the kids are being coddled too much and lack coping skills?  Or is it because of the new ways that people are being targeted through the use of technology and the seeming inability to get away from it?

STORY THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Coinciding with this exact topic, many years ago, in my early 20s (before all this social media stuff) I had a friend forward to me an e-mail that had been circulating.  My friend knew that I had been going through a rough time in my life and I was struggling with my own reactions to what others were saying to me.  Up until that point, there were times that I could be equally unkind to someone when pushed.  Nevertheless, that one silly little e-mail, for whatever reason, resonated with me and forever changed the way I thought about the words that I would speak (or write) to someone.  Because it was so impressionable upon me I will share a version of the same “Nails in the Fence” story here:

There once was a little girl who had a bad temper.  Her mother gave her a bag of nails, and told her that every time she lost her temper, she must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the girl had driven 37 nails into the fence.

Over the next few weeks, as she learned to control her anger, the number of nails she hammered into the fence each day gradually dwindled.

She discovered it was easier to hold her temper than it was to drive the nails into the fence.

Finally, the day came when the girl didn’t lose her temper at all, and she went to find her mother…

When she proudly told her mother that she was able to control her anger, and didn’t need to hammer any more nails into the fence, her mother suggested that she now pull out one nail for each day that she was able to hold her temper.The days passed and the girl was finally able to go back to her mother and tell her that she had pulled out all the nails from the fence.

The mother took her daughter by the hand and together they went to the fence.

She said, “You have done well, my daughter, but look at the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same again. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like these ones that have been left by the nails.  You can put a knife in someone and draw it out.  But it won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound will still be there.  A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”

When I read that story, I realized that I was a lot like that little girl in the story.  In conversations with friends about life I have repeated versions of this story to explain my way of thinking and why I don’t “fight back” sometimes.  After all, when you are in an argument there is nothing more frustrating than when someone gets silent and gives the “silent treatment.”  But to be honest, my silence is out of respect.  Respect for myself, and respect for the person I am in a disagreement with.  You see, I remember every harsh word uttered to me by those I loved the most.  I also remember all the harsh words that were uttered to me by people I didn’t even care so much about.  What I learned from this, through self reflection, is that people will likely remember any words that I say out of anger…even if I later apologize, because I remember.  What I don’t really remember is all the times people were silent.  I rather people struggle to remember all of the times I got silent rather than live with scars from harsh words that I could have said when I was angry.

TAKE A BREATHER AND BE MINDFUL OF YOUR WORDS:  When you are dealing one-on-one,  with someone in person, it’s always important to be mindful of your words…regardless of age.  Children are the most impressionable.  Furthermore, understanding that we are living in a different world, where written words can be out on the internet FOREVER, it’s important that each of us take extra care in what we write.  You might be angry today, but as with all things in life and as my grandfather used to say, “this too shall pass.”  Before you go all keyboard warrior on someone, take the time to calm down, breathe, and determine if what you are about to write will REALLY serve a purpose that is positive down the road.  If the answer is yes, chose your words wisely and remember the “Nails in the Fence” story.  If the answer is no, let go of the ego, and remain silent.  What you write today can haunt you, and someone else, for life…and life is way too short to live with that kind of a burden.

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If any of this resonates with you, or you agree with that I have said, please consider sharing this article and/or leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear your feedback and/or about your personal experiences.

 

 

Online Negativity: A Potential Pitfall to Your Otherwise Perfect New Business Name

For many entrepreneurs, coming up with the right business name can be hard.  After all, you want it to be catchy and tell people what your business is about.  You might want some eye catching creative logo to go with it too.  You also want to be able to link that business name and logo with the internet, i.e., domain names, social media, etc.  Equally important is making sure all of these creative things (name, logo, etc.) are unique to you and your company, otherwise you could face intellectual property challenges down the road.  No one wants to make that costly mistake!  Perhaps you even engage an attorney to help ensure that all of these things are set up right and check out just to be sure.  When all of these things are on track you might feel like you have got the green light and you are off to the races!  Or are you?

One of the pitfalls I see in business is people starting businesses with a GREAT business name only to later find out that somewhere someone else has (or had) a same or similar business name with a bunch of negative online articles or reviews about it!  As many of us are aware, stuff on the internet stays around for a long time…as in forever in some cases. Basically, even if the business has long since been done and gone, those articles and reviews may still be around…possibly at the top of search engine listings.  Even worse, people who don’t pay that close of attention, perhaps prospective customers, might think that the old business name (and crummy article or review) that had nothing to do with you are one in the same with your business!  This is true even if you have different locations, different logos, and do totally different types of business!  Yes, a few unfortunate issues with our society (generally, not all) are: 1) people don’t typically read (they skim at best); and 2) people sometimes think everything on the internet is the truth without second guessing the information or where it came from!  Yikes!  Talk about a bad combination and potential for an online reputation nightmare for your new business – especially if your prospective customer doesn’t play that close of attention to details…like the fact that you aren’t that other business with the old articles, etc!  To top it off, solutions aren’t as easy as writing the websites that are hosting the articles/reviews and asking them to take them off.  In most cases, that won’t work and, generally speaking, they don’t have to.

PRO TIP:  When doing your due diligence for your business name, in additional to all of the intellectual property considerations, you should also consider running searches on top search engines like Google to see what, if any, negative information you can find on the internet using the name of your company and names closely related to your company, e.g. Frosty Ice Cream vs. Frostys Ice Cream, etc.  Going in with your eyes wide open as to what problems are present, if any, will help you determine if you want to consider other business names OR maybe at least consider some social media campaigns or other options that will help educate and differentiate you from the other(s).

If you not sure how to go about these kinds of searches, you are encouraged to speak with a Business Attorney in your area who can assist you or perhaps a trusted Reputation Management consultant (though do your research before you hire anyone).  Anette Beebe is the managing member of Beebe Law, PLLC which is an Arizona based law firm representing clients in the state of Arizona.

 

 

Fighting Fair on The Internet: Part 4 | Crossing the Line Online – Don’t be THAT Guy!

If you have been keeping up with this Fighting Fair on the Internet blog series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 you are already aware that I think that most of the issues we see happening today are due to the increased use of technology, the loss of real human connection, and that so many people give opinions that really are nothing more than a “turd trophy” and should be “flushed” down the proverbial toilet.  So many people have developed some odd level of narcissism wherein they feel compelled to step into a conversation, not involving them, and render some kind of a comment, often from a place of needing to be “right,” that really does nothing but perpetuate negativity in one form or another.  This type of action is akin to the bumbling belligerent drunk guy (or girl) at the bar who walks up to a table of friends having a conversation and adding in his/her “two cents” (that’s my sarcastic way of saying the person said something offensive) based on a single sentence that was overheard.  No one really likes THAT person at that point in time.  After all, no one asked stumbling Captain Drunko, who might smell like a soggy bar towel, to come interrupt the conversation to give his polished turd trophy of an opinion…and a lot of times either THAT person ends up getting kicked out of the bar, getting their butt kicked, or THAT person feels like a total d-bag the next day once his/her friends informs him/her of the prior nights “entertainment.”  Maybe you have seen THAT person before.  Maybe you have even been THAT person a time or two.  Perhaps you have been on both sides of that coin in the past.  Regardless, and I pass no judgment here – crap happens, but you know what I am talking about.

Just as there can be consequences for being a belligerent and obnoxious drunk person at a bar (getting 86’d, getting your butt kicked, having the law get involved and possibly having to pay fines, and what I call “fool’s remorse”) there can also be very similar consequences for what you write on the internet.  I am not going to touch on the problems that can arise for people who get online and write a truthful account of a situation; that, along with many other issues, are for later parts to this series.  What I am going to get into here, in a very broad sense, is what can happen when you cross the line when posting online.

GETTING 86’D:  So you spout off and you get “kicked out” of the joint.  This seems like the least of potential problematic ramifications and maybe you don’t care if you get banned from a particular chat room or social media outlet.  In today’s technological world, chances are you’d just find a way around the system anyway.  I personally can think of many options and a lot of them are hard for any typical website administrator to actually detect and keep up with.  Nevertheless, if you have spent a lot of time building up friends, connections, adding photos or other content that may no longer be on your computer/phone, etc. this might be detrimental to you.  That cute picture of you and granny that you posted to your private account before she passed away or that video of that baby’s first steps…GONE FOREVER…if you do something that results in your account being suspended.

GETTING YOUR BUTT KICKED:  Just like the drunkard at the bar who gets out of hand with the wrong people can wind up on the receiving end of a serious butt kicking, when you get online and start spouting off, you never really know who you are spouting off to and what kind of a person they are.  It’s made even worse if you are like most people and don’t control your security settings on your social media very well.  Chances are you give out WAY too much information about yourself.  That is another topic for another day.  Nevertheless, you would be surprised at how much information people can gather from the tid-bits that people just leave open to public access.  What happens if you spout off and the person happens to be some major creeper with bad intentions?  They figure out who you are, who your friend and family are, and eventually where you all work and live.  Are you okay with that?  Okay…for all you tough guys out there saying you’d just meet them at the door and shoot them (hey, I support the Second Amendment too)…let’s be real here.  There is always the possibility that someone could come find you, or your unsuspecting family, and do something.  There is enough chaos on the news to prove that there are crazy people out there willing to go to drastic extremes.  I don’t know that I need to go on here…you all get my point.

THE LAW:  This is the one that I see the most of due to the nature of my position in the legal field.  If you get all worked up about something and then get online to spout off, especially if you embellish the story or otherwise purposefully tell a lie as a way to “get even” with someone for something, chances are, eventually, you are going to have to face some legal consequences for that.  Generally speaking, unless the account you give is opinion or is 100% the truth, what you say “can and will be held against you in a court of law.”  The most common cases in these situations are defamation actions that may be associated with additional causes of action depending on what you say.  Yes, there are defenses to defamation actions (truth and opinion being a few of them) however, so many people seemingly are confused about the difference between a statement of fact and an opinion.  Just because you say “In my opinion…” and then go on to make some sort of allegation doesn’t necessarily make that statement an opinion.  Remember, you have the right to free speech, but that is not absolute.  Just as you can’t run into a movie theater and yell “fire!” you can’t commit defamation without a very real potential for legal consequences…typically expensive ones.  You work hard for your money…do you really want to have to give it to the person, and their attorneys, that you were mad at in the first place?

FOOL’S REMORSE:  We have all done something at one or another that we aren’t exactly proud of.  It’s even worse if whatever occurred happened in public.  There is a reason that a lot of us “older kids” say that we are sure glad that were were “young and dumb” before smart phones and social media were around.  No seriously, it’s true!  Some things just DON’T need to make it to the public!  This whole “social media” thing has become, well, too social.  It  seems like long gone are the days of keeping “dirty laundry” in the hamper where it belongs.  Now, if you have a dispute with someone, chances are, for better or worse, someone, somewhere is going to talk about it on the internet.  Further, now with the ease and convenience of being able to post online under the perceived cloak of “anonymity,” more and more people are openly hanging out their dirty laundry for everyone to see.  Hell hath no furry like the wrath of an angry ex…ex-boyfriend/girlfriend,  ex-husband/wife, ex-business partner, etc.  Instead of dealing with matters in private, people are now dragging their disputes online and saying things, usually based on emotion at the time, that can be very hurtful.  To top it off, once something is up online, depending on where you put it, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to remove.  Well, what happens when your feelings for that person change?  You know, like after you have had the time to calm down and truly get over those feelings?  If you are the “normal” person, whatever that means, you are probably going to feel bad about it…but you may not be able to rectify that situation.  Then, not only is the person that you decided to spew emotional word vomit all over feeling the pain, you are too.  It’s just not worth it!

This obviously has been a brief overview, however, I think it will probably resonate with many.  There are so many people going out and “running at the mouth” online before they really take time to consider the consequences of their actions.  These rants can impact not only you, but those around you.  Remember friends, in this context, temporary solutions can become permanent problems.  If you REALLY need to get something off of your chest, and want to write about it, go “old school” and grab a pen and paper!  Not only will you get the cathartic release from being able to get those emotions out on paper but it will also help keep you from getting into trouble.  You can always toss the paper in the trash when that emotion dissipates…  If that doesn’t work, save yourself a lot of grief by talking to a friend or family member that is going to help you calm down and steer you in a positive direction…  Oh, and watch out for those “friends” that want to instigate and entice you into being THAT guy.  In our bar scenario from above…that would be the friend that likes to order you shot after shot, get you riled up and push you into the crowd just to see “what happens.”  Yeah…that “good time Charlie” probably isn’t the right person to go to when you need this kind of help.

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If any of this resonates with you, or you agree with that I have said, please consider sharing this article and/or leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear your feedback and/or about your personal experiences.