Apr 16

Do you need a hug?

I’m not one for hyperbole, but everyone has lost their dang minds.

The expectations of the modern consumer are complex and, often, contrary. We want tailored information, but we don’t want to share personal details. We want access to everything, but we don’t want to pay for it. We want freedom of speech, unless someone has a differing opinion. We want information immediately, but get cranky if brands over-communicate.

Across the board, from municipal to nonprofit to private industry, I’ve seen an uptick in unpleasant resident/customer/constituent interactions that our clients have been forced to deal with – very few of which have been self-inflicted.

I’ve lost count of the number of requests/complaints/crisis/social media comments that have come over the transom recently where I just respond with a blank face and a shake of my head. There is so much anger, hatred and apathy toward others in this world it’s, frankly, quiet astonishing. It’s left me wanting to ask the question: do you need a hug?

We’re living in an interesting time where the intersection of technology, mistrust and a relatively good economy is creating a unique landscape. We’ve become ultra self-focused, with concern for “me” first, “others” second. And let me get something straight, I ain’t talking about Millennials – this applies to every generation.

My wish for the world right now is to take a step back and have a collective timeout before sending the next nasty email or posting the next Facebook rant. We need to ask ourselves, how am I treating my fellow human beings?

If you know me, you know I am not a hippie. So when I start talking “free to be you and me” and “why can’t we just be friends,” I know things are a little scary. I’m the first-born in my family, grew up in the Catholic Church and am Type A, so I like rules and structure. Having rules and structure are important in creating a societal fabric that is fair, equitable and respectful to everyone.

I don’t like to offer a problem without at least the beginnings of a solution. So here are a few questions to think about before you send that nastygram, post a rude comment or make a fiery call:

Is this a real-world problem or a first-world problem?

This is one that has just been needling my brain lately. There are real problems (health issues, food or shelter insecurity, employment difficulties, to name a few) and there are problems that are really just a minor inconvenience. It’s somewhat concerning how many grown adults cannot distinguish – or choose not to – between real problems and first-world problems.

When I was a kid, I had a temper problem and would get so upset over the silliest things. As I’ve matured, I really have tried to not get worked up about things out of my control. (In the interest of transparency, I regularly fail at this.) But, I encourage you to step back and assess a situation to determine if it is something that truly is going to affect your life or it’s just temporarily annoying.

What have I done to personally fix the situation?

OK, am going to sound like a bit of a grandpa for a minute. So many people refuse to take responsibility for themselves – and, in my opinion, it’s one of the major reasons we have so many problems in this world. At the end of the day, the only person responsible for your happiness and wellbeing is you.

Before you go off, take a minute to think what steps you have personally taken to provide a realistic solution to problem. Never, ever underestimate your responsibility in why you are in a certain situation.

Am I being flexible?

We cannot live in our own world – we have to take into account what is happening to those we interact with. While we may know what we want the solution to be, we’re probably not privy to budget and time constraints of the organization we’re asking to fix the problem. You have to be ready to understand what they can realistically do and accept that solution graciously.

Am I ready to speak with civility?

In my opinion, if you remember one thing about effective communication, remember civility. While it’s opened many doors, digital media has allowed us to mask behind our devices, creating a culture of less-than-kind interactions.

I always tell my friends and family that before you post a rude comment or send an angry letter, recognize some poor schmuck just like me on the other end has to interrupt his or her day to respond – so be nice. I think we forget that businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations are really just made up of a bunch of people. Be kind, folks.

PS: If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on civility, check out this blog.

To me, it all comes down to the Golden Rule: just treat others how you’d like to be treated.

And if you ever need a hug, I’m here for you.


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