A written response or a spoken response that takes the form of an attack is not uncommon in our personal and our professional lives. How we respond and react often causes us as much discord as the attack itself.
Since marketing is communications, and social media is now so much a part of our business and personal lives, I thought I would touch on this topic. I have written about negative comments before and how to respond and certainly there are a ton of articles out there on the subject as well. I even teach my students and workshop attendees the ‘Zen bow of gratitude’.
So picture this – you’re on a call and one of the parties says something that is insulting to you. (This just happened for real, by the way, so I’m not making it up.) One party (a service provider) got defensive over a request being made (by a client) and responded with an accusation that the client was not being professional. (I was on the call as a third party consultant.)
People say the dumbest things and give responses that are aggressive or negative comments for a few reasons. All of those reasons are their own – and if you can see their issues first then there is no reason to take it personally. So let’s break it down.
Someone says “You aren’t professional” – so let’s see if there would have been a better way of saying that your request isn’t convenient, isn’t going to work, or can’t be done? Had the insulting party simply responded either with the logistical challenges that needed to be overcome or the truth that they couldn’t comply for what ever reason, a solution and an agreement could have been reached with everyone’s respect in tact.
Instead, the attacking party probably felt threatened that their work was being criticized and their own insecurities were rallied to an aggressively defensive stance. Their ego certainly got in the way and this side of an ego is never a supportive one.
So the attacked party now has to process what just happened: They were attacked for wanting the best for what they are paying for – not an unreasonable place to start. To their credit, they simply stated, “You’re right, and let’s move on.” But damage was done.
For the attacker, all I can say is, “How sad.” To the attacked party, let me say “Let it go,” and let’s move on with what we now know.
First, the supplier has limitations (we all do) but some are confident enough with what they do well to not let the things that they’re not as strong at bring down the quality of the rest of what they might do well. It is now time to reevaluate that supplier and either limit their responsibilities or make a change altogether.
But on a personal note, here is what I recommend. To the attacked party, I suggest the ‘Zen bow of thanks’ – simply say, “Thank you for sharing your insights and concerns.” The attacking party was never anointed as all-knowing and so probably isn’t even right – certainly they aren’t the final judge and jury – and clearly they are lacking in grace and leadership qualities. The point is that the response was a reflection of their own shortcomings and not yours. If they have a valid point then so be it, but if that good point or no point was wrapped in venom, then recognize it for what it is – a reflection of their issues and theirs alone.
Mardy Sitzer is a certified inbound marketing professional and president of Bumblebee Design & Marketing. Since 1993, Mardy has been delivering creative and innovative marketing solutions. An avid reader of all things internet and marketing, she also writes blogs, articles, and web content for industry magazines as well as for Bumblebee’s clients. She is an adjunct professor at Fordham University and instructor at Rutgers University teaching social media for business. Follow her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.