Communication, Leadership

Be The Calm In The Storm Around You…

It’s sad to say…but everyday there is more and more bad news about what is going on around the world.  If you’re like me, you are probably trying to avoid watching or reading the news anymore because it is so depressing.  I would like to wake up one morning and hear that all of it has stopped, that everyone around the world is getting along and happy again but I know that’s not a dream that will come true any time soon.

Everyone will have their own opinions as to why but if you ask me – social media and the press are to blame…and let me explain why I feel that way and what I think we all should do to try and change it.

Once upon a time, if you wanted to find out the news you simply bought a newspaper.

Reporters were tasked with not just getting the story to report but they were expected to put in time and interview people in order to uncover the facts.  While the person writing the news piece will have undoubtedly put a slight spin on their story, based on their own feelings on the subject, the aim of the story was to get the truth out to the public so we would be informed.

In today’s world, that certainly doesn’t happen.  Today, its all about making a profit…and for a media source to make a profit, they have to have the most followers/subscribers.  To get the most people to turn to them, they now have to be the first to report on anything that happens in order to grab your attention and not have you going to look at another source for information.  Time is not spent on interviewing all the parties or getting the facts – the goal is to be the first to get the story out to the public…and that is it.

So what happens?  Stories start to circulate before all the facts have been gathered.  In the non-media world, remember we call that gossip?  Media sources need to grab your attention (since people spend less than 10 seconds deciding whether or not they will continue reading or watching a story) so they have become creative with the marketing to title story lines in a way that makes you stop in your tracks and read on.  They use titles that are going to invoke anger, fear or sympathy because that is what will get your attention.  Do they care if they are getting you all the facts or the truth? Nope – their shareholders don’t care about anything but what will make them a profit.

Let’s now add to that Social Media.  Now, we have the ability to create a Facebook post or send out a tweet on Twitter to the general public right away.  For the users that like the attention from “likes” or “shares,” they will employ the same tactics as the media in appealing to your emotions and not your senses.  Add in #hashtags to your posts and now it can grab the attention of those outside your own circles.  Crimes now get tried in the press before they ever make it to the courtroom.

But the worst result of all of this is how the general public now lives…and here is where we all need to make a pledge to each other and to ourselves to not be a part of the problem but rather strive to “be the calm.”  We are all very emotionally-charged these days and social media and the press have certainly done their part to stir it up.  If we ever want to change the world we live in, we need to get that under control and shift the focus.

There is still a lot of bad that goes on in the world…but I still do truly believe our society has made huge strides in change over the last 50 years.  The problem is: everyone forgets about progress and reverts back to the days of anger when our emotional are charged.  Its natural – we are human, after all.

And some forget that two wrongs don’t make a right – you can’t organize a protest, for example, against the police but then taunt them and break all kinds of laws in the process…it accomplishes nothing.  I’ve sadly seen too many of my friends turn against each other when situations like this arise…friends that would normally get long and be very supportive of each…all because they feel they have to pick a side.  Some get so out of control that those friendships are then lost forever.

So, the purpose of this post: How do you and I change that?

First of all – Please don’t be so quick to judge or jump on the bandwagon.  Bottom line: unless you yourself were personally involved in the situation, any information you read or receive is now coming from an outside source which may be skewed, missing information or lacking information.

“There are two sides to every story – and the truth is somewhere in between.”

This is my favorite quote and something I live by both in my personal life as well as my professional life.  Even if you feel strongly about one side of the story, you need to listen to or find out the other side of the story too.  It may not change your opinion…but you may also find information that you didn’t know before.

Second – Don’t add fuel to others’ emotional rants.  Yes, I’m being very point blank here.  Part of the problem with everyone getting all upset and out of control is that they are emotional fired up and further supported by others.  We all know it: when you start reacting emotionally, all common sense goes out the window – so we have to stop that from happening in the first place.

Third – Ask yourself and those making comments: What can I do to change the situation? Everyone will be quick to say what “needs” to change but notice few people will post or comment about what exactly that is and how they can help initiate that change.  Complaining just adds fuel to the emotional fire – shift your focus on what action steps you can take to help the tide of change begin or continue.  Is there research that needs to be done? What steps or training can you see helping that you can suggest rather than just telling the other party “you need to change” or “you need to fix things.”

Lastly – Don’t add yourself to the problem.  In the example of the protesters: If you want to be heard and taken seriously, don’t act out inappropriately.  I was extremely angered recently to hear about a group of protesters that interrupted a WWII veteran’s medal ceremony in Seattle in order to get their point across.  Their “cause” had nothing to do with the situation and was completely disrespectful to that veteran (they had to cancel the ceremony because the protesters became so unruly).  Was the public focusing on the purpose of their so-called protest? No, we were all focused on the fact that these people were out of control and disrespectful.  No one cared what their cause was anymore because they proved that they are a part of the problem in our society right now….lack of respect for others.

To be the change in the world, we are going to have to work together.  And that means we have to get our emotions under control, step back to see the full picture and then formulate a plan to help solve these problems.  Don’t let the media or social media think for us.

And don’t turn your backs on the progress we have made or the friendships we have forged…both of those are near impossible to get back if we loose them.  Be a Teacher in the stormy world around us – not a Fighter.  We can accomplish the change we all want to see if we just shift our approach.

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