Respond with tact not smack should be a no-brainer. Yet, I see many struggling on social media to treat others with the respect they deserve, when they’re asked questions in groups and forums designed to facilitate conversation around common interests, or even work. Is it a matter of miscommunication due to the written word, and the seemingly stunted space of social media? In some cases, certainly that is exactly it. However, I don’t believe it’s as questionable as some would have you believe. There is a certain choice of words, and words that are quite loaded, in these interactions. Don’t be fooled, bullies come in all ages and creeds, and they frequent every community.
My intuitive nature makes me dangerous to these people in social situations. From mansplaining to passive aggressiveness, I see through almost all of it. Calling it out is my service to humanity. I used to take a lot of shit growing up, but no more. Neither should any of you when you honestly see someone being needlessly rude. Letting shit go is exactly what is wrong with the world (in my opinion). Letting it go also assures there are no consequences for such behavior, and it punishes good people by making them targets. Shutting down bullies has become a sort of sport for me. Trolling the trolls. And, I have honed the practice of shutting down narcissists. That’s not a challenge! They’re actually quite fragile.
I keep screen captures of the nonsense on Facebook, because people hardly believe the things said to me, and even more is the disbelief of how frequently these types flock to my comments and posts. The fact that I out them alone should make people behave better. Their words are captured for others to see, and that carefully orchestrated persona they give to those around them can be destroyed. Maybe their whole shtick is being a dick. Who knows? I just know, messaging people obnoxious notes, or descending upon their comments in posts because you want to wind someone up is probably a serious indication of a troubling illness.
On the average, though, who does this are just bored and aggressive people. Recently, I was involved in a conversation with other authors regarding book signings at their local book stores (best practices), whether they are mom and pop shops, such as I prefer, or chain stores, like Barnes and Noble. B&N is notorious for mistreating the indie author, at least, in my esteem. When Borders was still alive, I had no problem working with the manager of my local store and did two great signings at the release of my first book. He was eager to have me back and accommodate my time. (I really wish they were still in business, and so do a lot of readers and writers. Why do good things have to end?) Conversely, when I reached out to B&N, the public relations manager shut me down hard: You’ll be lucky to sell a hundred to just friends and family. She went on to inform me that it wasn’t worth her store’s time to invite me in. Keep in mind that this was after several calls just trying to connect with her, and maybe that had upset her, but I took several days between each call. Also, keep in mind that this was after selling a few hundred. All I was trying to do was branch out to more of my audience. The rub? ?I watched her bring in all kinds of local authors. She had no problem accommodating them. My question for this author was, why is she able to sign at her B&N, why were these other authors able to do so, but not me? What was it about me and my books that B&N has such hate? (While other authors are able to get distribution in their stores, whether it’s just a few copies of the books, or cases, I receive a canned letter cutting me out of the running.) So you can see there is a definite unfairness here, which I am trying to unravel so I can address it, and bee able to reach my audience.
Cue the author to whom I made the inquiry, as to how she was able to have several signings at her B&N, but she responded with the usual canned-advice lines in an abrasive tone, treating me as if I were an amateur: make sure you have a great cover, it needs to be edited, etc. She took zero time to look at my Facebook page(s), look up my site, or look into me, as to understand where I was on my journey. She assumed that by my question I was a novice. When I challenged her about how she backhandedly insulted my work and queened, she only got nastier. But, isn’t that how people like this act? Their true face is revealed, and now they need to scare you off before anyone catches on.
I will not share the name of the group or this author, out respect for the other wonderful authors that can be found there, and are amazing resources for each other. Suffice it to say, none of us there are beginners, and not one of us should talk to the other in a condescending manner. Yet, this was not the first time I ran into her/her type in author forums of the ken. You know what I mean. You’ve met her/him at dinner parties or out with friends. All that hot air stifling the conversation. They indirectly flatter themselves, preening and prancing. A couple of the other guests are taken in, but the majority just want it to stop!
In all honesty, these are not the people who are on top but the people who dream they are the top of the crop. Their giveaway is that they repeat the same information they heard, a couple days before embarking on a serious writing career, to anyone and everyone. They think this makes them sound like experts and, therefore, more important than they actually are, because image is more important to them than actual success and good relationships (which are needed for any kind of success).
So why are they hanging out in Facebook groups where other authors go looking for advice, supposedly wanting to share some advice? Because this is where their food source lives. I’m there to learn better what I can do to expand my readership and run my business to the best of my ability. They are there to look regal. I am there to forge relationships. They are there to show off. When I respond to writers, I ask them other questions to inform my response. They can’t be bothered, but take the time to make their chagrin at being bothered known through carefully selected words in a pseudo-response. I take care to look into writers seeking help, and frame my answers in a way that will be effective for them. The poser, repeats internet advice like a well-trained parrot. The words I choose carry no edges, because this field is hard enough without prima donnas prancing all over your inquiry and face. Empathy is something I would like used when someone responds to me, therefore it is given with my responses. The prima donna is only staring into their own reflection, fussed about someone getting too close to their spotlight.
Other authors are our peers, not our competition. There is a large enough market in existence, that we do not need to slit each other’s throats to get somewhere. Everyone is at different levels, but that doesn’t mean that won’t change in the blink of an eye. Every author I have met works damn hard and didn’t get there by simpering to a mirror, futzing about with stale online advice, and they are well educated people.
The reason that I know rude authors aren’t as successful, as they would have you believe, is exactly because of how easily annoyed they are by your questions, and how they love treating others as if they are beneath them. If you’re confident in your knowledge, you don’t get upset when someone calls you out for condescending them. Instead, you apologize for not having taken the time to get the full picture before speaking. That truly is on you if you do this, not at all the fault of the author you’re advising. For instance, when she was irritated by me volunteering that I’ve been a professional for about 20 years, and that I didn’t appreciate her obvious tone of dismissal, she responded with another swipe. “I don’t mean to be rude, but that just rubbed me the wrong way,” she said, and continued on being ever nasty. Was my question a fair question? Of course it was! Why was she upset? I questioned her, and, despite wanting to appear to be the queen authors, she suddenly looked like just another courtier. My question exposed was a challenge to her veneer. If she was as experienced as she claimed, and was so easily brought in by B&N, a bestseller, then why doesn’t she understand that there is a nuance to every situation, and that theere is no cookie-cutter response to be given to my question? That too is a valid question, to which the answer lies in the threat to her image.
If you are, or want to be, a successful author (remember that this example of which I write is supposedly about a best selling author), being tactful in your conversation with others is paramount. You just never know with whom you are talking. Not to mention, who they will become. Besides, we can learn from one another and achieve a lot more together than apart. You are never so high that you have all the answers and don’t need help or cooperation. Successful authors will always find the time to engage others, while not acting as though they are bothered.
So how do you use tact? I want to be blunt and get to the point for them, and sometimes it’s just not as kind as we would like. Let me say this about bluntness: Being blunt has a time and place, but it is not an attribute that is often appreciated and can be more harmful, not to just others but one’s self. Refusing to recognize a lack in tact and empathy isn’t excusable. It isn’t laughable. It’s not a sign of strength. It is not honesty. Bluntness is a mask for certain level of rudeness too many want to pretend is disguising a rough truth. Bluntness is almost always just a desire to be mean, barely masking bitterness. It expresses a lack of care for the recipient. That recipient, however, will take note, and I can’t promise it will go well in the moment or even later. If you’re being blunt because you feel rushed, then why are you online chatting in a forum and opening up the chance to be waylaid? How was that for blunt?
When asking questions of those you seek mentoring from, you do so carefully. When asking questions of your peers, you expect a level of respect that recognizes your accomplishments, and doesn’t dismiss them. When being asked questions by your peers and those who would have you mentor them, the same care and tact is also required. Before responding/asking: look into the person you are approaching. It literally only takes a few clicks and a couple minutes to gather enough information to better shape your conversation and give you bearings on how to proceed. Should they be blunt and/or rude, do not be afraid to call it out. Letting this go only enables bullies to continue to do so with others, and we need to improve human interactions, not accept these inexcusable failings. Let’s not perpetuate bullying.
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