The world has changed irrevocably over the last year. And the importance of showing kindness and empathy has never been a greater key performance index (KPI) in life and business, writes Lee-Anne Carter.
Isolation is an absolutely mind-blowing scenario – there is a reason as an extreme form of punishment people are sent to isolation.
And as a result of Covid 19 many of us have experienced just how punishing it can be.
There is no negating we have been under extreme duress, unprecedented stress from so many angles.
Many of us losing livelihoods, not to mention recreation space, routines, sleep, time alone – or on the flip side having too much time alone – and I have not even touched on the incredibly distressing loss of loved ones, or not being able to be there for loved ones.
Anxiety has approached us at every turn and no-one really knows when or how it will finally, truly be over.
But when did it turn adults, some adults I should say – but professional adults no less – into cyber bullies?
It would stand to reason that the past year has been a time to support, to reach out, to assist each other, to put differences aside and opt for understanding, no?
So, it was with real dismay that I recently noticed something that I had not witnessed before on a networking business platform.
Some of the comments became – for want of a better explanation – pure vitriol. Some were pushing political agendas or extreme viewpoints but most were taking people part for no seeming reason other than they did not share opinions.
One participant in this flurry of negativity had re-posted a column from a newspaper writer, deriding the author (who is a friend, but that is not the point) who had written a very obviously tongue-in-cheek piece, which I found spectacularly funny and en pointe.
But the re-poster had, it seems intently, set out to shame them in no uncertain terms.
I wanted to wade in and clarify. Actually I did, then promptly deleted my comment as I did not want to exacerbate the situation.
But it has sat with me that someone could be so scornful, and downright bullying, to personally attack in such a format. For what? For writing a humorous piece that they did not see the humour in?
In another thread of discourse, a personal attack on someone else’s opinion resulted in a not so thinly veiled insinuation of them belonging to the [Nazi] Brownshirts – actually, the Brownshirts were mentioned so it was not even veiled!
The comments section of a business connection platform – and of course personal connection platforms – are not meant to be a personal battleground. For discussion, discourse and even dissent, yes. For personal attack? Never.
Are people truly not aware of how damaging, and destroying this kind of behaviour can be? At any time, let alone in this time frame, when isolation and fear is creating a veritable Pandora’s Box of mental health issues, where the slightest thing can tip someone over the edge of that very thin precipice they are balancing on?
Anxiety has approached us at every turn and no-one really knows when or how it will finally, truly be over. But when did it turn some adults into cyber bullies?
Before Covid 19, one in five people globally suffered from anxiety. Social anxiety media became a term as people experienced social anxiety for not measuring up, and initiatives such as the Washington Post’s launch of the s(ad) blocker, which allowed people to receive only positive news, were already being established, such was the need.
I am not of the ilk that I cannot tolerate differing opinions. I actually have an issue with how non-resilient we are becoming as a society, and how so few voices can drown out so many with just a well-aimed phrase, such as “racist” or “religious” or “sexist”.
What I am saying is that there are ways to comment, to have a discussion, to argue a point, to have one’s side of the story heard – and bullying, attacking, disparaging or calling someone names is certainly not it.
I live by the adage: “I disagree with what you say but will fight to death your right to say it.” (Attributed to Voltaire, generally).
Kindness has recently been touted as the newest key performance index (KPI) for forward-thinking companies. It is a measure of tolerance, empathy and emotional intelligence which is the new biggie for businesses globally, and one we will be hearing a lot more of.
This new focus on kindness and optimism has been fuelling a range of positivity movements, to empower people, to reach out and re-connect, to feel good about themselves.
When freedom of thought and opinion is gone, there simply is no freedom. And when kindness and empathy are eradicated, we simply cease to be human (the kind anyone wants to know, that is!).
In this current world of distress and instability, there is much to be said for tempering reactions with positivity and kindness.
You do not know what anyone else is dealing with, and it should not matter – kindness costs nothing.
As UK TV presenter Caroline Flack, who took her own life last year aged 40 [a coronial inquest found she had done so after an “exacerbation and fluctuation” of ill health and distress] posted in an incredibly heartfelt message: “In a world where you can be anything – be kind.”
Australian born journalist Lee-Anne Carter is an editor, storyteller-writer, creative director and trend forecaster who for nearly nine years was Swarovski’s Head of Global Trend Intelligence, Marketing and Communications, based in Austria. Now based in Marrakesh, Morocco, she has launched the Creative Soul agency, specialising in creative direction, trend analysis, consumer insights and consultancy.