Some Strategies For Dealing With Less than Positive Comments

It has always been the case that people can be unthinkably cruel and hurtful to others. Even before the days of the Internet(over thirty years ago), social media, and countless cyber-forums and smartphone apps, people often manipulated the oldest of communication mediums to spread the worst of gossip, slander, misinformation, and other offenses leaving permanent damage. When Winston Churchill so famously stated “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,” he was certainly not just talking about the latest false news item but also some of the worst instances of gossip or offensive speech that even in his day seemed to travel faster than the speed of sound. Now, decades and decades later, when countless platforms, websites, and applications allow us to connect with others around the globe, communicate more freely, and share information, ideas, and viewpoints, it is sad that cruel and offensive writings and speech are in so many ways more prevalent than ever before.

How can we deal with cruel “digital” remarks or offensive items when we see them, whether on Medium or other platforms? Certainly, we want to follow any platform or site’s policies for dealing with such negative things — this platform in use, Medium, has a very effective code of conduct by the way. But more generally, how do we not let other people’s cruel words or hurtful tactics get us down and keep us from making the most of these amazing resources? Here are a few strategies, especially when dealing with negative posts or comments, that can help users to remember the positive and enriching purpose of Medium or other platforms and also keep striving to bring even more positive energy to cyberspace. Positive energy, by the way, certainly can counter and triumph over even the darkest and most negative stuff out there.

“Smile and Nod”

Here is a wonderful and moving piece by amazing writer — and heroic character — Robert Ralph. In this article, brutally honest right away in the self-effacing title “I Am A Womanizer,” Ralph does not hold back in revealing the precarious and wild lifestyle of his early twenties, confessing to readers even his most cringe-worthy actions. One unexpected outcome of this lifestyle was when one of his partners ended up carrying his child, and he was transformed as he was forced to take on the role of unexpected parent. With this new flesh and blood child on the way, Ralph describes the pledge of unconditional love and genuine loyalty he made to his future child:

I would support them financially, and my door would always be open for support if needed.

I also promised that regardless of what women were in my life, they would have to accept my child came first, and I would not introduce them to my child unless the relationship were serious.

I hope as I write all of this that I don’t give too much away. Please make sure to read the amazing, genuinely goodhearted article. But I mention all of this to set the stage for one shocking, hair-pulling item in the comments section after the piece. While most responses are kind and emotional reactions to the piece both tearful and humorous, one reader had nothing better to do but draft the following.

Now, this seems pretty shocking and offensive. By the way, once someone posts negative things like this the comments stay there forever. Sure, it can be reported or deleted. But if people have read such an endearing piece and then absorbed such a retched response, the damage can’t be erased. If I were Mr. Ralph — not being nearly as brave to draft such a piece to begin with — I probably would have yelled some angry words and pounded my fist on the coffee table. But Ralph, proving to be much more reasonable, chose a different reaction.

This is a prime example of the adage “smile and nod.” If someone’s remarks or tactics are cruel, unreasonable, negative, and uncalled for, it says nothing about you and so much about them. So, just smile and nod. How clever and sensible, yet also so difficult to practice. In a sense, letting someone just squirt mustard all over themselves like this and coolly responding is also a form of “turning the other cheek.” If you respond to negativity and offense with a stronger, untouched part of yourself, and choose a more positive, reasonable response, you are likely to prove victorious as the other person has used much of their negative energy. Commendations to Ralph and so many others who respond in this way.

Bite the Bullet

Sometimes, if comments are particularly combative and offensive, then you really just have to bite the bullet. Sure, the comments or tactics may bring pain and offense. But if you write regularly on Medium or other platforms, you just have to accept that as this article from E.B. Johnson so eloquently explores, people can just be utterly “miserable.” Granted, accepting the reality does not mean you have to tolerate the negative and offensive. Instead, by biting the bullet, you have to fully allow yourself to feel the pain. Then, you want to make sure you find a healthy and constructive way to channel the hurt, anger, or sadness. Make sure to hide, report, or even block comments or users who are especially offensive or cruel.

Also, work to turn a negative upside down to produce a positive result. Medium, as well as numerous other platforms, shows many people from around the world who have endured through not just the worst online treatment but also the harshest and cruelest of treatment from life. One of my most favorite writers, Jan Sebastian, is an amazing writer and hero who uses Medium to document her recovery from a stroke. In the article referenced above, Sebastian even tells how she left her home to mow the lawn and take a trip to the bank! How amazing of a person Sebastian is, she truly is an example of how the human spirit can overcome any obstacle. Remember so many times when a bone is broken or dislocated, a doctor or surgeon has to actually further break or reconfigure the bone before it is able to heal. Just imagine how amazing and wonderful it will be when the bone heals and is stronger than ever before!

Take it With a Grain of Salt

Part of life is realizing how we are all certainly coming from countless different backgrounds and points of view. This is genuinely a good and positive thing because it illustrates the unbounded complexity of any referenced subject or reality. From one angle, a person may cover amazing and wonderful insights that even contrast with another person’s beautiful discoveries from another angle. And even though the insights may seem to contrast, they are both touching on different aspects of the same multi-faceted reality.

With the countless points of view on any topic, how easy is it for misunderstandings or mistaken perceptions to occur? How many of these occurrences bring inadvertent offense and even cruelty to others? Certainly, all of our emailing, social media browsing, and smart app perusing has taken away from much of the traditional face-to-face or even more laborious types of communication like letter-writing so much of the genuine intentions or meanings of a message can more easily be misconstrued. How frightening to consider that we are living in a day and age where it is so easy for many to mistake a cyber-phantom false identity created by scammers, cat-fishers, or a series of sophisticated algorithms as a genuine living and breathing human being!

So, take many of those seemingly negative and offensive comments with a grain (or many grains) of salt. Taking with a grain of salt means you can aim to see past the surface of others’ remarks to the deeper kernels of genuine truth within. Exactly where are they coming from, and what is an insight that can be gleaned from their remarks? For instance, I’m sure many times Albert Einstein was tempted to take his teachers’ reactions to him at face value when they called him “dim-witted.” But considering how he was a person of profound emotional and spiritual depth just as much as a scientific genius, Einstein probably intuited that they just genuinely misunderstanding about his unique style of thinking and reasoning(that also happened to be super-intelligent).

Taking remarks with a grain of salt also leaves you open to the prospect that there is part of another’s point of view that is really just going to be incomprehensible to you based on your own background and experience(and the same with them to your point of view). But if you show openness, humility, and positive regard, this can help to open doors to dialogue and building a common framework for relating so some understanding can at least begin to take place. Another important note here is that just like with the other tips, taking things with a grain of salt does not mean you just tolerate any cruelty or offense. If anything, considering someone’s different point of view can help you see instances where something toxic or negative has clouded someone’s lens so that the very deeper riches from their point of view have become lost to them. If you can find some constructive way of pointing this out (like reporting their negative comments if needed), you might be helping to set them back on track.

Move On

So, after you practiced some of these tips(among others) where does this leave you? Perhaps you are in a better place to move on. When we have been hit with super-negative or hurtful words or offenses, it can be so easy to dwell on the pain. How perfectly natural to wish for things to be undone or for connections and relationships to auto-align to a better, more positive version they could have been without the infliction of harm. But if a sharp rock or some broken shard of glass or metal has cut through layers of skin so blood and tissue are racing out, there is no magic wand that can undo the damage. One must quickly bandage the wound and let it heal, then move forward with a scar always present. But as the skin that has healed after a wound is much more immune to future threatening objects, a writer is much more unassailable from future negativity after recovering from pain or harm experienced by the worst of comments or tactics.

It would be ideal if everyone on Medium (or other amazing platforms), experiences nothing but positive energy, enrichment from others with different experiences and perspectives, and numerous other immeasurable benefits. But sadly, like in other things, with writing or similar crafts you must have the rose come with its thorns. Thorns and pain are the other side of the coin to the infinite wonders and beauties unfolding each second. However, perhaps with strategies like the ones explored in this article(among others), writers can come to find the thorns they experience related to the craft help them savor writing’s unlimited riches all the more.

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