Do You Even Hear Yourself?
When “social media” fired up really was Web 1.5. As technology became easier a lot more folks showed up and for a lot of us it was the first real reunion with high school folks since we’d left.
This radically altered my perception of high school for me, and my place in it. I was an active Christian in high school and smart, but not top ten smart, active, but not student council active. I was a theatre kid but not THAT theatre kid. I had myself pegged pretty well as a loser but not lost.
And then one of my first interaction with a non-friend boiled down largely to: I’m glad you’re not such a bully anymore.
In a million years I wouldn’t have believed that I could be a bully in high school. I was targeted pretty rigorously early in high school. To the point of my bully being expelled. So the idea that I could have been that person to someone else was really hard to take.
But it’s important to own it.
Because after a certain point intent doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t intend to bully this person. They felt the hurt. It was real. Real enough that it was their defining thought about me 10 years out.As a conscientious adult you have to be more aware than I was of your effect on people around you. Or you need folks to have an eye out for you to help confirm you’re not accidentally causing harm.
This week I came across someone who doesn’t (I don’t think) intend to be a bully being a little Regina George-y out loud on Twitter. I think they were just trying to be a little snarky and funny about the craft. But they were being terribly dismissive of a broad swathe of folks for no real reason. And then laughing with another, equally-statused member of the field.
Being an elder, a leader means you have even greater responsibilities than a conscientious adult. People are listening a little more closely and your words and actions hit a little bit harder. You have to tuck your elbows in a little tighter and mind your tongue a little more. You may think you’re making a funny joke about last years’ sneakers being out of fashion… but there are lots of folks who feel even less valued than they did before you came in the room.
I choose to believe that that’s not what you ever want people to say when you’ve left.
I know I don’t ever again.