Gini Dietrich

Who Are We to Judge?

By: Gini Dietrich | July 6, 2010 | 
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During our Independence Day festivities, I had a conversation with four-year-old Ellie, the daughter of a family friend. It went like this…

Gini: Ellie, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Ellie: I’m not sure yet. I don’t have to decide until my birthday.

Gini: You don’t have to decide until your birthday? When is your birthday?

Ellie: November. I will be five.

Gini: When you turn five, do you think you’d like to be President of the United States?

Ellie: No because Obama is taking our money.

Gini: He’s taking our money?

Ellie: Yes. He’s giving it to the poor people.

Gini: Well, that’s nice of him. Poor people need money.

Ellie: Yes, but we need money too so we can buy stuff.

I thought she was hilarious (a little stinker, as my mom would say). She’s precocious and very sassy…you’d almost think she was my kid the way she held herself and the way she talked with adults. I was mesmerized. But I tell you about this conversation because, no matter your politics, it was hilarious, but also because it shows you how we perceive things as human beings, no matter our age.

Which leads me into a conversation I’ve been wanting to have with our community for a couple of months. Perception does, indeed, equal reality. But what happens when your perception is coupled with your politics, your values, your opinions, and your life’s experiences? As human beings, we tend to make rash judgments, we absolutely judge a book by its cover, and we form first impressions of people that are hard to break.

A few months ago, I was talking to my friend and client, Doug Davidoff, and he told me he’d noticed I had lost my blog enemy…meaning I hadn’t written anything in a while that got people riled up. So I wrote a blog post about MY feelings around wearing jeans when you speak. Boy did I get my enemy back! People called me names, they commented on this very blog about their perceptions of me (of course, most never even having met me, nor were those who were rude regular readers of this blog), and one blogger was so riled up he wrote a blog post about me and used the F word to describe me (again, someone who has never met me). On the flip side of that, there were a few people (such as my friend Teresa Basich) who disagreed with me, but handled it extrememly professionally both on Twitter and on their blogs.

But the professional discourse, like Teresa’s was few and far in between, and the name calling and unprofessionalism went on for more than a week. I got my feelings really hurt. I really want to be liked. I don’t like being called names. I love discourse, as long as it’s professional. But when it turns rude and insulting, it’s very hard for me to handle. I’m pretty sure I cried more than once and I also got that stabbing feeling in my heart. It’s hard to have a blog enemy when it turns unprofessional.

I was commiserating with my friend Nancy Myrland and she said something very profound, “Commenting on one’s blog is like coming into someone’s house. You must have manners. By saying something rude or calling that person names, you may as well be in their own home doing the very same.”

Which really got me thinking. We are a society of people who like drama, who like to watch people be really awful to one another, and who like to see the person who is on top fall.  Sure we like to know that Reggie Bush was only dating Kim Kardashian for the publicity and we like to know that Jon and Kate of the Plus Eight fame really are a mess, but who are we to judge? We all have challenges, weaknesses, and hardships. All of us. So who says, just because someone is famous (in social media, Hollywood, or politics), that we get to judge?

This one blog post won’t change human behavior, but maybe, the next time you go to say something negative about another person or write a comment that is unprofessional, you’ll think about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of your words. And perhaps a four-year-old named Ellie will make you think about the fact that not only poor people need money.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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38 Comments on "Who Are We to Judge?"

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Christopher Burgess
5 years 10 months ago

Great post, and I agree with your friend Nancy, commenting is like coming into someone’s house – if you disagree – do so in an agreeable manner (i.e. don’t be disagreeable in your persona).

I also know exactly what you mean when you get the comment which melts the screen. What I’ve done in the past is ask the writer if they would like to resubmit, less the profanity/vulgarity, while calling out their obvious passion on the topic. Some do, some don’t – most will.

All the best,
Christopher
@burgessct

Nancy Myrland
5 years 10 months ago
Gini, thank you for writing this, and thank you for your very kind mention of me. This has been on my mind for quite a while as I am often amazed at how brazen some are about their outspokenness. I don’t mind people being outspoken, but I do mind when they’re rude at the expense of someone else. I don’t know why these media allow some to show their true colors, other than they don’t have to look that person in the eyes when saying these rude or hurtful things to them. I’m afraid there’s another name for that…coward. I… Read more »
Erin Russell
5 years 10 months ago
Gini, you touched on a subject I’ve been planning to blog about in the coming weeks, and I am so glad you did. I agree with your wise friend Nancy about how one should proceed when commenting on a blog or on a website. You deftly pointed out that discourtesy has become a celebrated form of entertainment in our society. From reality tv shows to the tenor of coverage of celebrities (who is drunk, unattractive or mentally ill), vicious public comments, made out of hate, insecurity, for the cheap laugh, or to gain the approval of like-minded hatemongers, have become… Read more »
Roger Wohlner
5 years 10 months ago

Gini great post you are spot on as usual. Nancy’s comment about manners is not only relevant to blog posts but I think to the world at large. I cringe (and change the channel) every time I see an exchange on one of the cable talk news shows where the guests start to get personal and won’t let the other side express their views. Manners and civility would go a long way towards bridging the political divide in my opinion.

Heather Whaling
5 years 10 months ago
Gini, I have a related story: A certain someone in my family loves to forward chain emails that are racist, intolerant of other religions, and laced with political “mistruths.” Some of us used to take the time to fact-check the messages to present the truth to our family and respond with the “real” information; however, that would just spark family drama. In the name of family harmony, I now just delete the messages without even opening them because I know I’m not going to change their opinions, no matter how off-base the emails are. But, it did teach me a… Read more »
Teresa Basich
5 years 10 months ago
One of the hardest things about the online world for me to accept is how ruthless it is. I constantly say that the protection of distance and a computer screen, and the lack of face-to-face interaction, makes people so gutsy that it goes beyond gutsiness to downright rudeness. There’s also so much more exposure here to people we’d never choose to surround ourselves with in the real world. No matter how much you and I disagree, I’ll always respect you as a businesswoman and a friend. The same goes in a broader context, too, though — our right to share… Read more »
Patti Knight
5 years 10 months ago

I can relate to this blog. I have embraced social media and learned early on there are subjects that are just taboo – Ellie’s comments reminded me of some made by my own family members (and much more harsh). I’ve learned to thicken my skin and steer clear of certain subjects no matter how much I’d like to comment. And I’ve especially learned that It really does take all kinds to make a world.

Maureen Blandford
5 years 10 months ago

Huzzah for kindness! Good for Doug for pointing out the value of the dissenter, but Angry Jeans Guy was WAY overboard. I can’t imagine a person with that attitude would emote good vibes no matter what he wore.

So – Amen to dissent and Huzzah for kindness.

Paige Worthy
5 years 10 months ago

Leaving a comment on a blog is like coming into someone’s house, usually with a MASK on. That’s what really gets my goat about the Internet. The anonymity it affords people lets them remove their spines and say whatever comes to mind with no fear of repercussions. It’s really disgusting.
I got a comment on my personal blog once from someone who referred to themselves only as “I read to mock you,” and while I took what they said with a grain of salt…it still hurt. Pretty badly.
Who are we to judge, indeed.

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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erin. Erin said: An excellent blog post regarding civility in public discourse. http://ow.ly/27y7h […]

Kevin Chern
5 years 10 months ago

Great post, Gini. I think that manners are something we often forget about when interacting online. While social media gives us an opportunity to exchange ideas, share different viewpoint and even argue, good discourse online exists only when we follow the same rules we would follow during in-person debates.

Ces
5 years 10 months ago

I think my entire answer could be a blog post …

Our culture is all about judging. We judge with out wallets, we judge with popularity polls, we judge evidence on jury’s, we make judgements on life and death of the unborn, we judge on American Idol … and it goes on and on.

I judge that Ellie is right! Obama is taking our money! LOL!!!

Doug Davidoff
5 years 10 months ago

Thanks for the post and the mention. The beauty of an enemy is that they quickly show how much credibility they have – or don’t have. While attacks that you got hurt, they also highlight just how much substance you have. Remember, if you can’t win the argument/discourse – attack the person.

Keep going!!

Jan Beery
5 years 10 months ago
Gini, I agree with Ces. This response COULD be a blog post of it’s own and just may! I’m so sorry people chose to respond with such lacking in respect and professionalism. You are adorable and I/we really enjoy your blogs. We all DO have feelings and on line or not, there is still a human being behind the post. We have a client that makes us want to drink heavily and has resulted (on several occasions actually) in “cocktail hour” starting mid afternoon with margaritas blending and “The Mexican Hat Dance” blasting. For every negative comment, you’ve got 100… Read more »
Thomas Harper (#trharp1)
Thomas Harper (#trharp1)
5 years 10 months ago

Thank you for your blog, and today’s post, Gini. The “Comments” portion on a blog are an invitation and should be used with respect to the author. Comments are a wonderful opportuntuity to offer feedback and share discourse when the opportunity is not abused for the purpose of ego, grandstanding, or ranting. Really, what purpose is served by being rude, righteous, judgmental, etc, especially in response to someone else’s invitation? If we care to post a comment, we should care and post respectfully.

Peter Faur
5 years 10 months ago
Gini, great post! Sadly, some of our national leaders are setting a poor example in civil discourse, and they’re helping to create an environment in which rudeness is the norm. There’s no excuse for yelling out on the floor of Congress that the president is a liar, no matter how incensed you are by what he says (or who he is?). There’s no excuse for Kanye West to interrupt Taylor Swift in an awards ceremony. There no excuse for Serena Williams to let loose a barrage of profanity at the U.S. Open. I’d like to believe this is a recent… Read more »
Matt Cheuvront
5 years 10 months ago
I can’t tell you how on the same page you and I are Gini. This is something that has been swirling around in my mind for a while now. In short, people are VERY quick to spat things out (passively – which seems to be the preferred choice on Social Media or in a more in-your-face way) and criticize each other. The sad thing that I see happening time and time again is that CIVIL disagreement seems to have completely gone out the window for so many. Maybe it’s because words don’t have a clearly defined ‘tone’, maybe it’s because… Read more »
Davina K. Brewer
5 years 10 months ago
Gini, Just chiming in with Matt, Teresa and everyone that people are often too comfortable hiding behind their computer screens. They react quickly, emotionally and sometimes post without thinking. Love the comment from Nancy Myrland about commenting on a blog post being like walking into someone’s house. I see it along similar lines. From the old school BBS and chat rooms thing, there used to be standard courtesy norms. If someone took the time to write a post or comment on one, you should extend them equal courtesy to read first, respond appropriately second. Takes a lot of courage to… Read more »
David Spinks
5 years 10 months ago
I disagree to an extent here Gini. I don’t think a blog is a home, although some may treat it like one. A blog is a soapbox where you are speaking your mind the the world. It is public, it is open and so is the response. Where I agree with you however, is that people should handle disagreements/debates in a civil and professional manner. I too love to get people riled up with my blog posts. Not because I want to stir up controversy, but because I love nothing more than being able to make people look at something… Read more »
Andy Donovan
5 years 10 months ago
Funny you should “pen” this topic Gini as I was just thinking about the rashness of our decisions as human beings and our constant desire to have 20/20 vision to ensure we didn’t make fools of ourselves. However – it also goes to say that without a little rashness (was going to say rash but that’s a whole can of worms I don’t want to touch LOL) we might not learn and grow from our mistakes. I’ve often relayed your “jeans” post (which I don’t think was a mistake by the way) to others and each time it gets a… Read more »
Jelena
5 years 10 months ago
I’ve often contemplated getting a Ph.D in Psychology just so I can do a dissertation on how people behave online. NPR actually covered this just the other day: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128320119 Interesting story, though probably nothing new to anyone who reads this blog. The thing that really gets to me about online communities and blog commenters and social media is this: Too often, people are afraid to say something nice in public, but will gladly say something mean. The old axiom of “praise publicly, reprimand privately” is turned on its end online. People don’t want to be nice to someone in a… Read more »
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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tim Jahn. Tim Jahn said: Commenting on blogs is like stepping into someone's house. Shouldn't we behave? @GiniDietrich asks: http://su.pr/2UMKNj […]

KaryD
5 years 10 months ago
Hi Gini, Call me naive, but I am SHOCKED and appalled to read about the way you were treated with regard to your post about jeans (and any posts before that). Seriously? In a space that allows us to have more interpersonal connections than ever before, it’s sad how quickly people forget to be … HUMAN. The Golden Rule still applies. Don’t put anything in writing you wouldn’t say to the person face to face. Think before you speak (type.) I’m starting to feel like I’m talking to my kids! Peter Shankman has a term, “SPAS-(Socially Passive Agressive Syndrome).” I’m… Read more »
Laura Beschorner
5 years 10 months ago
I agree with David regarding presenting something to be looked in a different light. We have all come from a variety of life experiences and are not always exposed to something new. But this doesn’t mean we should start judging people because of this. I am reminded of this regularly with talks with friends and family. I am open to them believing in anything they want as long as they respect my feelings as well. So you don’t agree with what was posted? Why do we have to make it a bashfest? I think presenting your own comment on the… Read more »
Laura Beschorner
5 years 10 months ago

oops! I meant *appropriate and not “inappropriate” sorry for the lacking of editing on that last post!

Deb Dobson
5 years 10 months ago

I so love not only this blog, but @nancymyrland’s take on commenting on blogs. I so, so agree with Nancy. I don’t mind someone disagreeing, and even disagreeing passionately, but do it with manners and respect. Great post Gini.

Erin
5 years 10 months ago
To borrow a line from a favorite comedian, “I’m not being judgemental, I’m just making observations”. On a more serious note Gini, I like how you are questioning the lack of ethos between persons that seems to pop up in cyber space on a regular basis. I’m not sure where such behavior comes from. I usually feel such is rooted in cowardice and the need to boost one’s one esteem by shaming/negating the view points of others. But then I’ve always been a person who tried to hold multiple, often conflicting viewpoints. It works in my role as a therapist… Read more »
Kat Jaibur
5 years 10 months ago
You had Haters over something you said about wearing JEANS?! Seriously? Was it “National Everyone’s Off Their Meds Day”? A few thoughts: 1. “Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.” That’s what a friend who’s in Al-Anon taught me years ago. 2. It’s a whole lot easier to NOT DO than to Un-Do. 3. Whether a blog is a home or a soapbox doesn’t matter one bit. In the end, it’s about connecting with people. 4. As Emerson said, “How can I hear what you’re saying when what you’re doing speaks so loudly?” 5. I hope little Ellie… Read more »
Amy Akomas
5 years 10 months ago

From the mouths of babes! Kids do put LIFE in perspective for adults sometimes. Great educational article GINI!!!

Paul (@minutrition) McConaughy
Paul (@minutrition) McConaughy
5 years 10 months ago
Thanks for saying out loud what we all think at least once in a while. If you really want a sick feeling try this. If you are a conservative politically go read the comments on a liberal’s blog…or if you are a liberal go read the ones on a conservative’s blog. Its enough to make you wonder why anyone would want to be in your political party – considering the company you keep. Words do matter. I like Kat Jaibur’s “It’s a whole lot easier to not do than to undo. Sounds like something my mom would have said. Now… Read more »
debdobson (DebDobson)
5 years 10 months ago

Reading “Who are we to judge” by our tweep @ginidietrich. This is really good…and so true. http://bit.ly/bTCkMB

Rachael
5 years 10 months ago
I completely agree. Just because you are behind a computer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have manners. I think this is also a big lesson we need to focus on teaching our children and the children to come in regards to cyber-bullying and just downright what is & isn’t acceptable behavior on the internet. Your reputation matters and it will follow you even more closely now with the use of the internet. Like we’ve all heard…”if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it at all” maybe it really is “if you can’t respectfully communicate your viewpoint on an… Read more »
Gini Dietrich
5 years 10 months ago

I like your revision of respectfully communicating. You’ll notice that Teresa very calmly and intelligently disagreed with me. I love that because she made some very fair and valid points. Did it change my mind? No. But I have a ton more respect for her now (as if that were even possible).

Shelly
5 years 10 months ago
ooooh – I am behind in reading! So sorry that you got your feelings hurt… I know it does no good for me to say ignore that BS!!! <<but I'll say it anyway! I love when you bring up these topics that spark debate! But I agree that there needs to be professionalism – common courtesy, whatever you want to call it… when debating… because personally I fight fair… (well fair in the sense that I fight about the topic – I don't throw insults about the person out there…) and when I come across something that is all about… Read more »
Gini Dietrich
5 years 10 months ago

You don’t fight fair on Words! 🙂 It’s pretty hard to ignore the name calling, but you’re absolutely right that we should all do that!

Lindsay Griffiths
5 years 9 months ago
Gini – I’m so glad I found this post through Nancy Myrland’s blog. I dealt with this for the first time just recently, and it was only one nasty commenter. I definitely identify with getting my feelings hurt, even though I tried to tell myself that the commenter’s words said more about her than they did about me. I’ve been talking about this issue in my personal life a lot the last few months, after watching a blogger stop blogging because of threats on her blog, and seeing some people get so much joy from tearing other people down. It… Read more »
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[…] of negativity in comments she’s seen recently: A while back, my friend Gini Dietrich wrote a blog post that was on many of our minds.  It had to do with rude comments left on her blog by people who had […]

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