Adult BullyingBy Gini Dietrich

We live in a crazy world. Before the Internet, we had to actually talk to human beings. And, if we didn’t like something, we had to tell them to their face…or keep it to ourselves.

While it certainly has never been a diplomatic or kind society, it’s noted that bullying is on the rise, both for teens and adults.

Back in the day, I had girls in high school telling me to meet them after school so they could beat my face in (I scurried home, instead…I kind of like my face).

I don’t think I could survive high school today.

I have really thin skin. I know you’re supposed to have thick skin and let mean comments roll off your back and stay focused on your own goals and live the best life you can without letting other people determine your path, but that is really, really hard for me to do.

In last week’s Six Links Worthy of Your Attention, Mitch Joel admitted he also has thin skin, when describing an article he recommended from The Guardian.

Am I Being Catfished? is a full detail about one woman’s journey to confront her number one critic.

It’s a fascinating read, but it’s really long so bookmark it for when you have some time.

But do make the time.

It’s worth it, if only to better understand what adult bullying can do to the person on the receiving end.

Adult Bullying Leads to Obsession

The main point of the article is one thousand people can say very nice and kind things, but the one person who says something hateful is where we focus.

It’s human nature. We can’t help ourselves. And, if one has thin skin, it starts to permeate all aspects of one’s life.

I recently had a situation where a writer publicly announced she couldn’t read my blog posts because they are rife with typos and grammatical errors.

Quite shocked—because I pride myself on being an English major, knowing AP style fairly well, and being a bit of a perfectionist—I tweeted and asked her to point out the errors in the blog post to which she was referring.

I certainly don’t want mistakes in my writing.

She found one error. One. It was a typo. I had written “creative,” but had somehow gotten the letter F in there so it read “cfreative.” I even missed seeing the red curly line under the word before I hit publish.

It was a silly mistake, but I thought about that for two hours the following night, forgoing sleep in favor of obsession. It really hurt my feelings.

To make a broad generalization like that—and publicly—for one silly typo seems a bit over-the-top. It feels very much like adult bullying.

Adult Bullying Begins with Mean Feedback

We get behind our computer screens and forget there are human beings on the other end of what we’re saying.

We have a rule here that it is okay to attack an idea, but not the person.

It was a rule that came about four or five years ago when I got caught up in the snark of the digital world and blogged about someone instead of their idea, which really was what I didn’t agree with.

While it didn’t do any damage, it wasn’t mean-spirited, and it certainly wasn’t anything near adult bullying, I apologized to the blogger.

I realized it did nothing to further the vision of this blog or to help communicators stay ahead of the trends.

As a speaker, author, and business owner, I get all sorts of feedback. I can take the constructive kinds of feedback and welcome it because it’s the only way I can get better.

But what is hurtful is the feedback that is personal and mean-spirited….the adult bullying.

Following is some of that kind of feedback I have received in the past few months either about my speaking or about Spin Sucks, the book.

I didn’t like the skirt she was wearing.

We don’t want to know she’s married. Why would she mention her husband on stage?

She’s too sarcastic.

It’s dumb she won’t swear. Words such as “dang it” and “baloney” are childish and immature.

Her eyes are too buggy. It looked like she never blinked.

Unless you have perfect eyesight you’ll struggle to read Spin Sucks. The print is far too small.

I don’t like the perky cheerleader type.

Her whole presentation was about PR and I am not in that profession.

Trying to be funny without saying anything useful.

Really? Dark nail polish in summer?

We Must Do Better

None of that feedback is meant to be constructive or helpful.

It doesn’t help me and it doesn’t help the conference organizers. I also cannot do anything about the size of the typeface in my book.

That kind of feedback is meant to be mean and hurtful. It is adult bullying in its finest form.

It’s the kind of feedback that makes me want to confront the person who said it and suggest they write a book or get up on stage and see how they do when they face adult bullying.

We might very well have a huge crisis on our hands if we can’t figure this out.

Kids are bullying one another from behind their phones or computer screens to the point that those who are being bullied are taking their own lives.

They are learning it from the adults who attack people personally and can’t have professional discourse without calling one another names.

Set a good example. Be critical, but do so in a constructive way. Teach our kids that it’s not okay to behave this way.

We can do better. We must do better.

Though we’re at the end of National Bullying Prevention Month, you can make a commitment to help stomp out bullying.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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