THIS week an email I sent made someone feel so badly they wanted to quit their job. The words I typed before I hit ‘send’ made them feel so badly about themselves, about their work that they wanted to stop doing it. When I think about that, even as I write this, the idea of it is so upsetting, so deeply saddening… well, it makes me cry.
I am ashamed that I have done this to someone else. And I am sad that I could have caused such damage, such destruction. It is awful to have that knowledge, that understanding that you could hurt someone like that. It curls up inside the pit of your stomach, like a dark, heavy, cold stone.
Back in my early days of blogging, the first time I wrote a post that caused a storm and drew some strongly worded comments I cried. A lot. I told my husband, amid a snowdrift of snotty, tear-soaked tissues that I was no good at writing, at blogging, and I was going to quit. He said then what he always says when this happens (which, in five years, is quite a few times): “Honey, you need to harden up and not take these things so personally.” He’s right and over the five years I’ve gotten better at handling criticism. Sometimes I still cry, although I’m proud to say that with my most recent brush with trolls, including the very nasty queen of the trolls, I did not shed a single tear. I have learned to not give the trolls the power to make me cry.
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At the newspaper emails would fly thick and fast with tersely worded, barely concealed nastiness. It was just how it was done. Words were weapons. I’m certain none of those people cried over the words they sent each other. And after a while you become calloused, used to it. Sensitivity atrophies and manners wither away.
But away from the blogging and away from the newspaper, in the real world, words don’t bounce off harmlessly. They hurt people’s feelings and they make them feel bad, so bad about themselves that they want to quit their job. A job they love, a job they try really hard at and a job they’ve wanted to do their entire lives.
I’m sorry. I’m deeply, sincerely, truly sorry.
I’ve learned a lesson. True, it’s a lesson most people learn before they hit primary school, but I’m realising that I’m a late bloomer in some areas.
I’ve also realised that some people haven’t had to build up the tough outer shell that I have, cleverly disguised by my I-dont-give-a-shit-what-you-think attitude. And I’ve learned some people are polite and well-mannered and haven’t yet learned that other people’s opinions shouldn’t matter that much. And that they should not give nasty trolls any power over them.
And wouldn’t it be nice if the trolls of the world would consider other people’s feelings for a change and be a bit more sensitive. This troll is going to work a lot harder at exactly that.