The online cancel culture

It is difficult not to see social media and the internet as becoming a hostile space where keyboard warriors can have their say and hurt people with no repercussions. It is plain to see that some people have no trouble writing what they would never say in person. Let’s be clear – social media and the internet is not the place to CANCEL people, hurt them, or publicly humiliate them. Through my work and how I conduct myself in my own life, I have been trying to change this and educate others about online etiquette and how to conduct themselves – especially when running a business! This post is my personal opinion, but I wanted to share this with you to bring to light what I feel the internet has become. I personally want to change this because the internet is here to stay and can be a valuable tool for many aspects of our lives. However, if we can all adjust our behaviour just a little bit and show others a better way, we are changing the world just a little bit at a time. Below are three blogs that may be helpful as you navigate the challenging online marketplace.

I firmly believe that social media – work and personal – should be an authentic space. It is not the place to only show the good or the false lives, but honesty and integrity. When interacting with family, friends and even people you don’t know, social media can be an amazing place to lift people up when they are down, and a place to start relationships, not end them.

Below is a post written by a business that decided shaming clientele is their way to deal with rude people (identifying information removed, this is for example purposes only). I don’t believe this is a healthy way to behave in life, in business and in general. If these people were having such a bad experience, then there are better ways to deal with this behaviour.

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I recently came across this post online and wanted to share with you why I don’t believe this is an appropriate way to deal with difficult customers and why I don’t promote this kind of communication in business.

Just because others do it, doesn’t mean it’s right. Why waste time and energy on these customers to highlight THEIR bad behaviour and humiliate them publicly? It is clear that the customers did not treat the staff nor the establishment well, but I certainly would not have put that much time and energy into this kind of response, especially so publicly. As a business owner, and as a human being, I would prefer to spend that time and energy on actually thanking the people who make a difference to my business and life.

A true appreciation post thanks people for glowing reviews, for working with you, for visiting your shop, or referring others to your business. However, when did it become acceptable for this online culture of only saying something when you are unhappy? How about we put more effort into rewarding people for the good, and not giving the bad any further air time.

This kind of ‘appreciation’, or plain public shaming, is not how I believe things should be done. Everyone has challenges, you really don’t know someone else’s story. The way people behave often has more to do with themselves than what is triggering them at the time. They could be suffering from some sort of mental health issue or depression, a trauma, unhealthy past conditioning, or just having a really bad day – you never know! (It’s not an excuse for the behaviour, but I try to give everyone a fair go, and try to understand their behaviour better).

This example post could be the tipping point for the customers in question if they were to see it. I understand why this business owner would want to defend their staff and their business practice, but there are more constructive ways to do this. To help you see another way, please read the blog below on how to use negative reviews to actually make your business look better.

Dealing with difficult people in person

If you have a customer that is being rude or difficult in store, here is a way to help diffuse the situation so neither of you does or says anything hurtful or harmful.

Firstly, ask them to join you outside or out the back away from other people. Once they are out of the public eye, their behaviour may change. People don’t like being wrong, so while they are being seen by others, they will fight until they are blue in the face. However, by giving them a private space to speak to you calmly and explain their side of their grievances, you will find they will probably (not always) realise they have been an asshat! Yes, I said it!

Guaranteed that if you kept them in front of customers, the situation would escalate and you may well end up calling them an “asshat”! Instead, try to take a deep breath and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are just having a bad day – we have all been there at some point in our lives, so what if someone had given you time to ask how they could make your day better? The outcome and how you felt about it all would have been greatly changed.

Please try to be generous with your opinions, as you don’t know what they are going through or what is happening in their life. The way they present themselves to you is all about them, remember that. By taking this perspective, you are less likely to be emotionally triggered and feel like you need to get them to see your point of view, and more likely to be able to hear their message. If someone genuinely has feedback, it pays to take it on board, even if it is delivered poorly.

Decide to do better - quite cancel culture.

Let’s look at a scenario:

A customer is out for lunch but they only have 30mins til their next appointment, so they are in a rush. To add to the stress, they also found out that day that their mother is in the hospital again but they can’t go an see her until the weekend. The customer orders, sits down, and their lunch arrives, but when they open their sandwich, they see that the pickles they didn’t want are in there. They make a fuss to the staff and because they are already under the pump and stressed, the pickes were the breaking point. They make a scene and leave a bad review.

Cancel culture: Oneresponse to this bad review would be to explain that the business was busy and the staff were doing their best, and basically telling them their feelings are invalid. Yes, the customer’s behaviour was not warranted over a few pickles, but you don’t know about the stress they were under.

The CLP way: Reponed with an apology that they felt that way and ask them to contact you privately so you can talk to them to ensure the service is better next time. When they call, genuinely ask them how you can help make their day better, after all, their meltdown was not about the damn pickles! Unfortunately, you were just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Always deal with any grievances in a private space, whether that is to pull the customer aside or ask them to email or call you. Never humiliate them in public.

I hope this blog gave you some positive insights into effectively dealing with difficult people. If so, please share it so someone else can see a new way. Let’s change the world and quit cancel culture.

Organisational psychologist Niomi Hurley from Get Up and Grow Consulting.

Learn more about dealing with difficult people

We meet Niomi at a BNI Networking group and the way she looks at life and her methods for helping people through her business have been very interesting to learn about. It was her words, influence and information that inspired a lot of this post. Thank you Niomi for your input and amazing insight to help our CLP community and me personally.

If you find yourself really suffering from being triggered in your businesses or in life in general, and dealing with difficult people is becoming too regular, then we highly recommend our friend and organisational psychologist Niomi Hurley from Get Up and Grow Consulting. She runs courses about how you are triggered by difficult people, and how that affects how you feel, think behave, which then triggers them back. This cycle creates a win-at-all-cost situation rather than an ‘everyone should win’ scenario. This kind of insight into your own life and those of your employees can really help your business grow.

To learn more about Get Up and Grow Consulting, click the buttons below. If you would like a personal introduction, please email us and we will set it up for you.