Don’t be a Jerk!

Hard Lessons for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Blogs & Forums

I just was reminded of a valuable lesson yesterday… don’t be a jerk.

There are many ways to be a jerk: budding in to a conversation that was doing fine without you, telling people what you really think, trying to solve someones problem when they just wanted to be heard, going on and on like a know-it-all when someone wanted a simple answer, etc.

This is a lesson that I learned pretty well when it comes to face-to-face communications, and I have trained my ear to listen when I might be on the edge of being a jerk over the phone. But this new world of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, and forums requires a new level of attention that is focused on the other person. I would say it is listening to the words, or maybe reading-between-the-lines might be better.

The problem is that almost everyone is focussing on their own needs, which probably makes sense. The normal social etiquette applies here, but it requires a new approach. If you are helpful, kind, and caring, things seem to go a lot better.

Have you ever been reading some comments on a blog or a forum when someone asks a question that you know the answer to, and it is one of your pet projects or pet peeves?  So you jump in and spout off all the answers you have learned only to realize you answered a different question than what they were even asking?  Or you may have answered the right question but you went on and on.  If you had done that while mingling in a crowd peoples eyes would glaze over and there would be an awkward silence around you, and you would get the picture. But how do you tell that in a virtual crowd, when you can’t hear or see the common signals?

You’ll know. Think “how will this come across?”  If it seems over the top, it probably is.

It can be compared to jumping into a hot tub by doing the cannon-ball, versus easing into it with barely a ripple.

My father-in-law is one of the most wise, caring, and kind individuals I have ever met.  He is a rancher and a farmer in the rugged hills of Southeastern Idaho. He has also been a foreman on a roofing crew for many years.

He grows things: Kids, boyscouts, employees, dogs, chickens, corn, and raspberries. He has learned the hard lessons of the weather, early mornings, disease in his herd, and the harvest.

He is never obtrusive.  He owns a few thousand acres, almost the entire hillside behind his home for miles, but you would never know it.

One weekend I was helping him build an addition to his home in Inkom, Idaho. He kept asking my opinion. “Where should we put this window, Ken?” or “How do you think this will fit if we try it here?”

He knew more about building a house than I will ever know, yet he asked me. And he actually listened to what I said. I loved being around him. If I threw out a dumb idea (which I did more than once) he would merely rub his chin and say, “hmmm, yea, we could do that, it might work.” But after a pause restate and summarize my idea, then he would come back slowly, “but what about trying it this way?”  Or sometimes, I honestly think he started off on my plan just to humor me.

It was later that I realized what he was doing. I could see the twinkle of his refined and knowing humor behind his eyes. He never gives himself away. He is real. He is a master at kindness. He changed my life.

I don’t always apply those lessons initially.  But I keep trying.

Harvard Business recently posted a great article highlighting the very things my father-in-law demonstrated every day of his life.

Before CRM software became my tool of choice, I used to consult with companies occasionally and would have their reps use my tic-sheet to track and disposition calls. It was quite sophisticated actually. I had them mark a “/” for dials, an “X” for contacts, or an “O” for an appointment set. We reserved a “J” for someone who was a Jerk on the phone to the reps. Just by marking it we helped let off steam and moved on.  When CRM came along we actually put “Jerk” as an option in the Lead Status field for the same reason.

I used to tell them not to worry about someone being a Jerk to you, they would probably be fired by the next time you called, or they were just having a bad day and weren’t mad at you anyway.

It’s still good advice, don’t be a jerk.

Author: Ken Krogue |
Summary of Ken Krogue’s Forbes articles

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