The UnTroll: Identifying Mistakes Without Being a Jerk

As Valentine’s Day approached this year, I began thinking about love and kindness – two things that are too often in short supply on social media. Why do so many people look so hard for opportunities to criticize others? Does the anonymity of social media – perceived or real – create bullies and allow people to take their bad day out on innocent strangers because there’s no repercussions?

The Perfection Expectation

I joined friends for dinner a few weeks ago and was distracted by feedback from my editor. My books were on their way to the printer and I was sure within the 120,000 words – despite all our efforts – there were typos. (Spoiler alert: I was right.) It was such a depressing thought. I had worked so hard. I hired two editors! Our reviewers trusted me to deliver an amazing book. Readers expected a perfect final product – right? I just knew there was at least one typo lurking within the text. People would find it, post it on social media, and smugly enjoy my embarrassment. The thought was ruining my dinner.

I mentioned a LinkedIn discussion to my tablemates. Had a book ever been published without an error? My friends all had ideas and feelings on the topic. They immediately commiserated with me and my desire to publish a perfect book. They, too, remembered feeling the heavy weight of public scrutiny and fear of embarrassment.

You Can Be Good Without Being Bad

One friend piped in with the most valuable feedback, though. She shared that she was completing a sample question GMAT had shared via Twitter. She answered the question and then read the detailed description – which contained a typo!

Her reaction was the best part.

Did she revel in catching an error made by the smarty-pants GMAT people? Did she wait for us to praise the fact that she was so much smarter than the people who test smart people? Nope. She pointed out that even the brilliant people publishing GMAT content make mistakes – so why are we wasting our energy striving for an unrealistic level of perfection?

She didn’t ignore the error. There’s nothing wrong with being right. She found a mistake and talked about it. She didn’t criticize the expert who made the error. She celebrated their consistent and valuable contributions. And – my favorite – she gave them the respect they deserved while using their small mistake to help a group of writers set more realistic expectations for themselves. What a great role model for all of us.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day we can share smart and kind words instead of chocolates and roses!

Author: 

Dr. Amy Jauman is the Chief Education Officer and Owner of Remotely Smart, a virtual company that provides professional development support to remote and traditional organizations. She is a Certified Social Media Strategist and Instructor with the National Institute for Social Media. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.

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You can learn more about her by connecting on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and her blog!

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