Dude. It is seriously Friday the 13th. I have been having communication issues all day long! First I missed a meeting because I was running my mouth with a buddy/client and not paying attention to the time. Then I ran off at the mouth on Twitter without fully understanding what I was responding to. Once I figured out I was wrong, I had to delete some tweets about Janice Dickinson and her recollections and recitations of her ill-fated time with Bill Cosby. Not good, people. Not good at all.
I was planning to write this happy, spunky little ode to Cardi B in celebration of her first album’s success exactly one week after Invasion of Privacy dropped – it was certified gold its first day out, and she just broke an Apple Music record passing 100 million streams – her authenticity and her rapid rise to fame – I’ve been a fan since she was a stripper/Instagram star, not a pop culture icon – but at this point, I have to dig into my own mess and unpack it.
I’m a seasoned media professional. I know better than to be quick triggered or flip on social media or in person – I’m not Cardi B after all – but even I occasionally get too comfortable and need a reminder on what to do and what not to.
Unless the circumstances are exactly right, emotion in business communication in particular is literally the devil. It can screw up your relationships quickly, and that’s serious because relationships are life blood in a work context. They take time to build and nurture, they can greatly facilitate or exacerbate your work, and they take next to no time at all to damage or destroy.
So, in the spirit of teachable moments I’ve come up with two communication tips that you too may occasionally need to refresh.
Never respond quickly to anything on social media. I often waver over what to post online. Most often I don’t post because I am extremely conscious of my professional image, and I don’t want to damage it. I waver because I have to post to engage my followers, and being authentic is important. But being authentic for me can be rude, shocking, startling, take your pick of eye popping adjectives. It’s just the name of the game when your name is Kellye Whitney.
So, today I fell for a Yahoo headline that intimated Janice Dickinson was lying about her testimony against Bill Cosby. Now, reading further into the story using other sources she did lie, but the context was different than what I initially thought. My first impression was she completely lied, and I saw red.
Women know how hard it is for women who’ve been abused or assaulted by men to be believed, to get justice, to survive the backlash of their truth from potentially everyone and then to recover from all that. It can be utterly devastating. And fair or not fair, what one woman does often reflects positively or negatively on the entire gender.
The Dickinson story also blew my mind because I know how often black men are falsely accused of a crime where their punishments are horrendous. The idea that a woman would deliberately fabricate a sexual assault story that is punishable by law, listen. I tried to find the story after I deleted it from my social platforms, but I couldn’t find it again. Maybe Yahoo took it down to fix?
Either way, my initial impression was incorrect, and I had to do damage control. Rookie move. Never mix mediums. Meaning, if you usually post work or industry-related items online, it’s likely best to stick to those. To mix things up with the odd diatribe probably isn’t the best way to position yourself as a professional.
Don’t be quick to share your pique with a work colleague. Chances are, they’re not as concerned about whatever is bothering you, as you are. Whether or not you have good reasons for feeling the way you do, they’ll think or make it seem like you’re overreacting. People in a business context are not obligated to see your point of view. That’s why it’s best to keep things professional. If you have too many expectations for a peer or associate and they don’t fulfill them, what might be an otherwise profitable relationship can take a hit.
Even knowing that truth, I still have a tendency to get way too friendly with people because I think people behave the way I do: honest to a fault, would not actively seek to hurt anyone else, etc. But sadly, that’s just not the case. Even when it seems like people are on their side, they may associate your displays of genuine emotion with being a psycho, especially if you’re a woman. And you better believe you will become food for gossip as they recount your missteps for the delectation of others.
It’s best to maintain professional distance. That may seem lonely, even sad. It is. But you have to weigh the cost and benefit for that business relationship, identify why it works and decide whether or not you are willing to jeopardize it. At the end of the day, friend and work are often mutually exclusive terms. Save any drama for your out of work/business friends.
And on that note, I’m going to get out of here before I put my foot in my mouth again. If anyone needs me I will be writing quietly in a dimly lit room until tomorrow the 14th.