It’s so easily done, isn’t it? Someone makes you angry and you retaliate. It’s only right and fair you have your say. When the words come out of your mouth, they are said, and it’s done.
You might instantly feel better and pleased you got it off your chest, you might even feel proud for standing up for what you believe in, and in the process, give that person a taste of their own nasty medicine. Job done.
Only, when the words are ‘in print’, it’s not done.
And if those words are on social media, potentially seen by millions as in the Rebekah Vardy vs. Coleen Rooney case, it’s far from done. The words, the story, the outrage and the embarrassment of it all spreads like wildfire, allowing for everyone and his dog to jump in and have their say.
Sure, this is a high-profile case of WAGs between two seemingly feuding footballers’ wives who, along with their famous husbands have a huge following – but what if this happened to you? What if the words you wrote on social media blew up?
I reckon there are a few lessons we can all learn from this ‘Wagatha Christie’ (as Colleen has been named) case.
The big control: think before you speak/type
OK, this is probably the toughest lesson, the bit that causes us to leap into action and fire off. It’s about controlling the seemingly uncontrollable.
I’m talking about thinking before we launch our words. Holding back, pausing to consider what this is really all about. Is the comment really about you, or is it more about the person who has directed at you? This is the trap we fall into; we assume it’s all about us when often we just happened to be on the end of someone’s frustration, bad day, envy, or anger. Behind that comment is likely to be someone who is unhappy, dissatisfied or perhaps has a grudge – it’s their issue, not yours.
That still doesn’t make it right, and the comment has still naffed you off, but if you think first, you could save yourself the bother of responding. The stronger position is often to ignore it and move on.
Your response is your reputation
If you feel you have to respond, then at least think about how you do it. Why? Because when emotions are running high, we can’t wait to shoot our words out, and we tend to use the words that reflect our strength of feeling at that moment in time. Whatever we say, and the words we choose, say something about us.
So, does how you respond make you look as bad (if not worse) – or do you look like someone who is rational, humble, and likeable? Your reputation is built or damaged on the response you give.
Escape or escalate?
What if the person making the comments isn’t going away? If you have given a response, you may find yourself in a rapidly escalating situation where the ‘argument’ becomes more sarcastic, more venomous, and more personal. Where do you go from there? You have two choices: you can stop responding and escape the situation – in doing this, you allow yourself to say, ‘enough is enough’ and you refuse to give more of your time to it. If the comments are on social media, you can block the person and report them, and in doing this, you help safeguard yourself and others who might be on the receiving end of nasty comments and trolls.
Or you can choose to stand your ground (for whatever reason) and decide that this is worth fighting for. In this case, it’s worth asking someone for their objective view on the situation – just in case you are so caught up in it that you are losing sight of where you are – and who you are. Losing credibility is so easily done – in face-to-face conversations and on social media, and this is something you can’t afford to do if this goes as far as a court case.
Consider the consequences
There are consequences to everything. If you walk away from a negative conversation, you free yourself from hurt, but will no doubt think about whether you did the right thing (you probably did).
When you continue it and it builds, you become more incensed, more determined and on the path to something more serious.
Either way, weigh up the consequences for you, the people around you who will see you embroiled in it and who will inevitably get caught up in it – and the cost, in time, money and emotional drain.
Some things are worth the pain, others are not – and only you – a rational you – can decide.
It’s at times like this, as many people are saying in the Vardy vs Rooney case, there are bigger, more important things going on in life than this. Having perspective is a grounder.
Repairing the damage
Often the best way to repair damage and move on, with your reputation intact, is the hardest way of all: the apology.
Yes, it ‘shouldn’t’ be you who has to apologise, I hear you say – and that may be true. But you can apologise for saying the things you said. You can also apologise to the people who got caught up in it. An apology doesn’t mean that the other person involved is right, and you are wrong, it means that you showed behaviour that isn’t you.
You can agree to disagree and draw a line under the episode (as Colleen Rooney has reportedly tried to do in the Wagatha Christie case). Bad feeling has a habit of festering and staying with us if it isn’t resolved and doing your bit to repair any damage, helps you to let go of any baggage and move on. And that has to be a personal ‘win’.
Whatever the outcome of the Vardy vs Rooney case – and whether you find the whole thing gripping or boring - the perils of social media stay with us. But we can’t blame social media, can we?
The danger lies with human behaviour, and our ability to be in control of ourselves. Now that will take some practice.
Amana Walker is a performance coach who works with a range of business leaders and sports professionals. More info at www.amanawalker.com