“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” —Seneca
This is a truth about life and relationships. But it starts with an illustration from a website.
The Internet can be a tough place. Readers and commenters hide behind keyboards and IP addresses. Safe in their home or coffee shop, some people go to great lengths to attack people and positions through the words they post online. Without the disadvantage of standing eye-to-eye with their opponent, they express disapproval, anger, or jealousy using words in comments, tweets, and blog posts they would never use face-to-face. We call them trolls and haters.
I’ve received my fair share. Not an inordinate amount (this community is among the most encouraging on the Internet), but certainly enough. It’s tough to be in the public eye nowadays without receiving some negative feedback and personal attacks.
But if you watch closely, you’ll notice I have a specific formula when addressing negative commenters on this blog or social media. I usually begin by thanking the commenter for the question or comment.
On Becoming Minimalist, it will read like this, “Thanks for the comment xxx and thanks for the opportunity to clarify my thoughts on this point.” Then, my kind response is followed by a clear answer to the charge (if it requires a response). Answer kindly. Answer clearly.
But this is not just an article about commenting on blogs. This is an important truth about life and relationships and people—because there are trolls and haters in every walk of life.
There is an old Jewish proverb that goes like this, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” I have found this to be true over and over again in my interactions online and offline.
Gentle words soften the spirit of the accuser and exposes their foolishness to others. It prepares the platform for you to present your argument effectively. Kind and generous words do not prevent you from clearly presenting your argument, they make your case stronger.
In our interaction with others, we should work hard to counter harsh statements and attitudes with kind words. In our marriages, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, and in our relationships online, turn away negativity with positivity.
When you are attacked, hold your ground and state your truth. But beginning your response with just one sentence of gentleness will soften hearts and lay a much firmer foundation on which to stand.