Polish Up Your Soapbox: How to Rant Without Being a Big Stupid Jerk

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Great tips!

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

We all need to let off steam sometimes, and what better place than the internet? We certainly advocate for thoughtful, reflective posts, but the odd rant can be a lot of fun to write — and to read.

Can you rant without sounding like a big stupid jerk? You can, with these eight tips:

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It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it

The siblings have a squabble, his feelings are hurt and he comes running to me. “What happened?” I ask. “Say sorry,” I tell her.

“Sor reeee,” she says.

It’s insincere, and the younger brother knows it. “It’s not okay,” he replies. He continues to sulk.

A few days later she hit him by accident, only this time I add the word please to “say sorry” and she says it by using her best “mommy voice.” They resume playing as if nothing happened even though he’s probably still in pain.

Confirmed: How we say things really impacts the message being conveyed. Isn’t that what makes a an audiobook read by a celebrity or professional voice better than having SIri read it?

My mantra has always been: It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it. At work, my colleague gets on the phone and says, “The dose is wrong. Change it.” She’ll be waiting for that change on the computer for a while. Another colleague calls the same prescriber later and says, “Hi, the dose you entered is too high for the patient’s age and weight. Can you please review it and make a change? I would suggest x.” Moments later a new order comes through.

At home, my husband is annoyed by something I did or didn’t do. It could be something small, but catch me when I have PMS and it ends up bigger, and nothing gets done. It’s not what was said, it was how it was said. Does that mean I’m not a yeller? No, I didn’t say that. When I raise my voice, I mean business and I’ve already asked nicely 20 times prior.

Behind a screen, though, all bets are off. What we see is just a string of words. Even if certain words are bolded, italicized, underlined, or made a different color, it’s still up to the reader to interpret the message. When someone types in all caps, they are clearly indicating that they are angry (or they don’t know how to unlock the shift key). Constructive criticism can sometimes be mistaken for negativity, thereby evoking angry, defensive responses. Others chime in to compound the situation and end up engaging in cyberbullying, unbeknownst to them. What is cyberbullying? According to stopbullying.org:

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.

Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

It goes on explaining that even if you remove the posts, if it’s been read, the damage has already been done. Negative comments resonate louder than positive ones. Bloggers and tweeters are all too familiar with cyberbullying when nasty comments are written about a post, particularly under false names or even anonymously. The reality is, the comments can be traced back to the author. Lawsuits by companies against the reviewer can ensue; friendships can get broken; or purposeful avoidance of folks who tend to send out negative vibes through their writing (but are the total opposite in person) will occur. If the comments are deemed threatening in nature, law enforcement can get involved.

With kids having access to tablets and mobile phones and the ability to create accounts within various social media outlets without parental consent or awareness, the problem of cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent in the middle and high schools. In a local case, the student who created a false Instagram account and shared hurtful posts directed at classmates was identified (not revealed to the general public) and admitted to wanting attention. All posts were deleted, an apology was made, life goes on. A lesson is learned by all. District-wide education on netiquette is being offered to parents and students.

I’m not an expert in this area, so I am going to refer you back to stopbullying.org for tips on how to prevent cyberbullying together with your child(ren). As a moderator of a Facebook group of nearly 500, I need to do a better job in that role and establish some rules for posts and comments to keep us honest. Here is some good advice from the site that are applicable to adults:

  • Be smart about what you post or say. Don’t share anything that could hurt or embarrass yourself or others. Once posted, even in a closed/private group, it is out of your control whether someone else will forward it or screen grab it for later. Something else to consider: celebrities should not be targets for cyberbullying.
  • Think about who is seeing the information and pictures you are about to post online. Even within a group with shared interests, there are still complete strangers seeing the posts/comments. Think about how people can use the posts (see above comment). Recently a mom posted jokingly that she was going to sell her child in an online tag sale group. A person missed the punchline and called the department of child services. Outrage against the person who made the call poured out afterwards because there was a visit by law enforcement and the mom’s true intentions were questioned. It really was a joke.
  • Consider picking up the phone or arrange to meet someone in person if something you read posted by a friend doesn’t jive. Maybe it’s not what you think. Or if it is, you’ll know for sure. Hearing the voice and seeing the facial expressions with body language make all the difference in what message is being delivered.

Lately I’ve resorted back to what I’ve heard growing up: If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Of course, if I have facts to base my constructive criticism on and it will really benefit the company or person, that’s a different story. I have caught myself deleting comments, texts, and emails instead of hitting submit or send. I’ll tell you next time I see you how I feel about that post I saw the other day…

Don’t Worry, Siri Won’t Tell

Some parents are distraught when nonbelievers try to convince their children to share their feelings about Santa. Others call it “lying” and want no part of it. Yet others do not have to deal with it because of their religious faith. In any event, Siri has been asked many silly questions by my children, but I had to try this one before they come up with that idea. I’m ok if my children stop believing, but I don’t want Siri to be the bearer of this type of news. So, I asked, and this is how she answered:


I wanted to be sure, so I asked again: 20131208-202758.jpg

So, parents, don’t worry, if your kids ever ask, Siri won’t tell.