The Meanness of Strangers

The link between sales and marketing is undeniable. So I think it’s time that working adults accept that their communications behavior—whether in email, on the phone or online—is a direct reflection of the brand they’re representing. And if you’re rude to me, I don’t want to do business with you—ever. I first noticed bad behavior in an email

The link between sales and marketing is undeniable. So I think it’s time that working adults accept that their communications behavior—whether in email, on the phone or online—is a direct reflection of the brand they’re representing. And if you’re rude to me, I don’t want to do business with you—ever.

I first noticed bad behavior in an email. It was from a person I didn’t know, so I didn’t feel compelled to open it or read it. And, if I did, I certainly didn’t feel that I had to acknowledge receipt by responding, even to express my disinterest in the product/service.

I guess I deleted his emails from my in-box several times, because his fifth attempt got a little contemptuous.

“I made you a pretty incredible offer on a really good video 3 or 4 times over the past
couple of months, but you never responded …” he complained, “I NEED TO HEAR BACK FROM YOU NOW.” (Yes, it was all in caps).

I admit I hit the “Delete” button without a moment’s hesitation. I resented being shouted at by this stranger. And needless to say, if I needed to produce a really good video, this would NOT be my go-to guy.

The next event was a little more irksome. I was interested in a LinkedIn Discussion Group topic on the World’s most awarded print ad. By the time I joined the discussion, 55 people had already commented before me, and the comments had turned to the relationship between ad creativity and sales. Participants were musing as to whether great creative (as defined by all the awards it won) should be considered great if it doesn’t generate sales for the product.

As an ambassador for the DMA’s Echo Awards, I chimed in that the Echo Awards celebrate the combination of strategy, creative and results. And in my book, it’s the most meaningful award because it acknowledges the difficult and creatively brilliant ways marketing folks are able to position a product in a meaningful way that drives measurable results. I thought it was a fairly innocuous comment, but apparently not.

One subscriber, who seemed to delight in posting negative comments throughout the discussion thread, turned his sights on me. “So … all other award shows worldwide are not ‘meaningful.’ Congratulations. You’ve just offended practically every award-winning creative on the planet. Good luck with that.”

While I have pretty thick skin, his slap across my face hurt—and considering my lighthearted comment, I thought he was way out of line. Looking at his LinkedIn profile, this guy was a freelancer … and certainly one I’ll avoid in the future.

But the worst offenders seem to be those that comment on blogs. It’s easy to log in and add a post to nearly every blog on the web, including this one. But why do the nastiest comments always come from those who log in anonymously? I can understand that you may disagree with me, or think my post irrelevant or incompetent. But if you don’t have anything nice to say, do you get a lot of satisfaction from adding a cranky comment anonymously?

We know that email has created a passive aggressive form of communication. After all, it’s easy to write a snide remark and hit “send” without having to confront the recipient face-to-face. The difference is, when you send me an email, I know who you are. I can pick up the phone and respond … or run into you at a conference or social event. Net-net, we can seek to resolve our differences, or at least have a civil discussion about them.

But an anonymous, negative post always strikes me as a coward’s way out. As a result, I don’t respond with a follow-up comment … and I’m always grateful when one of my readers’ leaps to my defense.

So go ahead and let me know what you think about this blog post. And don’t be afraid to let all the readers know who you are.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

17 thoughts on “The Meanness of Strangers”

  1. I just had to add to the discussion as I am currently being "stalked" by a salesperson I met at a conference last week. Multiple calls and emails everyday this week. This behavior is only making me not want to engage with him or his company.


  3. I agree that it’s far easier to post a negative comment anonymously, though I certainly not one to shy away from posting and using my real name. Sometimes, like this: you read a web log you’ve never visited before. You want to comment. So, you write up something. Then when you hit submit, you get a message along the lines of "You must register to comment or post as anonymous." So, rather than go through the whole annoying registration process, you just take the easy way out and post as anonymous.

    As to the LinkedIn comment you spoke of, those kinds of people I like to have fun with when they come back at me with comments like that. I’ll typically treat them as though I thought they were serious. I might answer back, "No congratulations necessary. And by the way, why do you think all awards shows are meaningless?" Essentially, I turn it back on them.

    Keep up the good work, Ms. Goodman!

  4. That’s the kind of event that causes people not to speak up. I experienced it quite a bit when I was younger and developed a tendency not to verbally participate. I’m over 50 now and am just finding my voice again. Don’t let this kind of behavior get to you – hopefully more people will chime in dilute it. Discussion is good.

  5. Oh, I’m definitely not buying anything from the marketer on Twitter who blasted me for retweeting someone who retweeted him and removing his name for space because I thought it was originally from the other account (did anyone other than me follow that?).

    As you said, someone immediately jumped in to say "of course it was a mistake; I’ve done that before too" so I didn’t have to add my two cents.

    But you can bet I unfollowed him quickly!

  6. Carolyn:

    I think it’s Scott Stratten who suggests not feeding the trolls. As such, I think you are on point just deleting spammers and negative responders who refuse to identify themselves.

    I like to think that most business professionals, by now, understand that whatever they post online will be there forever and that everything they say or do represents their personal brand, as well as the brand of their employer.

    There are a number of examples of where people posted something personal on a business site. As long as you own up to the mistake and apologize for it, I believe most folks will forgive you.

    Deny it, or try to hide from it and you’re going to hurt your brand.

    Don’t take anything personally. Sadly there are folks out there who don’t know, or care, about business etiquette or the value of their personal brand.

    Those people are hurting themselves. Not you.

    Thanks for the post.

  7. I agree with you – and also won’t do business with rude folks. We even have a sign in our office that reads, "Be Nice or Leave". Life is too short to waste energies on negativity.

  8. Carolyn,

    I have always been an advocate of basic human courtesy and manners in social media, email, and marketing in general. It’s amazing how many people forget that they are speaking to other *people* who have real feelings and genuine visceral responses to shouting, name-calling, and general rudeness.

    Thanks for posting this. It’s not terribly different from teenagers who are mean via text, Facebook, etc. when you see grown-ups, who should know better, forgetting to mind their manners online. I hope it gives a few people pause for thought before they post.



  9. Carolyn:
    I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the general tenor of discourse these days, whether on email marketing, blog postings, twitter or Facebook/LinkedIn. It’s as if people don’t know that their electronic postings will follow them around for-ever!

    What ever happened to Grandma’s admonition that "if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all"? Somehow in the immediacy of communication today people seem to forget that perhaps they should think before they open their electronic mouth. Or perhaps what passes for rudeness is just the "new real" of who we are.

    I for one would like to see blogs and other forms of electronic communication somehow enact the policy that most newspapers employ…no unattributed or anonymous posts. If you don’t have the courage to identify yourself your comments should go unpublished!

    Thanks for sharing and for encouraging a bit more civility in our social discourse.

    Tom Duchene

  10. Thank you Carolyn, for reminding us that online, in-person, over the phone, oftentimes it’s now what you say but how you say it that is key. Great post.

  11. We as marketers have trained people to be like this. We send millions of emails every day from no-reply email addresses. We make it as hard as possible for people to respond, even to tell us we’ve made a mistake.

    If we made it easier for people to make their point and respond to us politely (even better if they got a response), perhaps we’d find they are less angry and prone to flaming us!

  12. Apologies,

    While the actions described in the first complaint related are completely reprehensible, the "problem" with the response to the discussion group comment is much more suspect.

    Based on the description of the second exchange, one "slap across [the] face" was simply returned by another. Stepping back it’s easy to imagine why someone might take offense to an otherwise innocuous comment that uses a superlative like "most meaninful," especially when it comes from a self-styled ambassador of a particular product, brand, or association. Usage like this does imply (by comparison) the inferiority of all other awards, and, subsequently, makes it easy (if not correct) for a reader to infer that your intent was to passive-aggressively denigrate any award-winning work product that happens to not be a DMA award winner.

    The sword here cuts both ways. Yes, the discussion group commenter probably over-reacted, zipped out a comment in anger, and hit the post button. By the same token, it’s probably safe to say that the original post, regardless of intent, could be perceived as a bit thoughtless and self-serving. (Note that it’s _really_ difficult to make any such determination because you have dutifully quoted the anonymous "troll" who hurt your feelings, while we’ve only seen a paraphrase of the original post.) Any post thought of as "innocuous," "rote," or "self-evident" should send up an immediate red flag. Whoever’s writing it isn’t thinking about what they are saying or how they are saying it.

    Combine this kind of carelessness of thought with the immediacy (and anonymity) of social media, and you’ve got a recipe for hurt feelings all around. So, at this point, who, metaphorically speaking, is the chicken, and who is the egg? You as the arrogant, egotistical original poster, or the other guy as the oversensitive, reactionary commenter? They are flip sides of the same coin.

    You’re probably both at fault. But, there is one important thing to note. Whereas the commenter has, in all likelihood, moved on, won’t expend valuable energy remembering the exchange, and wouldn’t remember you even if you did end up working together, you’ve succeeded in memorializing the incident forever and turning it into a vendetta-cum-commentary. It’s all quite noble, so many congratulations to you! Excellent and productive use of a bully pulpit. I think you deserve a DMA Echo Award, and extra kudos for getting in one good disdainful dig at all the world’s "freelancers" too. Or, was that supposed to be innocuous as well? (Isn’t is so easy to misconstrue tone on this darned thing?)

    Stay safe out there on the Interwebs, and,remember, it’s not always the other person who’s got the problem.

  13. Wow! So true. I can’t tell you how many emails I receive with the sender telling me I need to call them back that they’ve tried to reach me, etc. I look back trhough my emails and caller ID log, and go, hmmm… nope.. must have been someone else. Then, I too, hit Delete… You only get once chance to make a first impression! Whether in person, online or in a comments section. 🙂 Great article!

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