Standing Up to School Yard Bullies
© 2015 Elena Fawkner
Picture it. You run your own business. You've worked long and
hard for the past 18 months to get where you are today. Long
hours, no weekends, anxiety attacks in the middle of the night
worrying about whether you're going to be able to meet expenses
for the month. Your phone rings. You answer it. "Stop sending
me your rubbish!", the belligerent voice at the other end yells
in your ear before slamming down the receiver. "Fruitcake", you
mutter to yourself, dismissing the caller from your mind as you
turn to more important things.
The phone rings again. You answer it again. "Where the hell
is that information I asked you for yesterday afternoon? You call
yourself a professional?!", another belligerent voice bellows
in your ear before slamming down the receiver. If you'd been
given the chance to respond before being attacked, you might
have been able to explain that the information so charmingly
requested was put in the mail yesterday afternoon and would
be arriving with the morning's mail. But, of course, you weren't
given the opportunity.
You get another couple of calls a day for the next month, just
like this. What's going on here? What's wrong with the world
all of a sudden? That's what you'd think, right? Has everyone
lost all sense of how to relate to their fellow human beings?
Is this really how people have been raised to interact with one
Of course not. Such a thing would never happen in the real
world would it? Oh sure, you'll get the occasional nutter. But
you wouldn't expect one or two a day for weeks on end would
you? No. The world and the people who populate it just don't
operate that way. If they did, no-one would get anything done.
Everyone would be sniping and retaliating and feeling generally
hostile towards everyone they came in contact with in case it
was one of THEM. Thank heavens the real world doesn't work
So why do we put up with it when it comes to the online
world? If you've started an online business of your own, you've
no doubt heard over and over again that you have to develop
a thick skin. Why do we have to expect and accept bad
treatment from certain people we deal with online? We
wouldn't put up with it offline. So why is it something we tell
each other to ignore, turn a blind eye to, don't respond to lest
we make ourselves a target just because it happens online?
Enough is enough. It is NOT acceptable to treat each other
this way whether online or offline. And those who will ignore it,
turn a blind eye and not respond appropriately, only perpetuate
Particularly over last two or three months, I've received my
fair share of episodes like this. All newsletter publishers do.
It "goes with the territory", as they say. They still surprise me,
even now, though. I wonder what kind of an individual is it who
goes feral (there's no other word for it), because I send them my
newsletter? They asked to receive it after all. But maybe
they forgot they subscribed? Maybe someone subscribed them
using their email address and they didn't read the message they
received in response telling them how to unsubscribe themselves?
Or perhaps their email program doesn't work properly and
when they click on the link at the end of my newsletter telling
them that if they want to unsubscribe all they have to do is
send a blank email to
and instead of the email program automatically putting
the word "unsubscribe" in the subject line, as this coding
is intended to do, it leaves the whole thing intact and as a
result the hapless subscriber receives an error message
saying that the address is not a valid email address.
Perhaps these people have good reason not to send me a
simple email saying "Hi Elena, I've been trying to unsubscribe
but I keep getting an error message. Can you help me?",
in response to which I would simply unsub them manually.
Perhaps these people have a good reason to instead send
me personally abusive email accusing me of spamming and
scamming, and God knows what else.
Perhaps that prospective advertiser the other week who placed
an advertising order but didn't follow up with the ad copy
had a good reason for rudely proclaiming, when I followed
up by email, "I tried the form on your site but it didn't work.
It suggest you fix it NOW. When will my ad go out and
how many subscribers will receive it?". Maybe that prospective
advertiser had a good reason for emailing me a second time,
less than an hour later (and well before I had even read the first
message) saying "You still haven't answered me. When will
my ad run and how many subscribers do you have?!!!" (Maybe
these same people also have a good reason for never using fewer
than three exclamation marks to make their point.)
Maybe they had a good reason. But I can't for the life of me
imagine a good enough one.
No doubt that particular would-be advertiser is sitting there
scratching his or her head (this person didn't even have the
courtesy of including their name in the email), wondering why
my response was to issue a refund for their ad purchase and tell
them to go advertise somewhere else.
You know what? I DON'T CARE what these people think
of me. I'm DELIGHTED when people like that unsubscribe
from my newsletter. I DON'T WANT to do business with
people like this.
Why do we take it? Why is this sort of behavior and
attitude accepted online when we would never tolerate it
in a bricks and mortar environment? Why? Because we
would never HAVE to tolerate it in the so-called "real world".
People would never DREAM of behaving like this in their
"real life". Who on earth would approach someone they
wanted to do business with in such a fashion? Certainly
not someone who had any sense of common courtesy,
respect or dignity for themselves or anyone else they
came in contact with. They'd just be avoided for the mad
hatters they are.
But something happens to certain people when they get
behind a computer screen. The anonymity of it emboldens
them, allows them to act out with faceless strangers the
frustrations that build up within them as a result of their own
inadequacies in dealing with the "real world": strangers
who, they have well come to know, will just accept what's
thrown at them without any risk of retaliation because the
recipients fear more of the same.
These are the very same kids (or people very much like
them) that you and I remember from our early school years.
They picked on the one person that they perceived to be the
least able and likely to retaliate. There's a word for people
like this: bully. And all bullies are, at bottom, nothing but gutless
cowards. Pure and simple.
I for one have had enough of it. All we achieve by ignoring
these idiots is reinforcing the wrongheaded idea that it is
acceptable to treat people this way. That it doesn't matter
how you treat people if you're not face to face with them and
you're never likely to be.
I doubt any of us really has any question that the Internet is
here to stay. It will continue to play a bigger and bigger part
in our everyday lives. The day may well come, and perhaps a
lot sooner than any of us expects, when we will no longer have
to leave the house to go to work. We may all be working out
of the comfort of our own homes from our computers. Online
forms of communication may become the predominant way
of communicating, at least when it comes to our working
lives. What kind of world are we creating by allowing this
groundswell of unfocused hatred against our fellow humans to
Don't take it. You deserve better and your business deserves
better. There are some things you just shouldn't have to
take just to make a buck. Call me a heretic, but some business
just isn't worth having.
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Elena Fawkner is editor of Home-Based Business Online.
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Wednesday, 13-Nov-2019 19:32:51 CST