Humility on the net?
Some time ago I heard Daniel Rehn give a lecture in Berlin. It was a Tuesday morning shortly after 8 in the Berlin BaseCamp and only a few listeners had gathered at this early hour. It's a shame, because the small breakfast event and the discussion that followed was something completely different from the talk that you usually hear in Berlin: Rehn talked about humility. Nothing unusual in itself - but if you know that Rehn is a PR consultant with focus on social media and thus belongs to a guild that is generally not inclined to be humble, then that is a bit unusual. And that's exactly what it was about: About whether and how self-expression on the Internet can be reconciled with humble behavior.
The reservations about this Internet are still great in Germany - I notice this again and again in lectures, seminars, customer talks or even comments on the blog. But in addition to diffuse data protection fears and simple ignorance, many have another problem with the Internet: Many are simply suspicious of it as a pure self-promotion medium. Or in short: you lack modesty.
The question arose: Can you be humble on the Internet? On the contrary, isn't it even possible to learn humility from the Internet because it teaches you to admit to your mistakes?
Really sustainable or greenwashing?
I admit, at first I was skeptical: I have seen too often how such issues are used to give people with rather questionable professional activities a clean slate - “greenwashing” on their own, so to speak. And so I noticed in the discussion that followed that there were differences between real humility and humility for marketing purposes.
What followed was a very exciting and astonishingly philosophical discussion, which showed how much such questions stir the mind: Can one be humble on the Internet at all or isn't that a contradiction in terms? And can Companieswho usually use the internet for marketing purposes, be humble at all, or is it not necessary to be barking in order to attract attention?
What counts is the clicks, not the content
The result of our discussion: social media and modesty do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, as Daniel Rehn summarized: Of course you can (and must) present yourself, but the attitude with which you do it is decisive: what ultimately counts is not how many clicks someone gets, but the content. Sachar Kriwoj, Head of Digital Public Affairs at E-Plus, faced the fact that we had got used to only perceiving headlines and clicksebook responsible. Facebook be the end of humility.
If anything, it is not the internet that is to blame for the lack of modesty, but what we make of it. Because, so our conclusion on that day: It is not important on the Internet to be the most beautiful, smartest and greatest, but to share knowledge - and recognize that others know something better than we do. I would even take one more step go on and say the internet is forcing us to be humble. Somebody tweeted once that a trip in the Berlin S-Bahn-Ring teaches humility. I say: Start blogging.
Because thanks to social media we can share our knowledge or our views with the world. This also means that we put our statements up for discussion. An ideal place to learn - provided we have the necessary ability to reflect. The Internet, for many the medium of narcissistic self-promotion par excellence, should teach us humility, even force us to do so?
What to do if the readers insult you
Yes, because in no other medium before have our mistakes been rubbed in front of our noses so mercilessly and immediately. Just think of the fall of Herr zu Gutenberg. I also have my own personal experiences: In 2009, my readers began to comment on my blog, partly angry and partly polemical, against the generally propagated thesis of the shortage of skilled workers. And they accused me of having no idea about the subject, which initially came as a shock to me.
Because I took the comments seriously and didn't immediately block or ignore them, a dialogue that lasted for years ensued, in which they repeatedly drew my attention to media reports or the latest research results, e.g. from the DIW - material to sift through I would not have been able to do this due to lack of time. A few hundred comments later, the initiative Wir sind VDI was founded, which has now also aroused the interest of institutions such as DGB and is referenced in Wikipedia.
The internet forces us to turn away from perfectionism
The example also shows, however, that the Internet confronts us with fundamental structural changes: Suddenly there is always someone who knows more about a topic and who is constantly questioning our competence. We are simply not used to constant criticism, in our perfectionist society there is no tolerance for mistakes. The need to learn from this is often just theory for many.
Often the first impulse is a panic-like shock or angry defense. And this is exactly where the Internet forces us to do better: Because anyone who reacts defiantly or self-gloriously to this public criticism can quickly damage their good reputation. And anyone who tries to cover up mistakes is very likely to be exposed. Both are shown not least in the case of the former Prime Minister Christian Wulff.
Dealing with criticism properly
So we practically have no choice but to rethink - away from perfectionism towards accepting our own mistakes and inadequacies. And that's a good thing, because that's how the internet makes us learn as a personality. But relearning is not easy, because, hand on heart, who likes to be criticized? An important aspect when dealing with criticism is to think objectively instead of freaking out on the spot, which unfortunately happens often enough on the Internet. As soon as we feel struck by a statement, we should pause for a moment, think objectively and slowly answer a few questions:
- What exactly am I thinking and feeling right now?
- What importance do I attach to these words or actions?
- How do I know I'm guessing right?
- What exactly was said?
- Who said that?
- Is he competent in this area?
- Is his opinion important to me?
- Which wording was used?
- What is this really a criticism of me or a claim?
- Or am I just interpreting this statement as a demand or criticism?
- Why exactly do I feel hit?
- Is the criticism justified?
- And what can I do realistically and appropriately better for the situation?
Those who, instead of blocking all criticism, reflect on the criticism of their actions, will learn to deal with them better. He will recognize which criticism is justified and which was expressed with an intention. And ultimately he will be able to react to criticism more confidently and deliberately. And in all of this, the changed communication habits play a decisive role.
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German edition: ISBN 9783965964662
English version: ISBN 9783965964679 (Translation notice)
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