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Words Matter

We're in the midst of a snarkiness epidemic and you can help.

“(We) are powerful beyond measure”, Marianne Williamson once beautifully said. But we forget. We forget to use our power as a force for good.

Not long ago I hit my limit. After reading one too many snarky posts, I just felt slimed. I don’t understand why it has become permissible in our society to blast out such cruel things about our fellow human beings. In fact, it’s not just permitted, it sparks a downright snarkiness-competition. Love the 5th amendment. Love that we all have the right to exercise our opinions in whatever way we see fit, but having the right and it being right are two different things. Where does responsibility come in?

Look, none of us are beyond reproach—I too have indulged in my fair share of snarkiness (in fact, it does not escape me that I’m a tad snarky about snarkiness). But if I’m really committed to working toward being my best self, I have to admit, I can do better. We forget, words have an impact.

I remember I had a theatre professor in college who was ruthless with his snarkiness. He’d leave emotionally decimated young actors in his wake at every turn and justify it by saying that he was preparing them for the “real world.” If you looked closely, at the bystanders of his destruction, you could see people shrink back in an effort to stay off his radar, to appease and keep themselves from harm’s way. Nobody wanted to be “the one” who felt the wrath. It clearly sucked.

That’s the environment we’re creating by breeding snarkiness (or fear…they create the same thing—one’s just got better PR)—an environment that encourages us to stay off the radar or else…

This isn’t just a Facebook-thing, or an arts-thing, it’s happening every day in the conference rooms and hallways of our organizations. The snarky comments that are made about colleagues or direct reports to show the world how clever we are. People are smart enough to know that if we’re talking about others to them, we’re likely talking about them to others. They know. But they won’t say anything. They’ll nod and play the game to stay off the radar and then just, ever-so-gradually, stop fully engaging. Stop trusting. Stop.

We can do better. What kind of culture do we want to create?

Our words have power. Whether we text them, say them, or tweet them. Let us all remember that we have a responsibility for what we’re putting out into the world. Let us use them as a force for good.

And with that, she triumphantly leaps off her soapbox with a rousing, “Say NO to snarkiness!”

(Orchestra swells. Fade to black. Cut to commercial.)

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