Customer Phone Support Etiquette

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” (The Golden Rule)

Okay, so I know I haven’t posted anything in a LONG time. I’m sorry, I’ve been putting it off and putting it off and then just kind of forgot about it. But I’m going to try and write a little more regularly…at least semi-regularly.

 

So, after being out of work for approximately 4 months, I have begun a new job as a Product Information Center (PIC) agent in a call center environment. It’s not a “dream job,” but it’s for a very reputable company where I can hopefully get my “foot in the door” and eventually find a job more in line with my major, but that’s all beside the point. My point is this: Be conscientious of customer phone support staff and what they have to deal with every day. Working in that environment has given me a new appreciation for people in similar scenarios where they have to answer phones all day, i.e. customer phone support and other comparable jobs.

Let’s start with the obvious type of caller most of us think about when when we think phone customer service: the angry customer. These are the type of calls most call center operators dread. It means they have to sit and listen to an irate customer who won’t let them get a word in edgewise while they rant about their broken/defective product. I honestly don’t know how it works in other call center situations, but in my case, as an operator, complaining to me might help me get a little background information on what kind of help they need, but it’s ultimately futile as I do not handle products directly and instead have to transfer the call to the proper division so the angry person on the other end has to again repeat their complaint in its entirety to the technician. So, what have they wrought? They’ve wasted their breath complaining to the wrong person, and they’ve more than likely annoyed or upset the operator who initially took their call.

So try and put yourself in both/either positions: Say you have a defective product, or something breaks, or you have a general complaint about whatever you’re calling about. You are certainly entitled to be upset/irritated. No one would blame you for being annoyed at this kind of inconvenience. It’s natural. BUT, try to keep in mind that it’s not the operator’s fault your stuff broke. Don’t shoot the messenger, as it were. It’s somebody’s fault you’re having to deal with this annoyance, but it isn’t theirs. Don’t be mean/rude to them just because you’re having a bad day. They’re trying their best to help you (at least most of them). Alternatively, try to envision things from the side of the phone operator. Would you really want to talk to someone who does nothing but complain? I didn’t think so. So why would you want to subject someone to something you wouldn’t want to experience yourself?

Let’s move on to more pleasant settings. There are, of course, the callers who greet you warmly when you answer the phone and actually want to make the call as easy as possible. These are the people most phone operators want to talk to. The conversation is smooth and business is usually completed without incident. Most calls begin with the caller/customer asking how you’re doing. It may be legitimate courtesy on their part or it may just be small talk. the point is that you should always treat the customer with as much respect as you can, whether they’re yelling at you or laughing with you. If people treat you with respect, you should always do the same. And if they don’t, be the better person and rise above.

Another thing I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that if you’re going to call a customer support phone line, do as much research as you can, especially if your call is regarding a product. Find and write down all relevant serial, part, and UPC (under bar codes) numbers. Chances are if you have all the information you need before you even begin dialing, the call will go smoother. As I said, I don’t deal with company products directly, but I do have access to a database where I can look up items usually by serial or part number so I can then find out where to transfer the customer’s call. Don’t go into a customer support call blind with no information to give the operator. It only confuses them and will probably serve to aggravate you because they can’t find what you’re looking for. Furthermore, don’t automatically assume the first person you talk to on a support call is directly knowledgeable about the issue or product you’re calling about. Just because they may work the phones, doesn’t mean they have intimate knowledge about the company products. You can certainly ask, but do it a polite and civil manner such as, “are you at all familiar with this product?” And don’t be completely surprised if they’re not. Often customer support is the “middleman” who sends your call to where it needs to go.

One more thing to consider is that more often than not you’re going to be put on hold. This is just a natural fact in these kinds of situations. Now, I am fully aware and can certainly sympathize with having to be put on hold for long periods of time. No one likes it. And it’s fully possible that SOME phone operators will put customers on hold hoping they get frustrated and go away. Obviously, this is not professional or respectful. But do consider that often, when you’re put on hold, it’s because the phone operator needs to do some research of their own to learn as much about your issue or product as they can so that they can assist you to the best of their ability. Sometimes, they might need to ask a colleague or a supervisor because they don’t know the answer. Bare with them as long as you’re able. If it gets to the point where you’ve just been on hold too long or you have to go, then by all means, hang up. But consider that such an act MIGHT cause the phone operator to believe they’ve failed in some way. It is sometimes unavoidable and both parties need to deal with that as best they can. Just remember, being put on hold for a minute or two is natural. Be patient, more often than not, they’ll be right back and with more information to help you.

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned during my two weeks at my new job, but already I’ve discovered a new found respect for phone/customer support operators and what they/we/I have to go through every day. Sometimes, drama and unpleasantness are unavoidable. It’s going to happen sometimes, and sometimes, even though you have every piece of information you believe is pertinent to your situation, the operator may still be unable to assist you. In my job, sometimes people call in about products that are obsolete or have been discontinued and are no longer made or sold. There is literally nothing they can do about it. Above all, just try to remember, the customer support operators are humans too, they don’t just sit there believing you are annoying and hoping you will go away. Some legitimately want to you and insure you receive the best service possible. Give ’em a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised how well it goes and how much more well informed you’ll be after you hang up.

Advertisements

Gun Safety & Responsibility

There are so many things I want to say about the shooting that took place in Seattle on Thursday — first and foremost, the student security monitor, currently identified as Jon Meis, who subdued the gunman IS a hero in every sense. He risked his own life to prevent the further harm that would have inevitably come to his fellow students and staff. I hope the school shows him some kind of appreciation for his actions. So many other people would have simply run for cover or find any way they could to escape. The fact that this student ran TOWARD danger to keep others out of it, speaks volumes about his bravery.

Second, the fact that Meis was able to use pepper-spray on the gunman while he reloaded tells me that maybe we don’t need more armed security guards in schools. While it’s true, Meis was probably fortunate enough to get as close as he did to use it, and that the gunman must not have been wearing any protective eye gear were definitely strokes of luck. The point is, that Meis, with the help of several other students held the gunman down while the police arrived. Students, not police, disarmed and subdued a gunman without the use of a firearm themselves. It IS possible to stop a rampaging gunman without killing him. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association said after the Sandy Hook school shooting, that, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This has been proven to be untrue.

Thirdly, I don’t know why people wake up one morning and decide to go on a shooting spree. I can only guess that they feel victimized in an uncaring world, and that they just want to end it all. However, even if they decide to end their own lives, it would only further the feeling of isolation and loneliness they probably feel; or they’re too scared to take their lives. But…if they go to a public place, like a school or a theater full of people — people who they feel are responsible for their depression/frustration in their lives, there’s a good chance that depending on their “success,” they could be immortalized forever. Even if they go down in the annals of history as a gun-toting psychopath…at least now, people will have noticed them, perhaps even admire them for their acts of brutality, and consider it themselves. There are reports all over the web of people who admire Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold for what they did at Columbine High School in April 1999.

Finally, the university he went to was extremely Christian-based. Apparently, the school will take disciplinary action against students who engage in extramarital sex, homosexual activity, or possess alcohol. While I may not agree with some of their policies, that doesn’t mean any of them have the right to be killed for their lifestyle/belief structures/philosophical practices. I don’t know what the motive was behind this shooting, or why this school was targeted, but IF it was because of the school’s practicing faith, it’s just another reason we need to be more open minded about peoples’ beliefs, even when they differ from our own.

I don’t know what the answer is to reducing the un-necessary slaughter of innocent people, because someone decides to take their anger out on a building full of people by gunning them down. But I’m confident that the US is not doing everything it can to keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them. I also think that parents need to take the initiative. If they even suspect their child of mental instability, they need to seek professional help as soon as possible. And for parents who already own guns, that is your constitutional right, but please, keep your guns un-loaded, and your ammunition locked up in a safe place that you are confident will not be accessed by your child. And lastly, if you are planning on purchasing a firearm, first ask yourself two questions:

– What is the reason I want to own a gun? Do I feel my life is being threatened? Or do I just want to have one just because I like the feeling of power and protection it gives me?

– Do I have the discipline to learn how to use it responsibly and safely? Will I remember to keep it locked up when not using it? Will I insure my ammunition is kept out of the hands of children/people who shouldn’t be using it?

If your answer to either of these questions is “no” or questionable, perhaps you should reconsider your decision to purchase a firearm. I am of the opinion that a gun is not completely and utterly necessary to protect yourself. Please be responsible when it comes to gun safety. While it is true that guns can be used to protect the people you care about, when placed in the wrong hands, guns are nothing but tools of violence and destruction. Be responsible and be safe.

Civil Discourse

“Whatever happened to class?” – Catherine Zeta Jones (Chicago)

I recently witnessed a group of people being very rude to one another, over something that probably didn’t warrant such aggression or hostility. The incident itself was relatively brief, and only some not-so-nice words were exchanged, but I believe it to be systemic of a much larger problem: People nowadays don’t seem to know how to engage in civil discourse anymore.

Civil discourse is when two or more people have a disagreement, but are able to resolve it without resorting to shouting, insulting, rudeness or hostility in general. The problem I’m seeing is that, when a disagreement occurs, many will jump straight to being angry. They will skip any sort of “formality” involving manners or civility and instantly become annoyed. The way I have always understood it, is that if you want a positive reaction from people or a positive outcome from a situation, you must approach them/it positively. This is not to say that forcefulness and willfulness are not needed, because they are, but they must be tempered with objectivity. If you approach someone who is bothering you and immediately call them an idiot, you are unlikely to get anywhere at all. Instead, if you start with, “excuse me…” or “would you mind terribly…” that shows that you at least are willing to look at a potential disagreement from a reasonable point of view.

Now, it is entirely possible that the civility and sincerity you attempt to show others may not be reciprocated. If that is the case, if you feel being more forceful or asserting your opinions more harshly would be of benefit, then go ahead and try. However, if the disagreement erupts into an argument, then the questions you have to ask yourself are, “is this worth it?” and “what is at stake?” Some people simply are rude — this is a fact, and there is very little chance of that changing. So it is simply not worth it to expend the energy to try. You might as well bash your head against a brick wall for all the good it will do you. What you have you understand is, backing down or abandoning an argument is NOT a sign of weakness. Knowing when to accept defeat can be a sign of strength. If the only thing you’re risking in a disagreement is potentially bruising your ego, then let it be bruised – it will heal.

Another thing to consider is the other person’s position. Are they in the wrong? Are you perhaps being overly sensitive? What is the other person doing that is bothering you? Can you look past it or live with it? Everyone has their own little eccentricities that will bother someone, and some people try very hard to be bothered. What you have to consider is how flexible can you can be. If you can look past whatever the issue is and live with it, or better yet, accept it, it will help teach you tolerance and dealing with your problems rather than stressing over them.

My basic point is this — life is too short to be angry all the time or irritated with everyone. Before you go off half-cocked on an issue, consider how important it is to you, how important it may be to others, and most importantly, try and keep a cool head. If you have a problem with something or someone, try to deal with it in a calm and reasonable manner. Everyone has disagreements; it’s natural and encouraged. But if you can utilize civil discourse when you have a disagreement, I guarantee you — everyone involved will be better off for it.

Optimism, Pessimism, and Realism

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”  – William Arthur Ward

I’d like to talk a little today about what I perceive the differences (and similarities) to be between the optimist, the pessimist, and the realist. We’ve all come across each kind of person — the unerringly hopeful optimist, the down-in-the-dumps pessimist, and the “middle-ground” realist. I, myself, believe I fall into the realist category and I will explain why later. Let’s talk about the others.

Let’s start with the optimist: The dictionary defines optimism as, “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.” While this is certainly a more preferred social attitude than the pessimist, optimists have been accused more than once of being naïve or ignorant of the way things are because they choose to see a different better picture than others. They believe that the world is a genuinely good place and that in the eternal conflict between “good” and “evil,” that good will win out in the end. This is a fine belief and it’s one that many people hold. It keeps their spirits high, their faith in humanity remains unshaken, and it’s likely they have a positive self-image. However, when one views the world through “rose-colored-glasses” they often don’t see the “cold, hard facts” that they need to see in order to interact well in society, either because they don’t see them, or they choose not to. Some optimists will believe anything they hear, read or see as long as it goes along with their positive viewpoints on life. Granted this is probably a bit of an extreme, but it is feasible that an optimist can be taken advantage of because they wish to believe in the good they choose to see in everyone. This can lead to trouble if the optimist finds themselves in the wrong situation where their unwavering positivity meets with inevitable negativity that does exist in the world.

Negativity is the domain of the pessimist. The dictionary defines pessimism as, “the tendency to see, anticipate, or emphasize only bad or undesirable outcomes, results, conditions, or problems.” Being the exact opposite of an optimist, the pessimist sees only the bad side of life and generally expects the worst of any scenario. However, this is not to say that pessimists are ALWAYS unhappy people (although it can be typical). It could be the case that due to unfortunate past experiences, they go through life always expecting the worst because that’s what they’re used to and have been exposed to all their life. It is not atypical that the pessimist, after being exposed to the better sides of life could become an optimist, or perhaps more likely – a realist.

I consider myself to be a realist, so if you will forgive the conceit, I will proceed with my explanation according to my own personal experiences: Realism is defined as “interest in or concern for the actual or real, as distinguished from the abstract, speculative, etc.” Basically meaning that realists tend to view the world from a more “practical” point of view. It is my perception that realists are often viewed as pessimists because their viewpoints tend to contradict those of the optimist. While the optimist generally believes in the positive and favorable aspects of life, the realist will sometimes disagree taking the stance that we live in an unpredictable world that can be as bad as it is good. While the optimist realizes that there are situations, people, and incidents that are by definition bad, they tend to focus on what positive elements can be taken from those incidents. The realist will usually acknowledge (and accept) those positive elements but they will also focus on why bad things happen, i.e. – there are bad people in the world/stuff happens/life isn’t perfect, etc. Where I don’t think the realist receives enough credit is when they encounter the pessimist. Realists can disagree with pessimists just as much as (if not more so than) the optimist. While the pessimist sees only the negative, the realist will try to explain that, yes, bad things happen, but this is not en evil world, there is good here, you just have to know where to look for it.

People can and will take advantage of others. It is in their nature to do so. However, I do not believe people are inherently evil/violent/bad. I think when emotion takes hold, things are said; urges are acted upon, sometimes with negative consequences. But in the long run I am of the belief that most people generally do not enjoy being harmed or bringing harm to others. Most of us are just trying to get by with what we have. And therein lies another difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” People who “have” I think, tend to be much more optimistic about life because they have things that others don’t so they don’t really have a reason to be miserable. The “have-nots” don’t have the things that others do and spend much of their time wishing they did. This can sometimes lead to having a pessimistic outlook on life, i.e. – why do they have everything and I have nothing? It’s not fair!

As a realist, I firmly believe that life is not fair, but I also do not believe it to be un-fair. I realize how much a contradiction that is, but life IS what you make it. If you put forth the effort and give a care to how you live, it’s likely you eventually succeed. It may not be right away, but with the willpower and initiative to make your life better, you will prevail. If you don’t care how your life ends up, it honestly will be hard for others to offer you much sympathy. It’s difficult for many people to care about your life if you don’t yourself.

Being Yourself

Sorry I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve been busy with a new job (yay!) as well as miscellaneous other things and really haven’t thought much about blogging, but I’m back now and will try to churn out more stuff on a somewhat regular basis.

I’ve been thinking a lot about judgments, opinions, and thoughts we have about others we don’t know, or even do know. We’re often told not to make judgments about people based on what little knowledge we have about them. However, I believe that such an act is human and essentially un-avoidable. There are a few of us who can genuinely look past the exterior and see nothing but a fellow human being, and that’s great. But for the most part, we do make some snap judgments about people based on first impressions. This might be important when applying for a job or going on a date, etc. But in the long run, the only person’s opinions that should have any impact on your life are your own.

However, and this is important – this is not to say that you should never give a thought to what ANYONE thinks of you. You should probably dress sensibly, have good basic hygiene, and give others the impression that you at least care about yourself. The catch is though, that there’s a fine line between caring for yourself and caring what others think of you. If you take the effort to insure that you are comfortable with yourself, that is enough. You can make other smaller steps as well, such as a new haircut or style, or wearing khakis instead of jeans. Giving off the impression of professionalism will give others the sense that you are confident and mature — two personality traits, which are indeed important in today’s world.

It’s when you start caring about what EVERYONE thinks of you that you have a problem. When you expend great thought and effort in pursuit of becoming what others WANT you to be, you eventually lose track of who you were in the first place. Everyone has a different opinion, and if you try to live up to every single opinion or expectation of everyone you encounter, you will never be successful. It’s even worse in this modern day of celebrities and fashion, coupled with pictures in magazines, which aren’t even real. No one can look as perfect as the people in those pictures because not even those people in the pictures are that perfect. Airbrushing, digital editing, and PhotoShopping are at their height, and there are many people who take great pains to make themselves as physically “perfect” as they can. Not only does it cost them a fortune, but it takes a serious physical and mental toll as well. When a person tries to make themself perfect and don’t succeed, they can lapse into depression, begin to depend on substances, and if it gets serious enough — kill themselves, all in pursuit of a fantasy.

Speaking from my own experiences, I have been incredibly fortunate to have never given much thought to what others think of me. The way I see it, there are far better and far more important things on which I can expend my energy. And was I bullied, and made fun of when I was younger because I refused to conform to the “standard”? Absolutely. But you have to realize bullies do what they do because they themselves are insecure, so they have to inflict that insecurity on others to make themselves feel powerful. When you give in to the pressure, it tells others that they have power over you, and many will not hesitate to exploit it. This is why it’s so crucially important to stay firm in the face of adversity and remain true to yourself, even when who are is objected to. And one of the best ways to avoid that is to find a group of friends who accept you for who you are, and will never question, pressure, or otherwise inflict doubt on you because they’re as happy with who you are as you should be.

My basic message is this: part of living your life is feeling socially accepted. While I have stressed that it’s better not to expend much thought on how others view you, you won’t have to if you can find even a few close friends to share your life with you. And true friends will always accept you for who you are, not for who you try to be. Spending all your time trying to be someone else is a futile practice. Not only are you lying to others, you’re lying to yourself. Even more important — is to avoid trying to become as flawless as the pictures of celebrities and other famous people we see every day online and in pop-culture magazines. Many of them are digitally edited to the point where they’re not even realistic anymore. So trying to achieve that “standard” is not only obscenely expensive, it’s potentially dangerous.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

What’s “Normal”?

I’ve been noticing more and more lately, particularly in those who have mental/developmental disabilities, the feeling of “victimhood,” i.e. – the belief that they are “victims,” being persecuted in an un-caring world. They have the mindset that because of their disability or diagnosis, that it makes them “freaks” or “pariahs” in a world that won’t accept them because they’re different. They wish more than anything else that they could just be “normal,” and blend in with the crowd. And while I can certainly understand where these feelings come from, I don’t support the idea of expecting others to change just for you just because you think they should.

I am on the Autistic spectrum. I’m not ashamed to admit it, nor am I ashamed of the condition itself. I was diagnosed 13 years ago, and since then, have ridden a roller-coaster ride of emotions and sentiments regarding the fact that I have Autism. However, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to be “just like everyone else.” I didn’t want to blend into the crowd and disappear. I didn’t have the desire to be “normal.” For what is normal? Is normal what everyone else is? Because no one is “everyone else.” We’re ALL different…no one is like someone else. We can do our best to emulate others or try and live up to our various role models by trying to follow their beliefs/lifestyle/habits/appearance. But in the end, no matter how much you try and become like someone else, you are still you, and that will never change.

Can you imagine how life would be if we were all exactly the same? No one would argue, no one would disagree, and no one would ever have a different point of view. We would be automatons, with no real purpose in life or qualities that make us unique. As much as some of us may hate to admit it, we are ALL unique. There are 7 billion people on this planet, and not a single one of them is normal.

The feeling of “segregation” that many people have comes from the mindset that because of their varying conditions, that everyone else doesn’t understand them, and as a result shuns them. But it is my view that in general people who think this way do very little to attempt to integrate themselves into society. They believe that the world should adjust to them while they sit back and watch it happen. However, such a thing will never come to pass. Forming any kind of relationship with any one is a give and take. If someone doesn’t understand you, then you need to make every effort to attempt to make them understand. The more they learn about you, the more you learn about them. No one is going to suddenly approach you and say, “hey, I don’t know anything about you…but we’re best friends now.” It doesn’t work like that. In order to truly become part of your environment, you must begin adapting to it, before it begins to adapt to you.

This is not to say that it’s easy. On the contrary it can be extremely difficult. Neurotypicals (people not diagnosed with any kind of disorder) have just as difficult a time forming relationships as anyone else. They may not encounter the same obstacles, but it’s still not easy for them. For more on tips for forming meaningful relationships, you can refer to my earlier post about relationships and communication. It is true that people often fear what they don’t understand, and this can indeed lead to problems. That’s why it’s important, especially for those who consider themselves to be “disabled”/“debilitated” because of their given condition, that they preserver and not allow the close-minded to hinder their efforts for acceptance. It goes without saying that not everyone is going to welcome you with open arms and beg to be your friend, but trust me when I say your friends ARE out there…even if you haven’t met them yet. You will eventually meet the people you’re going to spend the rest of your life knowing, but only if you seek them out and attempt to get to know them while they get to know you. That’s the very essence of what a relationship is.

One final thing I’ll say is that every one of us should strive to be the best we can be, but no more than that. Nobody’s perfect and trying to be perfect is a waste of time. And anyone who demands perfection holds unrealistic expectations. You’re going to make mistakes along the way, you’re going to trip, fall, stumble, and skin your knee a few times. But we can’t just lie down and cry when we do. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start again. We all make mistakes. But we must learn from those mistakes. If we learn nothing, we don’t grow, and if we don’t grow, we never amount to anything. So before you go accusing the world of not growing to meet your expectations, take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself, “are my expectations reasonable?”

We’re all unique and special in our own way. Wanting noting else but to be normal is a fallacy. We all have our ups and downs. We all have obstacles we deal with on a daily basis. No one’s life is completely perfect. And the more time we spend trying to chase after perfection — trying to become someone else other than who we are, the more we forget who we were before.

Sticks & Stones

Inspired to write this piece after reading a recent news story: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/us/felony-charges-for-2-girls-in-suicide-of-bullied-12-year-old-rebecca-sedwick.html?_r=0

First let me say that I have nothing but sympathy for the family of Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide after enduring years of bullying, ridicule, and cyber-attacks. Reading articles like this only furthers my belief that the Internet has allowed a very select few people in this world to think it’s all right to be crude, nasty, and mean to one another — and perhaps more disturbingly…think that they can do it without any repercussions. One of the first lessons we learn in science is that every action has a reaction. Human social interaction is a science unto itself, with many of the same principles of conventional chemistry. We even call the interactions between people “chemistry.” So when “unstable compounds” are introduced to a mixture, it doesn’t take a PhD professor to know it’s potentially asking for trouble.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Now, the original meaning behind this phrase was that physical attacks do hurt, but verbal assaults cause no physical/literal damage. However, as one who believes fervently in the power of words, I respectfully disagree with this statement. Words can and do hurt. And in this modern era, in the age of the online interaction, words have become the new weapons.

You can’t throw a stone at, or hit someone with a stick on a computer. But verbal jabs can cut just as deep. Especially when a person is insulted or bullied in places such as mass online games, or large message boards in front of literally THOUSANDS of people. When one person is singled out in this kind of environment, even the staunchest person can begin to feel a little self-conscious. Imagine being a 12-year-old living in an environment where you genuinely feel the world is out to get you, and no one likes you. No one is debating that adolescence is a difficult time for young people, but it’s made easier when we have friends and others who we know will support us through anything, and we do the same for them. Without friends…the world can seem a very dark place indeed.

Now, as odd as this may sound to say, reading this article has actually made me grateful. Grateful in that, throughout my 26 years of life, I have actually given very little credence to what others have thought of me. I’ve experienced bullying…particularly in middle school and early high school. I was tormented, insulted, and embarrassed publicly, and of course it made me feel terrible, but unlike so many others my age, it was momentary. I always rose above. And I realize that is SO much easier said than done. But I have never cared what other people think of me. It’s my life to live, and I will live it how I want. If you don’t like it, well…that’s your problem isn’t it? So hearing about people who have ended their lives because of bullying of course make me sad…but it also makes me appreciate my life that much more because I’ve been blessed to have discovered early on that the opinion that should matter most to you, is yours.

The final thing I will say is for parents. According to the above article, the parents of the girls who tormented Sedwick, took absolutely no responsibility for their daughters’ conduct. On the contrary, they said their computers were “hacked” and hurtful comments placed on their Facebook pages. A parent, who is unable or unwilling to fulfill the duties expected of them, is a person who is unworthy to be a parent. Indeed, our actions are our own and we must take responsibility for them, but it is the parent’s job to instill that sense of morality in us. If they don’t take any responsibility for their actions, how can they possibly expect their children to do so? This is not to say the parents must discipline young children and interrogate them as to their online activities. But they should involve themselves in their children’s lives and insure that proper steps are taken to insure they are not engaging in flaming, trolling, or cyber-bullying. And of they are, to teach them WHY it’s wrong.

In this new age of online communication, it is so much easier to reach people across great distances along the Super Information Highway. But, it also extremely easy to negatively impact the lives of complete strangers behind a computer screen under the protective shield of anonymity. It’s simple to ignore the suffering of someone you don’t know, and even simpler to add to it. So do them and yourselves a favor, be civil to each other — because, as the old saying goes: “If you can’t say anything nice…don’t say nothin’ at all.”