Monday, June 20, 2011

People Skills & Communication

The Carnegie Institute of Technology revealed that 85% of our success is based on our ability to deal with other people. How we interact with others is so important. And while we slip now and then, we need to stay positive and remember that all actions carry with them a reaction, especially online. (Think Karma.)

Sometimes we see people do things that are so negative and hurtful. Things that could've been avoided with a little communication. Several incidents this year have caused me to cringe at the lack of people skills.

An unpublished writer posted a very negative book review. That person stated the book was awful, but since it was sent for a review, HAD to finish it. The reviewer went beyond the book, though, and half of the review was an attack on the author as a person. I felt so bad reading it, I wanted to send the author an email saying how sorry I was for the personal slurs - and I didn’t even write it!

Life is too short to read a really bad book and most book bloggers will contact an author before posting a negative review. I doubt this person did that. But the personal attack was uncalled for and unprofessional. It told others this person might do the same to them. It really made the reviewer look bad, not the author. And what happens if this writer one day has a book?

Another person became upset when a review copy wasn’t sent. This blogger had volunteered to feature the author, along with a hundred others. I don’t believe a review copy was even requested. Eventually this person told the author the friendship was over, and all because of one review copy. I read about this when the author posted a general, very humble, and sincere apology to all online friends. (And judging from the comments, no one blamed the author.)

Life is more meaningful when we can do things for others. Online we help one another, like the hundreds of people who supported Talli Roland last December. This person volunteered to help. If a review copy was needed, a request should’ve been sent. (And sometimes the author doesn’t have review copies, so a request goes to the publisher.) But to blame the author and denounce friendship over a book seems trivial and uncaring.

Both of these situations could’ve been avoided with a little communication. The first person could’ve contacted the author before posting the review (and left out the personal attack of course) and the second person could’ve contacted the author or publisher and requested a review copy. So simple.

Fortunately, communication can begin to resolve these issues with the words “I’m sorry.” Again, so simple.

Have you seen a demonstration of poor judgment lately? A lack of people skills? A failure to communicate? A situation you wish you could change? Remember those simple words.


  1. I've gone through the agony of my son severing all ties with me including me not seeing his children. If I knew the reason why I could maybe justify to him but after some abusive text messages and him tearing the birthday card I sent my grand daughter I have heard nothing, that was three months ago. Why are family so cruel?

    I found your post very interesting.
    also enjoyable to read.

  2. I'm not sure I know about these situations specifically but I do know that I have seen this behavior online and it's sad.

    As a writer I have a busy life, but I like to read as well. I get a lot of requests to read books and review them but sometimes I don't have the time. I may not always get back to each author and say I won't read their book. So, I hope no one is offended out there.

    I will never attack a writer even if I think a book is horribly written. There is always something good to say about a book.

    I think this is a wonderful post.

  3. Brave and true post - thank you. I have seen incidences of what seem like mindless cruelty both online and in day to day life. As well I have seen great examples of generosity and kindness. Sometimes people like the one who wanted a review copy, are waiting in ambush. They wish to be victims of some injustice and will make it so even if the simplest of views would show them that there is no need of it. It wasn't the review copy she wanted - it was to hurt someone - perhaps because they'd had a success. Yikes.
    My play-writing partners and I had a terrible review for a play we'd had staged at an important local theatre. The reviewer (a professional I might add) was so cruel that people thought he must have had a personal vendetta with one of us. Nope. He hated the artistic director of the theatre - easy hit - she took a chance on us and he skewered the production. We're still alive and unlike him - we're still kind.

  4. Yeah, sometimes I think people don't realise the damage they're doing - not only to fellow writers online but to THEMSELVES. It can't be good for THEIR future to be so unprofessional in reviews and (in some cases) reactions to reviews, etc.

  5. Life is too short to be that petty. Especially online. Criticising a product is one thing, but the creator? *Sigh*

  6. I'd never post a horrible review of a book, let alone attack the author.

  7. I've seen some of those "reviews" and wondered how you could be that way to another who has worked so hard. Maybe it's jealousy but whatever it s definitely bad manners.

  8. I received one review where I was personally attacked and it was a horrendous experience. THis is such an important post, Diane, because communication is so key to us living lives in a good way. Thanks for doing this.

  9. Yvonne, that's frustrating, especially when you've tried to make amends. Just keep praying for him.

    Clarissa, there is always something good to say about anything if one looks hard enough.

    Jan, you're right, some people are just waiting for an excuse to attack. Shame about that reviewer - that was very unprofessional.

    Trisha, what comes around goes around.

    Giggles, maybe it is jealousy.

    Karen, I've experienced a review like that. We wonder what on earth did we do to that person?

  10. I've seen this type of thing and it always puzzles me. Which is why I try to avoid negativity in my posts and avoid those blogs that flounder in it. I got a few of those horrible reviews on my novel. At first they devastated me, then I started laughing, and now I'm proud of them because it shows my work inspired a passionate response-- better than apathy any day!

  11. I like that statistic about 85% of our success based in dealing w/ others.

    Wow, some sad examples of petty behavior but it happens. Ultimately, we should think, it's just the internet. Walk away from it. Go for a nature walk. Go shopping. Be w/ the people who really matter: family & friends.

  12. It's so important to be careful about the things we say on and offline. I feel very fortunate to have some wonderful supportive friends.

  13. Honestly, Diane, I've been thinking of my own bad communication skills lately. It's depressing.


  14. AnonymousJune 20, 2011

    Great post! I've had to put books down because they were so bad and contact the author personally and tell them I couldn't finish it and therefore will not do the review. But I do so professionally and gently. I would never post a review that attacks the author.

    And I rememebr the said incident regarding the review copy not being sent. SUch a petty matter to end a relationship.

    Communication is vital to being successful. I give people quite a bit of slack because there is so much gray area regarding what is acceptable to some and unacceptable to others. Hopefully as time progresses a mutual understanding is realized and relationships established.

  15. I always wonder about the reviewer when I read a bad review. Take the incident with 'Big Al,' at Amazon who tore an author to shreds, gained a lot of followers and the author's unfortunate response. There are lions out there aiming for the throat. Writers are artist and many of us are sensitive people. I read a book that shouted no critique, beta read or editor. I contacted the author, didn't do the review and directed them toward getting help. The writing reminded me of my own when I first started over 16 years ago. Fortunately this person took my advice and now he will produce quality work. Isn't that what we all want to do?

    Sending out love and encouragement to all who have been so attacked.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

  16. Karen, that's true.

    Notes, that is a good idea.

    Stephen, sad isn't it?
    It's more challenging online because we've removed tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions.

    Nancy, that was nice of you to help that person rather than hurt him.

  17. Such a great post. It always amazes me when I see examples of people not playing nice in the virtual sandbox.

  18. I read a blog where the unpublished author said some very harsh things about agents who don't respond to queries if they don't want to see more of the book. I agreed with the blogger but I wouldn't have spoken so unkindly.

  19. I spend a lot of time online and a lot of time on blogs...and I'm relieved that I *don't* see these problems very often. But boy, when I do see them, I really wince. It's usually about once a month where I find something that makes me wonder what the blogger or commenter was thinking!

  20. These are great points. I've noticed this lately in real life, where people fly off the handle and say things they really shouldn't. The other person may forgive them and move on, but damage is still done to the relationship. People skills are so important!

  21. Yes Susan, because what if those agents were reading it? What would any agent think when reading that?

    Elizabeth, this seems to happen more on Twitter than anywhere else.

    Susan, they are important!

  22. What a wonderful subject. I've long recommended speaking as the #1 way to promote and networking as the #1 way to build a career--including writing!
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Blogging writers' resources at Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites pick

  23. AnonymousJune 21, 2011

    I think that with the explosion of electronic communication, people forget how to communicate, to be human.

  24. I suspect all of us have done or said something we wish we could take back. I hope I have learned from my mistakes. I try not to hurt others. And this is especially important when you're dealing with the entire world like the Internet seems to be. That reviewer may one day regret what s/he did, but it's now out there.

  25. Yiiiikkkes.

    People are funny sometimes and react in ways we can't predict. It's a lesson I've learned. As an author, we put our work out there and have faith that even if people don't like it, they will review it in a way that's still ethical to both the author and themselves. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.

    On the other hand, as you mentioned, people can be uber-supportive. And it does make all the effort and time worthwhile!

  26. Liz, I think you're right.

    People forget that once it's online, it's there forever.

    Talli, yes, most are supportive. It's only a few who don't play fair.

  27. AnonymousJune 21, 2011

    What a great post!

    The Golden Rule

    There's a reason it's outlasted every other referendum created.

  28. yep, it's usually more important who says something not what is said. The word of overly negative people both in book and film blogging has no value to me and no respect of course.

  29. AnonymousJune 21, 2011

    I live by the old (Bambi) standard: "If you don't have something nice to say, then don't say anything at all." And if negative commentary is imperative, I'd much rather give it directly to the one who is receiving it, rather than expressing it for the whole world to see! Some people don't communicate enough, while others can't live without saying what's on their mind. Maybe it makes them sleep better at night, or they thrive on confrontation and stirring up bad feelings (or just have no idea how hurtful they're being). Too often I see resentment caused by rash words and decisions. Good post Diane, enjoying the comments!

  30. Bryce, you got it! Do onto others. Would these individuals want others doing the same to them?

    Dezmond, at least the really negative ones are easy to spot!

    Jessica, thanks! These situations and others I've seen over the years just really bugged me. There was a third incident that really blew my mind involving a writer wanting to do something illegal that would hurt others. Since I was involved in that discussion, I decided to omit it - as Bambi said, better to say nothing at all!

  31. Urg, some people never grow up, and sometimes I think the internet magnifies that. I'm guessing that "friendship" lost wasn't one really worth keeping.

  32. The kind of behavior you describe does reflect more on the one doing the behavior than the one being attacked. I don't know why someone would do that. They need to stop and step back. If they won't change their behavior in order to not hurt the person they're attacking, they need to look ahead and see the damage they're doing to themselves.

  33. Enjoyed reading this. Communication is so important and online the words are extremely important since the body language isn't there. In person, the body language is even more important. I know I find it most difficult to communicate in a loving way when I'm tired or not feeling well. Maybe that is a factor sometimes for others and I tend to give some grace although attacking someone elses character is definitely not acceptable in my opinion.

  34. A personal attack on a author would very, very rarely be appropriate other than an extreme circumstance where the author's life and agenda had crossed a line--I can't think of an example off hand but I'm sure it exists. Even when my reviews are negative, I try to find something good in what I'm reviewing and at least recognize the effort that was put into the creation of the product. I'm not interested in hurting anyone.

    Tossing It Out

  35. I review a lot of books and edit reviews by others, and a personal attack on the author is never acceptable. A book review should stick to the subject, which is the book itself.

    Negative reviews are okay if they are not harsh and if they only critique the book. However, if the book is really bad, especially if it's self-published, I just won't review it. Not long ago I received a 600-page novel about zombies, and it was poorly written, poorly edited, and disgusting. Rather than say that, though, I just apologized to the person and said I wasn't qualified to write a review.

  36. Ya know what they say about karma.

    We must be generous in spirit and attitude and all else.

    Attacks will come, most likely. But I think they say more about the person spewing the negative than the person it's directed at.

  37. Nicki, I think you're right.

    Helen, you said it best. It only hurts that person later down the road.

    Sharon, it's not.

    Lee, good attitude.

    Bob, that is an excellent approach.

    M Pax, it does.

  38. There was an instance not long ago that went viral, where a book reviewer with a fairly mild and not completely unflattering review of an author's book sent the author into a complete tizzy of rage, denial and expletives in his comments section for the world to see.

    Let's just say if she'd simply been gracious and said, "thank you for taking the time to review my book," she would have continued to get some readers from the review, which really wasn't bad.

    But because she chose to address the review like a spoiled schoolgirl who didn't get her way, it turned off so many readers I'm thinking she may have to use a pen name for any future book. It was a trainwreck.

    Writing may require passion but business is also business. A little dignity and respect goes a long way.