Make Every Day a “Give Everyone the Benefit of the Doubt Day” on LinkedIn

There is a famous quote by Ian Maclaren;

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.

What is funny about LinkedIn Life is that we forget about that sometimes. We often expect the people on LinkedIn to be what we want them to be through the good times and through the rough patches. We have stories of the people, who make up our LinkedIn family, in our minds and we long to hear more of them. So, when things suddenly change, we, the captive readers, do not know what to do when activity ceases, messages are unanswered, absenteeism is apparent, and regular engagement is minimized.

Most of us hold expectations on an all-time high on LinkedIn, especially during times of uncertainty and fear; times when our lives offline are being challenged and not anything like the normal we know. Many of us, have tried to find that “normal’ on LinkedIn-a logical place for diverse professionals to offer their services, network with professionals, keep in touch, tell their stories, and most of all, find like-minded people who are so readily available to listen, support, and be there when we need them the most.

But what happens when a member of that LinkedIn support system does not show up as expected?

It is so easy to judge someone negatively instead of realizing that most people on LinkedIn, and social media in general, will not share their stories if they are perfect – without gaps, blotches, or blemishes. It is easier for many people to retreat, rather than show up, as they usually do.

This week, I saw myself entering the LinkedIn judgement zone after devoting time and energy into writing an article that was all about showcasing others. I spent a lot of time on this article but suddenly, forgot my WHY, when the feedback and engagement did not come back as quickly as I had hoped for.

For a moment I let those negative feelings swell up inside of me until I turned things around and asked myself five very important questions:

  1. Do I really know what people have on their plates right now?
  2. Are my feelings based on fact or what I am imagining about other’s lives?
  3. What is my “WHY”?
  4. Am I showing empathy, and staying grounded in social reciprocity, as opposed to being caught up in expectation?
  5. Am I staying aware that others may be struggling, not always visibly, like I can sometimes, and extending a kind and free space for people to be who they need to be and do what they need to do (even if I want something different)?

This experience really drove the quote, Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always” home. I am left wondering how easy it is to get off track, how easy it is to make it personal, and how easy it is to think we can imagine other’s lives.

There are humans behind those LinkedIn stories. So, as we navigate our own journeys, let us keep in mind that others are navigating their own journeys, and everyone is on an unknown adventure. So, every day we have a chance to start the day by simply deciding to “Give everyone the benefit of the doubt today” ~Lori Deschene because “no matter how someone looks or acts, you truly never know what’s happening in their lives.”

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Shelly Elsliger
Shelly Elsligerhttp://linkedexpress.ca
Shelly Elsliger is an engaging LinkedIn Trainer and President of Linked-Express. She coaches executives, diverse leaders, aspiring women leaders, business students and job seekers, as well as corporate teams; inspiring them to maximize their professional branding potential and their social influence on LinkedIn. Shelly is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), recognized as a Woman you Need to Know by the National Women Speakers Association, a Forbes Writer, a Women of Inspiration Winner 2019, and on the list of globally recognized LinkedIn Training Experts. She is also the LinkedIn Trainer for Rotman Commerce at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario and the Founder of the #DecidetobeKind Campaign to stand up against bullying on LinkedIn Shelly’s diverse experience as a professional LinkedIn Trainer and Coach allows her to bring a unique breadth of knowledge, as well as an aspect of fun and passion, to all her workshops and speaking engagements especially "LinkedIn in High-Heels: Rise Up and Lead Online"; her signature workshop aimed at helping women business leaders successfully rise up, own their space and find their voice online. Her motto:"Instead of waiting to be noticed first, be a Leader in your space-Lean-In, Listen-In, and Link-In!"


  1. Beyond the consideration that you can never really know how many problems are living other people, or perhaps precisely for tht reason, we should all rediscover and cultivate what Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and Roman emperor, called “the joy of humanity”: kindness. Yes, because if it is true that his many opposites, from rudeness to insolence, from arrogance to various forms and shades of violence, poisoning the life, it is certain that kindness rounds it up, improves it, and makes it sweeter for everyone. Thus avoiding a great waste of human relationships, of community, social.
    We need kindness like an antibiotic, to cure evil at risk of spreading a grudge that is spreading in our daily lives. Between neighbors, as between people who share a road with different means of locomotion; between citizens who can and must have different opinions but not for that they are forced to insult each other and hate each other; between those who made it and those who trudge. Between men and women, who in the current world have lost not only etiquette, but the ethos of kindness. That light but very powerful force that makes the difference in our relationships, including the most intimate ones, in family, among friends, with the people we say we love.
    Goethe said the strongest and truest thing about kindness many years ago, with a phrase that we should all carve in our heads: It is a chain that holds men together. Kindness seems only a gesture from etiquette, from good education, from people of the world: but this is an understatement. Kindness is an essential ingredient to keep people together, at any level, not to waste the patrimony of human relationships that we possess, to live better with ourselves and with others.

  2. Hello Shelley,
    This resonates so much. We do find so much variance and these are teuly great questions to ask of self.
    The idea of expectations… is often one of disappointment. There are days we think we’ve conjured up a masterpiece and the engagement isn’t reaching who’s you thought it would…
    Then there is always the algorithm as well…. if your post is thrown away…maybe share it again later.
    We do not know what others are going through and during these times.. a lot is happening at once for some of us. Until we sort it out.. we can’t always share right away. The need for time off is necessary as well. Sometimes I just can’t keep up and there is a lot that can take you down. I tell myself that what ever anyone else is thinking is not my business…that i do what I can…and there really is no need to have expectations but rather keep anticipating the best.
    Sometimes I don’t see it all…and then there is another post in another platform… is it m’y job to then jump to all the platforms? No… it’s the value o responding to the ones that reach out meaningfully that usually take a priority. You are always kind and optimistic…
    You write meaningfully and magnificently…and I thank you for this. You know I love you already my dear! Great to see you here too… as I saw in the bottom suggested reads… not anywhere else😀😀😀🙏. Oh and happy Canada Day🇨🇦🇨🇦🙏😀😀❤️❤️

  3. Oh, Shelly, thank you so much for this breathing room, for the kindness, and your own confession of wondering what had happened to folks-of at first, taking this personally when you didn’t get the engagement you expected. While I love being on LI, I have found that I limit my engagement to the BizCat articles in which I’m tagged. Part of this is so I can take actions in other areas of my life and for Cherish Your World. And just this week I learned that both my adult children-my daughter in Ohio and my son in CA have co-workers who have tested positive for Covid19. We are waiting for the test results for my children. This news has me a bit anxious, slightly off-kilter. Thank you, for the reminder to give grace to people–especially right now during these unprecedented times. I appreciate you and know that you do so many good things here on LI and for so many of us. Thank you for being you. Thank you for bringing much value and kindness to our lives.

  4. Thanks for this much-needed reflection, Shelly.

    Over 2000 years ago, the Jewish sage Joshua ben Perachya taught: “Make for yourself a mentor, acquire a friend, and just every person favorably.”

    Learning requires humility. Relationships require investment. A healthy, cohesive society requires presuming positive intent. Even the most “obvious” transgression or indiscretion may have a perfectly reasonable explanation that would never occur to us until we’ve made the effort to look beneath the surface in search of truth.

    Give people a chance, no matter how convinced your are that they are in the wrong. There’s a good chance that they will surprise you. At the very least, you’ll be giving them a chance to reconsider their own conduct.

    After all, wouldn’t you want someone to give you a chance?