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:
- Do I really know what people have on their plates right now?
- Are my feelings based on fact or what I am imagining about other’s lives?
- What is my “WHY”?
- Am I showing empathy, and staying grounded in social reciprocity, as opposed to being caught up in expectation?
- 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.”