Last week there was a video posted by a woman that went viral. It was a crying plea by her son, complaining about being bullied by other kids at his school. It was a pretty sad affair as he told his story about being called names and having the kids beating him up all the time. His mother had told school authorities about it but supposedly nothing had been done about it.

facts and truth
what are the facts
behind this picture?

The internet came together in outrage all across the country. There was immediate outreach to the boy and his family. Athletes were inviting him everywhere; some local Tennessee football players visited him. He was invited to a movie premiere and to visit ESPN Studios; even politicians around the country weighed in. Someone even started a GoFundMe account for them, raising a quick $68,000 or so.

It was the feel good story of the moment… and then it came crashing down. Because once the internet gets a good story, people “need” to know everything about everything.

What came out next was shocking. It seems that the mother was being accused of being a closet racist. Some pictures of her were found standing next to Confederate flags along with her children. Then there were others who proclaimed that the reason the child was being bullied was because he was saying a lot of racial epithets.

Suddenly there was a mixing of emotions. Did the mother teach her child these behaviors? Did he bring it onto himself by making negative proclamations against minorities and others? Did his perceived learned behavior mean that he deserved the bullying, or was there never an excuse for bullying?

And then… the mother went on TV to give a live interview. She said she wasn’t racist and that her friends knew that. She said the pictures with the Confederate flag were something she thought was funny at the time she had them taken, and if she could take it back she would. She removed the video and shut down her Facebook page. Her daughter, who tried to protect her mother’s point of view on Twitter, put out a tweet that ended up being controversial on its own and she ended up shutting down her Twitter account. The GoFundMe page was frozen, and everyone was confused as to what should come next.

Almost 11 years ago I wrote a post titled Getting The Facts Before Acting where I highlighted another situation where people lost their minds without checking out the entire story. I’d say it was amazing that we never seem to learn from past history except it’s not all that amazing.

Truth be told, it’s hard not to react to the first thing we hear sometimes. All we need is a little bit of what sounds true to react one way or another. In the days before social media it was gossip that drove these types of reactions; now it can be an innocuous quip that’s not attached to anything that can send us into a tizzy.

It’s bad enough for things to happen like this on social media; it’s worse for it to happen in the workplace. It’s the kind of thing leaders need to be aware of as it pertains to employees, peers, customers and those in positions higher than them.

When it comes to hearing truth for the first time, unless it’s something we’re intimately familiar with, we have to remember that the truth we know isn’t always the truth. Whereas I’ve always been good at not reacting when I’ve heard something about another person, even I have reacted to other news quickly based on what someone’s told me without first investigating it on my own.

None of us will be perfect when it comes to this type of thing. We can be better at it though. Here are a few quick tips:

1. Ask people where their information is coming from. If you’re getting it straight from the person who’s involved you have a better chance of it being truthful… at least based on their perception. After that it’s up to you to believe it or not based on your previous encounters and evaluation of that person.

2. If it’s second hand information, ask some probing questions and then investigate. We never know how much an original story has been changed once it’s been diluted based on how the 2nd person has interpreted what they were told by someone else.

3. If it’s not time critical, don’t react immediately. Sometimes a bit of thinking time helps to clarify in your mind what you’ve taken in. You might even come to the conclusion that what you’ve been told couldn’t possibly be true. Still, you’ll need to investigate it.

4. If it’s time critical, don’t waste time asking questions. Investigate immediately but don’t overreact; no sense in making a mistake in case the initial information was presented incorrectly.

It’s important to know all that you can before reacting to anything when you’re in a leadership position. If it’s an emergency then all bets are off; luckily, the majority of issues won’t be emergent.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2017 Mitch  Mitchell
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