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Bullying, image, expectations and business.


Kind of a strange topic for my blog you may think. All will be revealed.

Bullying comes in many forms. Bullies are everywhere -work places, homes and families, business, online, face to face, in the media, schools- everywhere.  It’s easy to be quick to judge and to express opinions publicly and anonymously. What is the point of making a negative comment? Is it to encourage improvement, cause maximum hurt or feel virtuous? Is it to make someone change to be more pleasing to ourselves?

Yesterday I read a Facebook post written by a photographer, Sandra, about her experience with a client, Brooke. Brooke had put a photography session on lay-by. Her brief was for Sandra “to make her look pretty”. Sandra contacted Brooke’s mother as she had no idea, until Brooke walked in, that she was only 10 years old. Brooke had tried to commit suicide because she was being bullied about her size and she had seen online how a photographer could make her look pretty. She is pretty and she is kind. When Sandra said she would do the photo shoot for free Brooke asked to donate the money to an anti-bullying campaign.

How terribly sad that a young girl with a kind heart, an ability to work for something she wants and no doubt a host of other attributes our crazy world needs more of, can feel so bad that she wants to die because of comments made by other people.  I am sad that she feels the need for someone to “make” her “look” pretty because others don’t like what they see. I congratulate Sandra for beautiful photos that capture so much more than Brooke’s looks and for continuing to work with her and her family to reinforce what a wonderful girl she is. I just hope that Brooke will understand from people with a lot more life experience than her bullies have, that she has many valuable attributes.

Pleasing others

I have been pondering for some time the attitude that it’s ok to exert pressure on others to make them conform to please us. A few years ago someone advised me to please myself because I had no hope of pleasing everyone all of the time and every time I tried to make one person happy I’d probably be making someone else unhappy. Good advice that when acted on has made my life much easier. It has stopped my people pleasing cycle of trying hard to keep everyone happy all of the time, feeling unappreciated when I failed and then getting angry because no one seemed to care about what I thought, wanted or felt despite all my efforts to please them. I now understand that I will never make everyone happy all of the time and it isn’t my job to do so. Win! My focus in business is on delivering the service we promise to the best of our ability. Some will love it, some won’t and accepting that we do not have to be all things to all people has been a big step.


We are all different. What I find relaxing and serene someone else may find dull and boring; what I love to  eat may be someone else’s idea of hell on a plate; the combinations of everything that I like makes up my personality – mine is eclectic!

We are entitled to feel safe, to our opinions, to our own special mixture of loves and dislikes. It doesn’t make one person right or wrong and does not give the right to call names and use derogatory terms about others because they are different to us. Where is our tolerance and appreciation for difference and personal choice? Are we happy to be called names just because we look or choose differently to someone else?

We don’t demand the removal of all the foods we don’t like from a buffet or a menu. We just move on and make choices that please us and leave what doesn’t. Why is it so hard for some people to do that with life? Why do they feel the need to focus on, criticise and demand change of that which does not please them? Isn’t it more fun to say “I love this” instead of “I don’t like that” or worse “I don’t like that and you are stupid/bad/ugly/fat/crazy/nasty for liking it”

Adult Bullies

Much publicity is given to children bullying other children. When children become bullies we have ways of “dealing with them”. What about adult bullies? What example do we set?

Comments on Stuff, Facebook and review sites reveal a lot of bullying by adults. Constructive criticism is helpful. Good robust discussion is educational. Threatening, judgemental and derogatory personal comments are just hurtful bullying. People feel free to comment upon everything and anything that does not please them personally.  They seem to forget that there are real living breathing people on the other end of their vilification, criticism and sarcasm.

Bullying in Business

A business not meeting customers’ expectations – misguided or otherwise – is the quickest way to a bad review. However a culture has developed of “see what can be got for free by complaining”  and that is nothing short of bullying and dishonesty.

Sometimes, genuine oversights and mistakes are made. For now businesses, even big corporations, are still operated and staffed by humans! Bring a mistake or fault to the attention of the proper person and give them the chance to fix it. The true measure of the calibre of the business is the ability to remedy any genuine faults or to compensate in some way, not their reaction to the threat of a bad review.

Managing Expectations

Sometimes the expectation a business has built is not what they deliver. If you are in business don’t promise something you can’t deliver. If you make a mistake own up and deal with it.

Sometimes the expectations are not being met because they were never promised in the first place. If you are a customer make sure you know what’s on offer and whether that’s what you want. You can’t take chicken from the buffet and complain that it wasn’t fish. If all the pertinent details are clearly stated and a customer expects something completely different then it is not up to the business to change what they do and it isn’t acceptable to lambast them in social media.

A few years back we went on a Kiwi watching expedition at night, in the wild, in a remote part of New Zealand. A lady said “this is not what I expected. I don’t know what I expected but this is not it”.  She wasn’t happy but she didn’t know what it was that would have made her happy. When people don’t know what their own expectations are, then it is jolly hard to meet those expectations!

Moral of the story – as a customer – make sure you know what you are getting and if in doubt, ask. As a business operator be clear about what you do and do not do.

Keeping Customers Happy

Keeping the greatest number of people happiest the most often is not achieved by a “bums on seats”, a “maximising occupancy” or a “most sales” approach. I’d rather miss out on a sale than host someone who is not going to love what we do. Sometimes it’s obvious the fit isn’t going to be right and it is best to tactfully suggest another experience for them. i.e. move them on to another dish on life’s buffet. It’s ok and we will all be happy and it shows that we actually care about how they feel and what they want.

The challenge is to take any criticism on board without becoming paranoid and changing to try to please everyone (how would that ever work?) thus losing the authenticity and integrity of the experience, product or service.

And just occasionally the idea of something appeals and the reality of it is a disappointment. If it is because we didn’t get what was promised then it’s fair to say so. If it is because we thought we might like it but found out we didn’t then chalk that one up to experience and don’t slag off something that turned out to be not our cup of tea.

For many years I have wanted to sky dive. I’m terrified and excited all at the same time. I don’t know if I will love it or hate it. If I hate it most likely it won’t be the fault of the company it will plain and simple just be something I turned out not to enjoy. It won’t warrant a bad review or a bollocking online – unless they don’t pack the chute properly! In which case it probably won’t be me doing the review!

Diversity and Freedom of Choice

We don’t accept children bullying so why do we tolerate and even encourage it from adults, in any form? Do we really think that expressing judgements in hurtful attacking language is going to make the world a better place, improve a service or encourage someone to be the best they can be? Or that it is desirable to demand for people and businesses to change to suit us? After all what suits me may not suit you.

Our freedoms and choices are precious so let’s appreciate and encourage diversity. Much of the world does not have that privilege.