Written by Don Jessop
Thanks to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and all the other wonderful tools we have today we can share and collaborate and create an amazing world full of ideas and techniques. Thanks to human nature however, we're also capable of being defensive, aggressive, and downright negative. When you combine these two elements you get to see the worst parts of our human nature butting heads with the progress and beauty that lies inside each of us who are willing to stand in the spotlight and share our stories.
Recently I posted a horse training video on youtube. I often read the comments to ensure I'm helping my audience in the way I hope to. Predominantly I had great feedback from my audience. While this is naturally encouraging, I also couldn't help but read the negative comments too. One person's negativity was outstanding. He didn't just criticize my technique, he criticized my character. Naturally, this was the opposite of encouraging. It's ok, because I have a thick enough skin to handle negative feedback, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't care because I do care, deeply.
Being a bit of an addict for human psychology, I have found the research that hints at why we all criticize others and defend our own position. Things like traumatic childhood experiences, scarcity (thinking there isn't enough for us all to be successful), and so on, all these things cause us to behave in a negative fashion. But even with hard science backing the excuses for being negative, I find myself wanting it all to stop. I want to reach out to my audience and have my audience reach out to their audiences and say: DON'T BE NEGATIVE ANY MORE!
The horse industry is riddled with trainers and owners constantly belittling each other. We need to stop doing that!
Seriously... what does it get me to be negative? I've been negative before... I can tell you. It gets me nothing good. So I say stop criticizing others for daring to share. Maybe we don't like them or like their techniques. I certainly don't like everything I see. But instead of strictly blasting negativity, can we at least temper it with understanding. Something like... "I can see why you would think that. I disagree, but I get where you're coming from." That at least opens the door to communication. We don't all have to agree but it might serve us to communicate without such harsh, snappy, defensive reactions.
As a guide to helping the horse industry stop begin so negative I've compiled four simple things to consider before speaking or posting, a negative comment. Think of these like filters that interrupt your thoughts before they reach your tongue or your fingers.
First, before you speak, ask yourself, "Is it true?" Is what you are going to say a truth….or is it a rumor, or gossip, or an untruth you would be spreading that doesn’t merit being said?
Secondly, ask yourself, "Am I that innocent?" Could what you're about to say... be said of you? Could someone at some time in your life, see you in the same light that you see the person or thing you're about to comment on?
Third, ask yourself, "Is it kind?" Who will be hurt if you speak your thought out loud? Is it a kindness to speak it, or is it hurtful? If it's knowingly hurtful and you still want to say it, then consider who else it hurts. It might hurt you to be negative toward others.
Last, ask yourself, "Is it necessary?" Do you really need to say it? What would happen if you didn’t? Would what you are planning to say create positive feelings and responses for you and other parties, or would it create unintended negative consequences for you and others?
Here is a personal example of using the filters. I'll share my thoughts (keeping persons beside me anonymous) before they become and as they become my own words.
Enter thought: There is a nameless trainer I know who's done nameless things.
"If I post a comment and say he/she is abusive, I gain credit with an audience who already doesn't like him/her. And I see that credit as useful for my survival in the horse industry. Plus, I don't like him/her anyway and making a jab at him/her will help me blow off some pent up steam."
Enter filter one: Is it true?
"I feel like it's true. He/she is abusive. But maybe not all the time. Maybe just sometimes."
Enter filter two: Am I that innocent?
"No. I feel like, if I'm honest, people could see what I do as abusive. Some people think simply riding a horse or fencing them in, is abusive, so I could, in others eyes, be seen in the same light. Plus, if I'm honest I know I've been frustrated with horses before and it doesn't look good.
Enter filter three: Is it kind?
"No, what I want to say is not kind. But he has it coming right????" Hmm... Maybe I should check my hate level here. I could reword it."
Enter filter four: Is it necessary?
"Maybe?" "If I do make a comment I could help people be aware of dangerous situations. But if I'm not careful I'll just be a pot calling the kettle black. Hmmmm? Maybe I should rethink what I'm about to say? I know for sure, if I do say it, I'll feel better but only for a few seconds and I'll still be fuming inside. I might even fume about it to my friends for days afterward too. That's a lot of negativity!"
"Ok... I could just let it go and say nothing, but I want to say something... hmmm, I know what I'll say."
Exit words from my mouth:
"I'm not perfect, anyone who looks closely will quickly find out that truth. I believe there is a better way to do this, but I honor anyone willing to try their best in this fabulous industry we love."
Using these filters I found a way to say something that I felt needed to be said without being negative!
In my own observation, we all feel threatened by others, it's nothing new. Even people who don't believe they feel threatened by others get defensive when I tell them they feel threatened by others. See what I mean. Everyone feels deep emotions. That's okay. It's okay to voice those emotions too. It's better if you can filter them first. You can still say what you need to say without the lingering effects of negativity in your bloodstream, just find a way to say it that's less negative. Science has shown us how emotions affect our chemistry. I think it's wise to listen to science on this one.
I understand you might feel like I'm talking about you when I say stop being negative. I'm not! I'm talking about an industry-wide problem and I'm part of that industry. Thank you for listening and please comment below. I always read my comments.
Also, I want to help the horse industry be better. You can help by sharing this article to all your friends and maybe even some people who aren't your friends. :)