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'Open Your Mind, Quaid'

YMMV. For those of you not well-versed in Internet acronyms, it stands for "your mileage may vary," a phrase that originally related to car ownership but now applies fairly universally.


In recent months, I've seen a lot of people's experiences dismissed (especially online). Oh, your car's infotainment system isn't working? Must be because you don't know how to use it – mine's working fine! What, you can't watch [insert streaming provider] on your TV? Must be because you don't know how to log in – mine's working fine! Oh man, your calls keep dropping on your cell phone? Must be because you're accidentally pressing some random thing – mine's working fine!.... I'm sure I could keep providing examples for days.


Now that we've officially reached the holiday season, a sense of kindness and understanding is descending on the general population as we celebrate family, community and being kind and generous to one another. (Unless you're fighting for a parking spot.) In fact, at this time of year, people are seasonally scorned for being mean, with references to the Grinch abounding.


From a psychological point of view, it's interesting that people feel compelled to extend grace and understanding during a particular time of the calendar year. There's generally more kindness and forgiveness between mid-November and the end of December than any other part of the year. The customer is never more right than during the holidays.


As we approach a new decade, I offer the modest proposal that we continue to practice understanding beyond this season, especially online. As a professional communicator, one of my basic career tenets has been to message to audiences in the way they want to receive information. It's not about how I want to say things, it's about how other people want to hear them. I have to take myself out of my preconceived notions and preferences and deliver in a way that's more palatable to my customer(s). It requires some understanding and empathy, especially if the message or the delivery mechanism isn't comfortable for me or doesn't resonate with me.


In short, even if you aren't experiencing an issue that someone else is, don't take the easy path and dismiss their problems simply because you're not seeing the same thing. A dismissive comment is not only hurtful, it's counterproductive to someone's situation, and you could even make faulty assumptions. They might be expressing frustration or looking for a solution, and blaming or passing judgment on them for their issues doesn't help. Instead, perhaps offer an answer or a path to resolution, or just express sympathy with a simple remark if you feel compelled to comment on the situation.


Keep in mind that your mileage may vary. You may not be having the same problem, but take yourself out of your personal perspective and recognize what approach would resonate better with the other person. And at some point in the future, you might experience an issue that not everyone else is seeing; when you're in that moment, what kind of comments would you prefer to get?

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