Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When the World Comes Crashing Down

I haven’t had a moment like this in quite some time, but I was thinking about a friend of mine’s situation and how much I relate. A good friend of mine recently got a divorce and I was honestly shocked. She is a smart and balanced individual who did not enter the notion of marriage lightly. Her ex-husband seemed as if he was totally devoted and dedicated to their marriage and they both seemed very happy. They had a beautiful wedding with no red flags that I could see (and I’m pretty good at seeing those types of things). So when I found out that they had not been able to work it out, I was and am still shell shocked. 

I’ve been in a similar-ish situation myself. Thought I haven’t been married (thank the Lord), I was engaged for a year-ish my senior year of undergrad through my first year of graduate school and thought that I was happy. I had my bachelors, I was working on my masters (after applying with some pushing from my professor) and I thought that my life was right on track. Then one day, while I was working at my first internship of graduate school, it hit me like lightning. I shouldn’t be getting married. My ex-fiancĂ© and I talked about marriage very little, if at all. I had no idea how we were going to be a functioning couple and family. I didn’t know how he wanted to raise children or manage finances. I didn’t know if he wanted me to stay home or have a job or even what I wanted in a life and family. And then I was sad, angry and guilty that I had placed myself and my ex into this situation. I didn’t know it was bad until I knew it wasn’t right and we ended it. I can genuinely say that I am glad that we both did not go through with it. From what I know, he has been much happier, as have I.

How do you deal with a situation like that? Even if there was not defining event, as there was not for me, everything that your life once was just is not how your life will be after such a large decision. Nothing can prepare you for that. You could go into a situation with the best of intentions and it just doesn’t work out. I can offer what I did and what I see my friend doing to get over these types of situations.

 I threw myself into school and work. I was left with a lot of financial difficulty following that relationship ending. I would not let it keep me from school, so I worked several jobs to support myself and pay the debts that I incurred. My friend is now furthering her education by going to law school, which she always wanted to do. My advice is to keep pushing for things that you want and things that you thought you could not accomplish before that event. 

While both of my examples are relationship based, I would say that this could apply to other events that impact your life so completely. Things like relocation, losing a job, losing a loved one, etc. It may seems like your entire world and life as you knew it has come crashing down around you, but doing nothing will ensure that it stays in shambles. I can honestly say that if I would not have pushed through it, I would not be in such a great place now! I also would have never had the opportunity to do the cool things I’m doing or meet all kinds of cool people. My world came crashing down for a reason, and even though I didn’t like it at the time, I am thankful to have learned from it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Party of 1

If you know me, you know I’m a pretty social individual (and that may be the understatement of the century). I like to be around people and do things in groups. I also will talk your ear off.  I’ve gone somewhere I didn’t want to go just to hang out with a group of friends and not gone somewhere I really wanted to because no one could go with me. I’ve recently reconsidered this as I feel like I’m missing out on my own fun. 

I was actually forced to reconsider this when a long-term relationship of mine ended. I don’t know about everyone, but for me going from hanging out with a specific person every day to not doing that is a huge change for me. Plus, your “go-to” person has switched over the period of a long term relationship. While I have the best BFF EVER, I have to coordinate much more to be able to hang out with her than my significant other. You just fall into a routine. 

Anyway, after that I had many evenings spend alone. Not to wallow (because I don’t do that) but just because my friends had their own routines and things to do that I was not a part of. I was actually surprised that I LIKED that time. I would make dinner, go shopping or go to dance class. I would go out to eat by myself or sit and read in a coffee shop. I was then able to always do what I want, when I wanted to without having to rely on other people’s schedules and time. 
Even though I’m in a relationship now, I often do things alone. I realized I prefer shopping alone and sometimes a dinner alone is a nice relaxer. For example, yesterday, I REALLY wanted to have my favorite Cajun place’s crawfish and bread pudding to celebrate Mardi Gras. No one could go with me, but I went anyway. It was nice to meet and talk to the people around me and the staff. I learned more about the people that wait on me than if I would have been with someone else. And I got some really good food. :)

I’d encourage everyone to have me time. Whether that involves vegging out on the couch, going out to dinner or shopping, doing things alone doesn’t mean that you have to feel lonely while doing them. And you may make more connections by hanging out by yourself, if you are into the social side of things. Once you feel comfortable doing stuff by yourself, you’ll never regret not going somewhere just because no one else could go with you. Party of 1 can actually be a party! :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Social Media Negativity

I posted this on my work website, but I thought us "digital age" individuals may think it is worth the read :)

It seems most industries have had to adjust some of their practices to compensate for the appearance of social media. Those practices can range from marketing techniques, HR policies to data collection methods for ROI. It seems every major retailer, fast food restaurant, and corporation has some sort of social media presence, whether it is a Facebook fan page, Twitter handle or LinkedIn group. This new “universe,” while seemingly interesting and positive is rather difficult to navigate. One misstep on or offline can lead to a huge issue because information sharing is much more quick. How do you deal with that?

I have an example of a small boutique-like store that my friend co-owns which has a relatively small social media presence. They have a Facebook page and often post pictures of their new merchandise, offer ordering through the page (offering phone numbers and a website) and have a blog where they put together some of their pieces into an outfit or look. They also have done a few contests that if you post a comment on their page or blog, you would be entered for a drawing for a piece of merchandise. These are all pretty good ways to grow their business and online presence for such a small store. 

Recently a customer came into the actual store wanting a refund for an item purchased after the 14 day policy clearly displayed in the front of the store (and honestly at most stores its 30 days). This person actually had the item for close to two months. The manager offered a store credit (against the policy) to help the customer, but could not offer a full cash refund (the item was purchased in 2011 and it was already 2012). The customer became irate and left the store. Following the incident, many VERY negative posts began to appear on the Facebook page from people outside of the state outlining bogus stories about how terrible this store was. In addition, this small group (about 5) of people also commented on every new post the store put out with negativity. 

What do you do? Do you delete the posts and block (a function on Facebook) those individuals? Do you report them to Facebook? What CAN you do? This is a situation which is different than what I’ve seen in the past. Typically something ACTUALLY goes wrong and it is spread rapidly online. This time, the customer got friends and family to victimize this page because they disagreed with a practice of the store, but didn’t state anything related to the incident on their posts; they just fabricated incidents.

There are a few ways an organization can deal with this. If the stories are clearly fabricated, deleting them and blocking the posters from your page can solve the problem. In addition, reporting them could be helpful, but it may not result in any action. Change your settings to not enable individuals to post on your wall, etc. This will work and this is what page in question did.

Another way to deal with this type of situation is that you can take a stand: Post a status update outlining the incident; fictional stories are being posted to your site. Apologize to your other customers, but leave up the majority of the posts. Respond to the posts asking for details of the stories (i.e. what person they talked to, the date of the incident, what merchandise was in question, etc.).  Being honest with your online following can go a long way. People understand that a small minority of individuals do those types of things, especially in the cover of “anonymity” and lack of consequences online. Those types of responses could result in positive responses from the customers you WANT to return. 

Social media can offer a variety of benefits, one of which is an organization can be more plugged in to their customers. It makes organizations appear as a group of people rather than a large, face-less entity. It gives a line of communication unlike any other between consumers and the organization as a whole. While that is very positive, it can become negative if the organization or its customers make it so. While an organization always wants to avoid negativity, it shows its true colors when reacting to negative claims. Turning a negative into a positive by being honest with all customers really sets organizations apart from each other and makes them more competitive in a customer’s or potential customer’s eyes.