A very wise priest once told me “Emotions are never right or wrong … they just are”.

Ain’t that the truth? We have no control over how we feel about a situation. But we DO have control over how we behave in light of receiving bad news or discovering offensive information. Too many people forget to step back and reassess a situation and their own reaction before pushing forward and steamrolling over someone else’s feelings. There is no need to attack a person/people when in reality it is a situation that is really the root of the problem.

At the end of last week a decision was made by an RWA chapter that caused a firestorm of controversy. I was the unfortunate witness to the degradation of professionalism by writers who chose to make the discussion a personal crusade rather than a discussion about bringing about change. I’m not saying everyone mind you, but I was surprised at how many people lost their focus and allowed emotion to overrule their common sense and understanding of others’ feelings.

Am I saying that we should walk away from controversy? Hell no. I love a lively discussion (what others may consider an argument). I don’t shy from conflict … or stating my opinion. I honestly believe if more people spoke their mind there would be fewer people feeling like they are never understood. Nothing burns my butt more than people asking for ideas and I’m the only one to speak up and the group thinks they have to do something my way because no one else says anything. So no, this isn’t about sharing your opinion or ideas. This is about doing it constructively. When my emotions are tangled in a situation I know it’s important for me to step back and make sure what I am saying is adding something to the solution, not just fueling the controversy. Nothing ever is solved by people fanning an ember of discontent, it creates nothing but a conflagration of mean-spirited finger pointing.

And finger pointing never solved anything.

Fortunately, the RWA chapter in question has backpedalled and solved the problem for themselves. I’m just not sure how long we’ll feel the repercussions of the personal attacks by many who chose not to remain professional. This past weekend has certainly been a sad lesson in human behavior for me.

16 Responses to When Emotions Steamroll Professionalism

  • yeah, it’s sort of sad that they pulled the entire contest or whatever over it too.
    Some “contests” don’t take GLBT fiction. Big deal. I am not a member of my local RWA for a different reason though. As “Only” an e-pubbed writer, I felt slighted so I just choose to spend that money elsewhere. It has not kept me from getting published.

    • Liz – There are so many things that groups of people choose to do because no one is willing to stand up for change. But again … there is a right way and a wrong way to share opinions that aren’t destructive. Change never happens without someone first speaking up. But it has to be done constructively IMHO.

  • As a mod for RWA Technology Nina, I watched with great interest and I think that you handled it beautifully. I just hope that everyone involved has calmed down and cooled off.

    Marika Weber

    • Marika – This is such a hot-button issue that I’m sure it will take a long time for things to slow down. I’m just not sure at this point if there’s anything more to say on the subject.

  • Interesting blog Nina! You’re right, finger pointing doesn’t solve anything.

    • Marie – It never does, but people often times forget that a discussion really should revolve around solving a problem not just rehashing the issues. But human nature being what it is unfortunately finger pointing is a usual consequense of difficult topics.

  • Nina,

    Boy did this hit home with me. A year ago I would’ve been the person NOT taking a step back and reassesssing a situation. I’ve since learned the better way to handle a situation. I’ve seen similar instances in far too may situations when dealing with authors/readers/reviewers, etc. Because, let’s face it, we’re all human. But, oh how nice it would be if we all took a moment to breathe first. 🙂

    • Nicole – I’ve had my own experiences of NOT waiting until my emotions eased and it’s gotten mye into a lot of trouble. I’ve learned that it doesn’t really solve anything when I go in with my emotions leading the charge.

  • I left RWA several years ago because I felt their attitude toward e-books and e-book authors was more than regrettable. Everything I hear since from friends I have in the chapter confirm my decision as the right one.

    • Jean – I chose to stay in hopes of being a voice of change. I definitely see things happening. Of course with the changing face of publishing, there seems to be new issues cropping up that require more change. It’s all patience and steady steps forward with reasonable arguments for change making the difference.

  • Nina, I was there. I read all the comments. I think you handled everything brilliantly. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in your shoes. You’re right that emotions will make us say things without thinking. I chose to stay out of the fray this past weekend. Thanks for the way you diffused a lot of the tension.

    • Cara – Thank you. I’m not sure everyone would agree with your assessment of how things were handled, but only time will tell if chapters and authors can learn anything from the experience.

  • Like you, I choose to stay with RWA…if nothing more than to remind people that I’m not published by the BIG NY publishers, but published and am an author. Some chapters are more tolerant, some aren’t. I belong to a few chapters and sense the “red-haired stepchild” attitude toward small published/epublished authors. Change will come…RWA can’t hope back trends and what people want to read. Readers aren’t satisfied with books from the 1950s anymore…they want new voices and new genres/ideas.
    Professionalism has diminished in attitudes of authors towards authors, agents towards writers, etc. Tolerance and acceptance, while moving into newer trends and ideas, will only lead to more pleased readers.

  • Nina, thanks for trying to be a voice of reason. I think what would go a long way towards resolving this situation is the realization that it isn’t simply a “cause” or a platform. This is about people, real live human beings, fellow writers. The people denied access to a contest where they had been welcomed were hurt. The people attacked for denying them that access were hurt. The group who had to cancel their contest was hurt. There’s enough pain to go around here–too much, in fact. We’re in this together. When emotions run high, that is what people forget. Taking a deep breath and saying, “Hey, that’s another person and a writer, just like me,” would help.

    • Miriam – Wow, you said it so well. There were hurt feelings all the way around and some people forgot the others affected. No one intentionally went out to make others feel less worthy. And that’s the part it seems that some who want to fight a *cause* didn’t think about. There was no malice intended when someone innocently spoke their feelings and what resulted was a firestorm of controversy. Yes, I too think it would have helped if people had taken a moment to think about the people involved and the original intention.

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