Stephen R. Covey is best known for his internationally bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which was named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century. His latest book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, picks up where 7 Habits left off. In it he discusses numerous important concepts such as one’s circle of concern and one’s circle of influence and why being able to recognize the difference can turn frustration and failure to happiness and success, as well as the “five cancerous behaviors” of criticizing, complaining, comparing, competing and contending.
However, one particular section of the book called “Being Loyal to Those Not Present” has particular importance for online discourse and the prevalence with which people are skewered for sport:
Being loyal to those not present is…one of the highest tests of both character and depth of bonding that has taken place in a relationship. This is particularly the case when everyone seems to be joining in on bad-mouthing and piling on someone who is not present. You can, in an unself-righteous way, just speak up and say, “I see it differently,” or “My experience is different,” or “You may have a point, let’s talk to him or her about it.” By doing so, you instantly communicate that integrity is loyalty…. On the other hand, [if] you go along, and join in the bad-mouthing, so, too, will everyone present know that under pressure and stress, you would do the same regarding them.
Let’s make sure that when we find ourselves in a situation where someone we care about is being attacked online – and it will happen – we have the courage to respond appropriately.