Frogs for Breakfast with a Side of Defense

There’s a line from Basement Song by the Adam Ezra Group that’s echoing in my head:

The conflict that will arise

do I choose to concentrate

on all the things I love

or try to fix the things I hate?

I love that lyric for the simple reason that  it’s a shared experience we all recognize:  how should we organize our day, by diving into the things we want to do and avoiding the things that annoy/intimidate or by being bold and “swallowing the frog” as University of Michigan HRD classes advise?

Without resorting to amphibians for breakfast, I do think there is a way to turn what we hate into at least something that we like on some level.   This notion of the love/hate of responsibilities leads me to this very issue–maybe we should start to love the things we hate.

Yes, you read that right.  It’s the whole “what-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger” thing that is often quoted in Lifetime Movies.  That line is usually followed by a video montage of the heroine sucking it up, toughening up, and battling her way through whatever challenge she is facing.

So, here’s the thing I hate:  reading terrible things that (generally) anonymous people write online on blogs, in response to stories on MLive, or anywhere that anyone can see it about UM-Flint.  The conflict that arises, do I choose to concentrate, on the things I can control or fix the words of hate?

It’s hard to ignore some of these ridiculous postings.  Each morning, the frog I inevitably have to swallow first thing is a little toad called Google Alert.  I receive a Google Alert about all the news related to UM-Flint.  In this summary of mentions, it has everything from our largely positive news coverage to the most obscure postings from the world wide web.  I do believe there is value in knowing the negative about your organization, because it can lead to fixing and solving problems.  However, some of this stuff is just downright vitriolic and hurtful.

Sometimes, the words are so cruel and ridiculous, I want to respond with all the force of my talking points.  I not only want to swallow the frog, but spit it back out.  But then, I take a deep breath and….do nothing.

Pause now for everyone to collectively gasp and say, “Isn’t that her JOB to respond to negativity and deflect it?”

Technically, you’re right. But hear me out.

When there are blatant inaccuracies and falsehoods, yes, I do respond.  Correct information must be disseminated, and complete lies attacked.  However, as a staunch believer in the First Amendment, people have a right to say what they want to say.  Furthermore, it is a pointless exercise to get in an online verbal back-and-forth with every anonymous commenter.  How much stock do people put into a comment by someone who is afraid to put their name by it?  It seems that to comment on the words of cowards is to legitimize their voice.

Instead of concentrating on the hate, I find the best defense is to focus on the love.  We’re getting ready to have a new set of UM-Flint videos go viral on August 1.  The videos that feature our faculty, staff, and students also show up on Google Alert in prominent and obscure places.  Pitching news stories to various forms of media about the successes of the people of  UM-Flint have brought us invaluable word-of-mouth buzz in the form of true testimonials about the greatness of our great university.  In other words, we’re going to kill the negativity with kindness.  A good defense is a good offense.  The good will (and does) outweigh the bad.

Spread the love of UM-Flint like butter on a slice of toast with your frog for breakfast.  Tell us your good stories, and we’ll tell them to the world.  We will fix the things we hate by concentrating on the things we love.

Jen Hogan