It’s not easy to get up in front of a group of people and share your heart. It’s such a vulnerable feeling. You know you’re going to be judged. And you know not everyone is going to click with your ideas and your approach. Over the years, we’ve received emails from people who disagree with our strategies or feel the need to tell me all the things they disliked. I’ve had people wait after workshops, to point out what’s wrong with our approach and how it won’t work. While the vast majority of feedback is positive or constructive, it’s still hard to hear negative, non-constructive feedback about something that I believe so strongly about.
So why do I do it? It’s because I KNOW it works and I have tens of thousands of kids who prove it to me day after day. I do it because I believe, with all my heart that if we teach kids how to create healthy friendships and stand up to Mean-on-Purpose behavior, the world will be a better place full of kind-hearted adults! The data, the science, proves it works. I put myself in these uncomfortable situations where I have endless butterflies, I can’t sleep or eat or think about anything else. I transform into, what my family now not-so-affectionately calls me, Workshop Dana. I am anxious, distracted, and ‘in my head’ preparing for each and every presentation.
Recently, I had a new experience when I was reminded how adults can be Mean-on-Purpose online too – publicly, for all to see. And, while I’ve definitely seen worse, I was reminded how heartless people can be behind the walls of social media. …and how much it hurt.
I tried to hold the tears back reading a tweet from a teacher as I told myself all the things I tell kids. I tried all the strategies to ‘rise above’ the kick-in-the-gut feeling. Although I knew the feeling would pass and I’d look back at this situation with strength in the following days (which I did!), I wanted to crawl into a hole. It felt personal.
But, something happened.
My husband hugged me and shared my hurt. He read me a Brene Brown quote, knowing how much I resonate with her words. People I deeply respect rallied behind me. I got hugs and supportive tweets and texts and reassuring words. I was surrounded and comforted by love and compassion and kindness. The power of friendship lifted me up, in those moments when I couldn’t lift myself.
This experience has led me to rethink how we guide our students to respond to Mean-on-Purpose behavior online (which is part of our Friendship Fires workshop & our Friendology curriculum). There were things we suggest to kids that I tried, that weren’t as helpful as I had envisioned. This experience led me to reflect on changes I’ll be making to our strategy so that we can help kids face these hurtful situations with strength. We will also be creating new activities for our Parent & Educator Resource Centre focused specifically on how to respond to Mean-on-Purpose behavior online. As is often the case, this seemingly negative situation became a ‘teachable moment’ for me and I am grateful that students experiencing URSTRONG will benefit from the insights I’ve gained.
Thank you to all of you who have supported me along the way, either face-to-face or through social media. I know the world can be cruel sometimes, but when you have the support of friends, you can rise above anything.
Written by Dana Kerford
Friendship Expert and Founder of URSTRONG