You Can’t Take Stupid Back

Social media offers us all some great opportunities to grow our practice. We can share ideas, forge new connections, learn something new. Real people having real conversations.

There’s just one thing: You can’t take stupid back.

A few examples from those who should know better:

  • A writer posted a 4-sentence discussion item. With 3 typos and 2 grammatical errors. Would you hire him?

  • A sales rep wrote a headline using slang for male anatomy (the word can have a second, less incendiary meaning). When those offended by his word choice challenged him, he insisted he meant the other meaning. Did digging his heels in win him any points?

  • A “professional” shared his extreme political views and attracted 2 others in an extended mutual rant. When appalled onlookers joined in to cool the fire, they were set upon with ethnic slurs. Would you connect with them?

Yep, you just can’t take stupid back.





  • The Activist Investor

    Hi Rochelle – love the concept, and the phrase.

    I just read this to my daughter (12th grade), who asks: does this work only in social networking? Can someone in fact take stupid back in letters, presentations, or phone calls?

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Hi Mike,
    Brilliant! I daresay she has a bright future in consulting….

  • Corey

    I have a friend who tried to be precise with his typing on a blackberry; he is not using any social media and of course is a retired teacher. I just started using an iPhone and even with regular posting the opportunity for typos in real time exists. When you work alone, no one can catch your typos (hopefully none here.)
    The lesson is write as you speak (and hopefully you speak with deliberation) and if you do not, think before you write and speak and take the time to review — and if you lack the time to review, pass on sending until you do.
    -Corey Bearak

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Great suggestions Corey….it's definitely harder when solo isn't it?

  • oryxandcrake

    Being stupid in letters, presentations or phone calls is bad but not as bad as the Internet. Only one person hears you on the phone or reads your letter; 10 or 20 may attend your presentation. And people, usually, have a tendency to forget. On the other hand, anything you said on the Internet can be potentially seen by millions of people and usually stays online forever.

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Too true. One episode of "stupid" can have a huge impact on your brand. Think John Mackey at Whole Foods…

  • PeterJ

    Stupid is a subjective term. Fear of being stupid is just as damaging. It leads to bland me-too postings which don't stick in anybody's mind.

    On the internet, as anywhere else, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Keep that in mind in all postings.
    If you haven't something to say which moves the debate forward, don't bother.
    Telling people you also use X doesn't really help anyone.
    Try to think of something useful and original and put it across in an engaging way.

    Think I've just broken my own "rules".

  • Rebecca Wear Robinson

    Well said and a very salient point in an environment when almost all of us have an opportunity to be heard. It's the whole idea of self-control on a rant. The siren call of the internet is that everyone can hear your views, and it can be very intoxicating – hard to walk away from your 10 minutes of 'fame' and differentiate between 'public' and 'private' and what is spirited debate vs. bullying. Best to think of a pebble thrown in a pond – those ripples can go a long way, at either cost or benefit to your professional reputation.

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Hi Peter,
    "Fear of being stupid" is as bad as (worse than?) stupid itself. I like it. We have to take some risks to further the conversation and sometimes, "stupid" is the result. That seems like a good trade off as long as civility rules (intentional rudeness has always been a deal-breaker for me).

  • Alan Bergstrom

    I couldn't agree more with the post and all of the subsequent comments. But, to the 20-somethings, one brand is suggesting that "stupid" is good. Has anyone seen the Diesel ad campaign? I just got back from getting a haircut and was browsing the latest GQ magazine…two page full ad…"Go stupid". Interesting. Anyone have any thoughts on this one?

  • Rochelle Moulton

    I'm wondering if it's more than just 20-somethings but U.S. generally. Did you notice how many Superbowl ads showed people–mostly husbands–as "stupid"? It's hard to believe that anyone would buy products after their buyers have been labeled as stupid. Does stupid sell?

  • Anonymous

    I saw the title and immediately thought of the many ways to reply. The bare truth is "you CAN'T take stupid back" no matter how you interpret the statement. Frankly Rochelle, I wish I had said it first.
    It reminds me of the many times I grabbed for the words I spoke attempting to hold them from reaching the recipient"s ears. Oh how that can be so embarrasing when the words are said but the interpretation is different.

  • Steve Nordhauser

    How many Idiot and Dummies books have sold? Apparently, buyers don't mind the label. I personally would prefer a book for "the overall intelligent but ignorant in one area" person.

    By the way, I always read over any public post once it is done before posting. Occasional crud gets through but I hope I surpass stupid (surpass in the correct direction that is).

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it's just me but I think your first example has a grammatical error (beginning a sentence with a preposition). Having said that, it does illustrate the point.

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Too funny–"Anonymous" gets the prize for finding my error. A dash point would have made it correct, although not as interesting copy.

    Steve, great point about the "Dummies" series–I just never could bring myself to buy one, even when I WAS a dummy who could use the book. Go figure…..

  • Mark J

    Good points, especially about grammar, ranting, and clear slurs, as well as questionable behavior. However, I think it is also valuable to show yourself as a real human with interests, friends and activities outside the work arena. What an awful place this would be if we couldn't crow about our kids, gripe about the weather, or talk about our favorite band….

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Agreed. Aren't our favorite virtual connections those who seem real vs cardboard cutouts? On that point here is a new bluesy rock band to watch: Sons of Sylvia. Just saw their American Idol taping (no air date yet) and they were awesome. Not even on iTunes yet. You heard it here first 🙂

  • I really loved this post. You write about this topic very well. I really like your blog and I will definetly bookmark it! Keep up the super posts!

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