Archives for September 2014

Sensitivity Training

When a British retailer featured a greeting card with, “don’t get mad, take lithium” (an obvious reference to the medication for bipolar disorder,) customers didn’t just get mad — they got even, with posts such as “I will no longer be shopping with you” on the company’s Facebook page.

The stage was set when another offended customer (@poeticfeminist) tweeted, “do you realise that this card is very offensive to people with bipolar disorder?” Rather than immediately neutralizing the situation with a sincere, social media apology, JOY (@joythestore) tweeted the response: “Then if you know anyone with bipolar disorder, don’t buy it (the card) for them. PROBLEM SOLVED.”


Twitter /

Twitter /


From her/his response, it was obvious that JOY’s Twitter representative lacked proper media training. It would have given this individual the skill set to empathize with the customer’s frustration from the start, as opposed to fueling the conflict with a defensive statement. After JOY’s initial response, @poeticfeminist then inquired about individuals with bipolar disorder who may come across this card in the store. JOY @joythestore again showed insensitivity and a blatant disregard for loyal customer concerns, mocking those who suffer mental illness with another sarcastic tweet: “They’ll like it one minute and hate it the next!”

Even in the smallest of social media crises, the principles remain the same. The steps below are crucial in practicing effective communication skills:

1. Acknowledge compassion (JOY appreciates the the World Health Organization’s findings that, “Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.”)

2. Give bottom-line soundbite (“We at JOY like to start conversations and create dialogue, we try to be irreverent, but sometimes we get it wrong. Please accept  our apologies.”) – which @thejoystore finally did, some 20 hours later!

3. Offer appropriate history (perhaps the card was written by a bipolar disorder sufferer who finds humor the best way to deal with his/her illness)

4. Repeat soundbite (“Although we at JOY like to start conversations with irreverent dialogue, we sometimes get it wrong. Please accept  our apologies.”)

5. Suggest the next steps (i.e. “The card will be removed from JOY stores, and a contribution will be made to the National Charity for Bipolar Disorder in the UK.”)

Though the company describes itself as “quietly eccentric,” JOY’s tweets came off as inappropriate and insulting. As a result, JOY has now lost some of its most faithful customers. What began as a simple concern soon escalated into an offensive assail and loss of profit—a situation that could have been altogether avoided with proper communication skills. In today’s online world, the potential to offend a consumer is just a post, click or keystroke away.

Before you tweet, remember that sensitivity is key!

Serving Up Good Sportsmanship

The 2014 U.S. Open finished September 8 with Croacia’s Marin Cilic beating Japan’s Kei Nishikori. While the win was a huge feat for both Mr. Cilic and his home country, the big story is that neither #1 ranked Novak Djokovic nor #2 ranked Roger Federer were part of this year’s tennis final. Becoming a top world-ranked athlete is no easy accomplishment, and one that often grows athletes egos as much as their popularity. However, when Mr. Federer was interviewed after losing to #14 ranked Mr. Cilic, he showed impressive sportsmanship in the face of defeat.

    “It’s fairly simple, I think. Marin played great and I maybe didn’t catch my best day. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.”


Mr. Federer could have made excuses as to why he didn’t win, but instead gave a soundbite that didn’t require media training. He kept it positive and to the point. This loss came after an earlier upset where #10-seeded Mr. Nishikori beat Mr. Djokovic. When questioned about the underdogs taking the finals, Mr. Federer looked to the future.

“It’s exciting for the game to have different faces from time to time. It’s definitely refreshing to some extent. It’s big for Croatia; it’s big for Japan.” He continued, “Everybody who gets to this stage of this kind of a competition deserves to be there because they have put in the work and they hoped for the break, and this is it for both of them.”

 Mr. Federer was not given a break from the hard-hitting questions. A passionate anti-doping advocate, he was asked about the doping suspension that barred Mr. Cilic from last year’s U.S. Open. He addressed the difficult question by stating,

“I don’t quite remember what the circumstances were, but I feel more bad for him than anything else. When I see him, it doesn’t cross my mind in any way.”

While he may have felt defeated, Mr. Federer didn’t show it and kept his cool when dealing with tricky questions. He kept the interview positive and bridged from his loss to the future of tennis. It’s not always as easy as it looks, but that’s why tennis begins with Love all!