Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
June 16, 2010 2:37 PM

You Have To Have Thin Skin

You know the saying, "you have to have thick skin," don't you? Is that true? Must we all have thick skin?

When Blogging first became popular, it was not uncommon for many of the leading Blogs and Bloggers to be completely anonymous. That was part of the charm of the open space. People could say (and do) whatever they wanted to, and it was just as acceptable to hide behind the keyboard as it was to plaster your mug at the top of every Blog post. When brands first began to break ground in Social Media by engaging with Bloggers (both those that were anonymous and those that were public), it was common to educate clients that what they will see and read may shock them. The content within Social Media at the time was real, raw and unedited. It was important to let clients know that they would have to have a thick skin when engaging in Social Media.

Not much has changed, and yet everything has changed.

While the anonymity of the Internet is now relegated to a small Blogging minority, people have suddenly become much more bold. They're standing up (more and more) for what they believe in, and they are even willing to publish and defend their position in the public domain. This is an amazing truth serum for businesses, brands and marketers who are (to quote Steve Jobs) trying to "make a dent in the world." For others, a lot of this content and conversation is painful, hard and very wounding.

Maybe we need to think about having thin skin instead of thick skin?

I'm guilty of this too. In my first business book, Six Pixels of Separation, I tell readers (nay, I warn them!) that if they do engage in any of these many new media channels and platforms that they must have thick skin, but the truth is that I don't have thick skin at all. I have very, very thin skin. I want people to think my ideas are great and if they do not, it bothers me. I harp on their every word and I play evil games in my mind about snarky ways to defend my own honor (and then I do nothing by taking a personal and moral higher ground stance). When people are overly nice to me and complimentary, my skin is thin too. I don't know how to accept it graciously. I think thoughts like, "oh, they're just saying that to be nice," or "if they only really knew me, they wouldn't think in this kind of way." I'm great at self-deprecation because - without question - it is one of my primary self-defense mechanisms. When I discuss my stance on Blogging and blog comments (more on that here: The Power Of Engagement And Blog Comments), what I'm not telling you is that by trying to defend or reiterate my stance, I actually begin to think that maybe my initial thought was wrong, or that someone else is always smarter than me. Because I have thin skin, all of that sucks a lot of life, energy and passion out of Blogging, writing, thinking and creating new marketing paradigms.

Even Blogging this stuff doesn't feel comfortable because I don't have thick skin (you may be laughing at me right now).

I don't like hurting other people's feelings. I don't like making other people feel that they are not an equal. I don't believe anyone should be unethical or up to shenanigans. Ultimately, I don't believe that in order to speak our minds, we have to make others feels like they are less than us or wrong. I don't have a thick skin. When people say, "it's nothing personal, it's just business," I think to myself, "it's very personal. I spent most of my waking hours at business. If that's not personal, what's the point?"

What do you think the Social Media and Marketing world could be like if more of us started embracing our thin skin?

By Mitch Joel