Being a public figure can make it challenging to have a private life. The lines become blurred between the person and the policies and this can lead to negative criticism of the person.

Criticizing the policies and the positions is appropriate but we cross the line when we criticize the character of the person.

In the current world we live in, this is more apparent than ever. Anonymity in social media makes it easier for people to say things they wouldn’t say face to face. It is easy to forget that at the end of the day, these are people first, politicians second, and they are doing their best. It is easy to forget this, especially when they aren’t doing things our way. We can stand apart and have different ideas, philosophies, opinions but there is no need for negative campaigning – ever! We need to consciously choose how we are using the information that comes before us and take the source into consideration.

When an election comes around it’s important to vote for what you believe in, let your voice be heard and stick to your values. If you’re giving energy to negativity, then the negativity is what will persist. If you are talking with others about what isn’t working, let it be for the purpose of engaging in positive, meaningful dialogue about what can be done. We may not control who is in power but we have the power to control ourselves.

By focusing on the positive–whether in politics, the workplace, or life–and building people up, we can collectively to raise the bar and lift people up. In doing so, we create an energy that helps others shine and elevates them, and our community, to the next level.

I’m not being Polly Anna or wearing rose coloured glasses, politics and religion are often the two most contentious topics for discussion. I believe in debating points and can even enjoy a passionate heated conversation. But there’s a difference between debating a topic and engaging in a personal attack on someone for their thoughts, opinions, philosophies. Saying “that’s/you’re stupid” or “that’s ridiculous” or “how can you think that” are not constructive and, if you find yourself saying or typing something along those lines, you need a time out.

It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and be critical. It takes courage and leadership to be open to conversations and learn more, choose to agree or disagree and then go from there. Attacking people online is cowardly. I don’t believe anyone stepping into public life has done so to open themselves to personal attacks – would you?

So next time you engage in a conversation with a coworker, a friend, a public figure do so with this in mind. Be open to learning more, ask questions, be curious and even challenge opinions–respectfully. Keep an open mind, don’t make it personal and look for ways to lift the person and yourself up through constructive dialogue.

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