February 5, 2014

It has recently come up on a social media group I belong to, that some people are feeling disrespected, attacked, and had their expertise questioned by others in our field.  This is disturbing to me for many reasons.

I myself have been questioned on this forum, and not even for anything questionable.  Last year, well – 2012, I was entering into my first experience having full-time interns. Not only had it been a pretty strenuous process to get through the red tape and bureaucracy of the hospital and the affiliated university, contracts, trainings, etc., but I also had to figure out the logistics: scheduling, planning assignments, communicating with staff in every facility I work at; and then actually implement all of it. To save myself some time and frustration, I reached out to the wonderful people in my field to ask if anyone had any favorite research studies or interesting literature on music therapy in a few different populations, so I could assign recommended material to my interns. A couple of responses were concrete and helpful, but there were several individuals who questioned why I was asking for help, told me to look at the source list at the bottom of the fact sheets for those populations on the AMTA website (which was decidedly not helpful), asked me if I was a student, and had generally abrasive and rude tones in their responses to an innocent question. I clarified my role and my needs following these comments and was still questioned.

Since then, I have let that experience go and continue to post and comment on these forums, but I have witnessed numbers of other credentialed professionals and students be attacked or dismissed for asking similarly simple, but also more complicated questions.

Why is it that adults – let alone, therapists – find it so difficult to form questions, statements, responses and answers in a diplomatic way to one another?  This is worrisome to me simply because I wonder if those therapists are using similar judgment in their clinical work.  I hope they aren’t. I also wonder if those people know how destructive their statements can be to their own practice and professional relationships. We see each other at conferences, give encouragement and recommendations to students for internships all around the country, and work together on research and textbooks. We advocate for the same respect and acknowledgement from our communities, our states, and the federal government, and we have the same goals. How can some people not see how their professional (and interpersonal) relationships are affected by negative attitudes and careless commentary?

I am not a grudge-holder.  I don’t rememberer or care who the people were who commented negatively on my own question last year. There are several individuals though, who have shown time and time again that they are not capable of friendly or productive discourse, but instead make very blunt “hit-and-run” type comments that aren’t only unproductive, but sometimes offensive. I hate to admit it, but I (a non-grudge-holder) will most likely not attend courses or sessions those people facilitate at conferences, and I will not approach those people for opinions or advice, as I might others. Imagine what people who do hold grudges will do or not do based on how they have been treated by others!

On a slightly more positive note, there are so many people I have come in contact with via Facebook, or other social networking sites, who I feel are the epitome of diplomacy, thoughtfulness and intention (you know who you are).  Those are the people I may actually reach out to privately for collaboration on something someday. Those are the people others may reach out to as well.  A wise woman once taught me about the power of positive thinking. I think positive “doing” is equally as powerful though, and I strongly believe that if the people we come in contact with think we are doing something right, good and positive, that will be rewarded somehow. 

I feel that we have a responsibility to each other to be thoughtful and diplomatic in our communications with one another, no matter what fields we’re in, or something unpleasant is going to come and bite us somewhere uncomfortable someday. Our conversations in social media are reflections of ourselves, and if what we’re sharing with the world is not some version of productive, or at least respectful, our reflections look pretty bleak.