“We may not wear a spiffy costume to work or have the ability to scale walls and fly through the air on a webbed string sprung from our wrists, but we have the power of words.”
It sure would be nice to have Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben pop up in our heads whenever we feel the need to lash out with words, be it in person, in writing or online. Uncle Ben’s chat with his nephew about being responsible with the power Parker has been given is one lesson every man should learn.
Though he was speaking about Peter’s human attributes, and not his Spiderman prowess, his, “With great power comes great responsibility,” speech should resonate to all men. It can be the difference between being perceived as a gentleman, or perceived as a jerk.
Being a super gent
We may not wear a spiffy costume to work or have the ability to scale walls and fly through the air on a webbed string sprung from our wrists, but we have the power of words. Outlets such as social media have emboldened us and given us the ability to converse with a large audience and weigh in on any topic imaginable, either as ourselves or as different persona to hide our identity, just as a superhero (and villain) does. How we interact with one another is much more impersonable than ever before.
We now have a wider audience at the tip of our fingers, and the Internet itself is an endless pit of clips, comments and quips of human behavior — the good, the bad and the ugly.
Ranting on YouTube about prices of cable installation, for instance, is a good way to get a bad reputation. Today’s society seems to glorify the shock and awe of rude behavior, and Internet users feed on it. Perhaps “Angry Grandpa,” who performed one such rant, would be better suited to go to GetDirectTV.org to get his cable installation, rather than shouting and screaming over the phone.
What separates a gentleman from a jerk?
American comic book editor Whitney Ellsworth held up a standard of ethics with his DC Marvel comics superheroes, specifically with the classic Superman television show, banning any sort of killing or excessive violence. He knew a superhero without good ethics is one that can be easily criticized.
It’s a good point that can be carried into our daily lives. If you act like a jerk, even a simple off-the-cuff post on Facebook, Twitter or even on YouTube, it can have a dramatic effect on how people perceive you. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper dismissed his manners when out in public, and that few seconds caught on camera brought a storm of criticism raining down on him, crushing his reputation as quick as The Incredible Hulk can crush a tank.
It may seem a little silly to take conduct lessons from comic book characters, but ask yourself, do you know of a classic superhero who’s considered a jerk? Aside from their superpowers, notice that almost every classic superhero has these attributes:
- Good grammar
- Great listener
Using proper grammar
For a lot of Americans, English is their most fluent language. But this doesn’t make them an expert on English grammar.
Speaking properly goes a long way in earning respect from others. You’re never going to hear Bruce Wayne (Batman) utter the words, “I did good.” In whatever disguise he is in, a superhero is always respected in his manner of grammar – well, the exception being Hulkspeak, but when do “gentleman” and “Hulk” ever go together?
Even for the most educated, brushing up on grammar is a good idea, especially when you decide to voice your opinion to others. Learning the difference between “well” and “good” in a sentence can make a big difference in how much a critic actually takes you seriously.
For Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, being good-looking and rich does get a lady’s attention quickly, but these two characters are always polished in their words, restraining themselves from emotional (and colorful) outbursts, and keeping the attention of whomever they are speaking to.
How you come across to your listener depends on your tone and your body movements, just as much as what it is you’re talking about. Nervously twitching, speaking too loudly, or running your sentences together too quickly can turn any potentially charming conversation into an awkward, tedious affair. Slowing down your sentences or avoiding high-pitched tones can keep your listener tuned in to what you are saying without being rudely overbearing or annoying.
Listening says a lot
For some experts, listening is more important than speaking. Separating yourself from being perceived as rude and abrasive starts with giving your undivided attention. Don’t let your eyes wander while the other person is talking, and don’t interrupt them in mid-sentence. Ask yourself is if the person knows more about you than you know of that person. That could very well tell you that you may talk too much.
Kill ’em with kindness
Sometimes being heroic just means being nice. Surely, your mother always said if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all. Being spiteful or trying to be funny with comments that cut down another person may seem like nothing, but it can have an impact of what people think about you overall.
When people make eyebrow-raising comments, such as U.S. Congressman Steve King did on the topic of immigration, it can potentially create a ripple effect, damaging not only your reputation, but the view of the topic at hand. Outraging people, snapping back at those who verbally attack, doesn’t solve a problem. Thankfully, heroic characters like Clark Kent have lots of patience and thick skin.
Their reaction in a crisis or heated situation defines them as “the good guy,” always seeking a resolution as peacefully as possible, and always being supportive of humankind and the greater good.
A man can be a hero without super powers, just as he can be a gentleman without a super ego.