More Lessons from Wife Swap (& its aftermath)

So I posted the item below on Saturday afternoon, and began to get hate mail. Most of it was gratuitously vile, while a few people struck a reasonable tone and made good points. To the reasonable among you, thank you. To those who just used the comments to vent their anger, has it occurred to you that perhaps praying for open hearts (Stephen’s, yours, mine, heck, the entire world’s) might be a more productive use of your time and energy?

Here’s what I’ve learned from this:

  • The power of prime time television – I wasn’t on the show; all I did was write a blog post about it. And yet my blog has gotten more hits in the last 2 days than in the last 6 months combined.
  • The power of controversy – A radio talent manager told me years ago that you get better ratings by stirring up controversy than by being nice. (He’s the person who convinced Dr. Laura to air her real comments rather than what he called, “happy talk” — and the rating soared.) Wow, was he right.
  • What you put out comes back to you, amplified – While I didn’t say anything mean, I am apparently guilty by association. Stephen said mean things on screen, and so that energy comes back at him, his family and me, just for writing about it.
  • People are willing to judge someone based on very little evidence – Obviously, they are willing to condemn a man’s entire life and being based on part of 42 minutes of (edited) television. And of course, they know him better than people who have met him. Does anyone remember “judge not, lest ye be judged”?
  • Once people have made up their minds, they don’t want to hear anything that contradicts their judgment – Heaven forbid you should bring up a different side of the issue.
  • A ‘public’ figure is not viewed as human – People apparently feel it is fine to say horrible things to people they have never met. They say things I’m sure they would never say to a friend or family member — or even a stranger — to his or her face. I’m an adult, and I can take it, but I’m beginning to feel sorry for the teenagers on American Idol, who must get all sorts of crap, at a time in their lives when they’re very vulnerable. Therefore…
  • If you are going to be ‘public’, you’d better have pretty thick skin. – The problem with this is that people who develop such thick skin then begin to ignore the negative comments and surround themselves with people they feel they can trust. If those people are sycophants, that ‘public’ figure begins to live in an isolated, unrealistic bubble.
  • Loyalty is not valued – To say something positive about someone who is out of favor is not viewed as loyalty, but as being vile, or stupid.
  • Listener, viewer, reader beware: freedom of speech does not mean you have to tell the truth, let alone be civil – I’ve read that it’s illegal to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, unless there is, in fact, a fire. But is is fine to threaten publicly, and to lie about the facts on the air. Of course, I should have learned this from the media darlings who make their living by spreading lies that feed hatred, but I get it at a deeper level now.

(And as for those of you who said, ‘if you were psychic, you would have warned them’ — hey, no one asked me!)

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (, who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.