The Slight

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

I was recently sharing my excitement over something I had read that really resonated with me, and the person I was sharing with, who was typing on their phone and looking down, responded with a half-mumbled “mmm.” Like a pin in a balloon, I immediately felt my excitement fizzle away.

I once left a work networking event two seconds after I walked through the door, simply because the first person I made eye contact with did the slow once-over of my general being, and then turned away. I “knew” at once that I would have nothing whatsoever of value to add to the evening, and clearly didn’t belong.

I still remember the day in 7th grade, walking down the hall in the morning and feeling very good about myself, when a friend walked by and shouted loudly “Think you have enough foundation on, ERIKA???” I, who had no makeup on whatsoever, felt my face burn in a shame that I didn’t understand and those early sputtering feelings of “But I’m not…!” and “Wait, you’ve got it wrong…!” that have spent decades getting caught somewhere in between my head and my heart.

You know it well.  The off-hand comment.  The sideways glance.  The brush-off. The smirk.

They are such “no things.” If you share with someone about a moment like that, they might easily say… “Oh that was nothing… I’m sure they didn’t mean anything by it, or maybe you were just imagining it.”

But they are not no-thing, are they?

Those moments hurt, and those moments stick.

Douglas Conant, former CEO of Campbells Soup, once said “Even a brief interaction can change the way people think about themselves, their leaders, and the future. Each of those many connections you make has the potential to become a high point or a low point in someone's day.”

And I think about that all the time. Because that is a lot of pressure on all of us, isn’t it? To realize that we have such potential impact on everyone we encounter.  But on the flip’s amazing to realize that we have such potential impact on everyone we encounter, isn’t it?

So, beware those slights. Beware the smirk, the sideways glance, the rolling eyes. Beware the condescending remark. Those things might feel like nothing to you, but they can truly change the course of someone’s day/week/outlook on life, and not for the good.  

And I don’t know about you, but in the reckoning of my days, I’d much rather rest in the knowledge that I was more often a force for good rather than harm.

How can you beware the slight today?

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.

At least one in four young people in America report that they have been a victim of bullying. Whether in person or on-line, the effects of bullying can be traumatic, and they can be fatal. Each of us can play a part in decreasing the prevalence of bullying behaviors, in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities.

At The Leadership Program our Bullying Prevention approach is called “Empowering Upstanders.” For lesson plans and project ideas, you can find our curriculum book on Amazon.

For other ideas on how you can prevent bullying, a quick search on-line will offer you countless opportunities to take action. You can start with a stroll through these sites: Pacer Center, Stomp Out Bullying, Stop Bullying, Cyber Smile, The Bully Project, as a start.



Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.