The digital age has opened wonderful opportunities to connect with people and share our ideas. Websites, blogs and social media are all great tools to create a brand or connect with like-minded individuals.
Unfortunately, these same tools can be used to attack people and even to try to destroy another person’s reputation. Online communication also leaves us vulnerable to more public blunders.
With the level of anonymity associated with online communication, and the easy access to give and receive information, it is easy to forget how to be respectful and communicate efficiently. So how can we combat the volatile aspects of these digital tools? It’s actually very simple.
There are two basic ideas that can help us communicate effectively and maintain a pleasant online atmosphere, at least from our side. If you keep these two ideas in mind each time you sit in front of your computer, you can do your part to make online communication a tool rather than a master.
What are these two ideas?
- Don’t say anything you’re not willing to defend
- and remember you are a person communicating with another person.
Be prepared to stand behind anything you say online.
- If you wouldn’t be prepared to defend your statement or provide facts to back it up, don’t share it.
- Believe in what you say- you never know when someone is going to take offense to your message, so make sure you are not wavering on that message.
- If you make a mistake or misspeak, don’t try to pretend it didn’t happen; own up to it, correct it, and accept whatever consequences come from the mistake.
- At some point someone is going to criticize you for your words or ideas. You must be ready for this and know if and how you will respond.
If you only say what you are willing to stand behind, it won’t matter what criticism you receive (and you will receive criticism at some point if you have an online presence). Standing behind your words includes honesty and integrity.
Fact check before you share something, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Don’t ever share something if you can’t verify the truth. People will have more respect for you if they know what you share has been checked and is true.
Honesty also means being truthful about yourself. Do not represent yourself as something you are not. Don’t try to join a trend by misrepresenting yourself, chances are someone will find a way to verify what you say.
For instance: Do not share a story of being victimized if you have not dealt with victimization. This type of behavior is disingenuous and unfair to people who have dealt with victimization.
If you will make honesty the cornerstone of the content you share, you can rest assured in your defense of your words.
2. Be respectful to others.
- Remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Do you like getting rude comments?
Do you like being publicly called out?
Chances are the people you are communicating with don’t like these things either.
- Think before you submit. Don’t be reactive, if you need to type out the message go ahead, then stop and think if you should really put that response out there.
If we would all take a moment to pause and reflect before responding to something we don’t like, a good portion of the rude and nasty comments out there wouldn’t exist.
- Remember, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, opinions, and ideas. You don’t have to agree with them, but that doesn’t mean you have to blast them either.
Another thing to remember, the more attention you give to opposing ideas, the more influence you give to those ideas.
- Keep in mind, there is a person behind the printed words. The internet makes it easy to forget the human side.
If we go into all situations ready to show people respect, it won’t matter how disrespectful the other person turns out to be. Even if someone mistreats you in an online conversation, most people will remember your kindness and integrity in the situation.
That integrity will carry more weight with people than the most biting response could ever do. People enjoy the sensation of angry interactions, but they remember the people who hold their heads high.
Always keep in mind, in this digital age what we post influences how people judge us. We have all seen instances of public figures losing jobs because past words came back to haunt them. Whether they deserve to lose their jobs over these things is another topic for another day, the point is, it happens.
It doesn’t just happen to public figures. If you are trying to promote products or services, people will likely determine whether they want to purchase from you or work with you based, in part, on how you carry yourself on social media platforms.
I have known of people that were thinking of working with someone, then changed their minds because the person was very vocal about their political beliefs. I’m not saying you can’t share your beliefs on topics, I’m just saying, keep in mind these topics will influence people’s willingness to do business with you.
Think about what you want to be known for and how you want to be remembered or thought of. Think about what areas you are willing to contend with and be judged on. And, above all, think about what kind of person you want to be.
Would you add anything else to this list? Let me know in the comments.
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