Archives For communication

In the years I’ve been using the web, I’ve learned a thing or two about online communication. Of course, much of what I’ve discovered has been purely by trial and error, and some of those lessons have come at a price.

As a pastor, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How do you blog and tweet and Facebook without offending people or turning them off?” My answer: I don’t. There are always people who disagree with my message or stance on some particular issue. The online environment is harsh. People often say things through email and online forums that they’d never say face-to-face. Over time, I’ve put together 10 primary rules that guide my online interactions:

1. Be yourself. Judy Garland put it well when she said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” I am who I am. I’m still a work in progress, full of flaws and shortcomings. However, it is to no one’s advantage for me to try and pretend to be something I’m not. I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin, and that’s an important need in online relationships as well as in the real world.

2. Be smart. I assume that everything I say or do online can be tracked and recorded (and probably is). With that in mind, I must be careful how much I share — particularly personal information regarding my family. Use common sense, and err on the side of caution.

3. Be transparent. Transparency is vital for any sort of meaningful relationship. Of course, there are different levels of transparency. You have to be wise in determining your own parameters about what you share about yourself.

4. Be bold. Fence-straddlers are boring. No one wants to read about people who can’t make up their minds on issues that matter. I take bold stands, knowing that some (and perhaps many) will disagree with me. Of those people, some will be deeply offended. I don’t apologize for my positions or my passion. My goal in life is not to be liked by everyone. So far I’m doing pretty good at that one.

5. Be engaging. Interaction is fun! I almost always reply to comments, and I make a point to comment on the writings of others as well. The communication super-highway is designed to be a two-way street.

6. Be informed. I don’t write about things about which I’m clueless. I read a lot and research specifics of particular issues. You should too.

7. Be helpful. I try to be helpful to people in whatever ways I can be. I just see that as an extension of the Golden Rule.

8. Be encouraging. I look for the good in others — even when I disagree with them. And I try to be a ‘builder-upper.’

9. Be respectful. I don’t engage in hateful tirades and character assassinations — even with those who don’t treat me with the same grace. (But I don’t tolerate bullying in any shape or form. And on my blog and social media outlets, I get to decide how far is too far.)

10. Be responsible. I can only be responsible for me. As a follower of Christ, I want to represent Him well. This is the cornerstone of EVERYTHING.

What are some of your own rules for online communication?

What did you say?!

August 19, 2009 — 2 Comments

Water-Cooler ConversationCommunication is such an important part of our lives. It has been said that where two people exist in close proximity, communication is taking place — whether or not words are ever exchanged. That’s because communication is more than words. It’s about those non-verbal factors, like facial expressions, body language, and eye contact.

Communication really is a powerful thing. And it can be positive or negative. As a church staff member, I have always enjoyed church-related jokes and communication bloopers. Take these for example:

  • “Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.”
  • “For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.”
  • “Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk will please come early.”

Yes, sometimes in spite of our best efforts, the words just don’t come out quite right. I remember a Seminary president talking in chapel one day about the off-campus centers. . .only he referred to them as “off-center campuses.” Hmmm. . .not exactly the same, is it?

One of my favorite children’s book series is that of Amelia Bedelia, the well-meaning housekeeper who simply took things way too literally. When asked to “put out the lights,” she actually unscrewed the bulbs and took them outside. When asked to separate the eggs, she placed one on the cabinet and one on the stove.

Parents have to be careful in communicating with children as well. . . especially young children. Sometimes they just hear things differently than we intend. During a recent furniture-shopping adventure, my eight-year-old son assured me that mom did not want a couch; “she wants a sexual,” he insisted. Wow, that one was pretty impossible not to laugh about. Perhaps it was his take on the discussion that made me more open to the sectional that now finds its home in our living room.

It is so important to give serious consideration not only to our words but also to our non-verbal and para-verbal communication (elements such as tone, rate of speech, and cadence). In fact, experts explain that only about seven percent of communication actually comes from the words themselves! That’s precisely why we must all be especially careful when communicating via e-mail and text messages. Tone is difficult to accurately interpret, and those silly little emoticons are only marginally helpful!

As you go through this week, I encourage you to be very intentional about the way you communicate with others. Listen for mixed messages. Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. And choose your words carefully. Don’t expect people to be able to read your mind!

With a little extra effort, you can experience the joy that comes from clear and consistent communication.