The last few posts on social media as a spiritual discipline all lead up to this post. What can you actually do to have a healthier online conversation?
1 – The Pause
Instead of jumping in quickly to respond to comment after comment you stop. Take a moment to gather your thoughts. It may be 20 seconds. It may mean you never return to the conversation. Before you get into the downward spiral of a negative feedback loop you break the cycle by pausing. This may feel like “letting them win” by them having the last word but it is exactly the opposite. It is you gaining and maintaining control over yourself rather than being reactive. Who said this was about winning anyway? Some of the most ruthless conversations online happen at lightspeed. This happens when people react, quickly, with little thought or filter. But you don’t want to be a person who lives their life just reacting to others. You want to be proactive and intentional with your words and relationships.
No one is good enough to engage in a disciplined, well-reasoned conversation operating from a reactive, light-speed posture that is in harmony with God’s will. No one. We can do this in perfect harmony with our own will but not God’s.
2 – Take your thoughts captive to Christ
What do you do in the pause? I suggest you memorize and meditate on 2 Corinthians 10:5 where Paul tells us to take every thought captive to Christ. Compare what you are going to say to what Jesus would say and see if it passes the test. Another scriptural filter to pass your thoughts through is Philippians 4:8 – whatever is true, excellent, noble, right, pure, lovely, praiseworthy, etc…As you type your reply, does it pass this test?
The pause also allows us to allow our physiology calm down. See the previous post on that.
3 – Listen attentively
The pause also gives you time to listen. Read and re-read the other person’s comment. I cannot tell you how many times I read something too quickly and responded having missed some key words and looked foolish. It wasn’t hard to understand. I was just moving too quickly and didn’t “listen”. There is little more frustrating online than someone telling you what you think…and getting it wrong. It is invalidation and it is inconsiderate. So make a rule of life here to stop making assumptions and take the time to ask. This is how we get better at listening by asking for clarification rather than using assumption to fill in the gaps. Assuming too much is intellectually lazy and inconsiderate. How can you engage an idea you don’t even understand? Don’t presume to think you do understand right away.
4 – Admin/acknowledge where they are correct and where you are wrong
This is probably the hardest one, at least once you get the pause down. What all these steps point us to is the removal of barriers and defensiveness so we can really talk. There is little more disarming than an apology. It is hard to bash someone who is being vulnerable. It happens but it takes a special kind of person to do that. When was the last time you saw someone apologize or admit they were wrong on social media?
5 – Discuss issues not people or personalities
Once a conversation turns personal (as in personal attacks) there are very few ways to get it back on track. Keep pulling yourself back to the original point of the discussion, if anyone even knows what it was!
6 – Address the difficulty of the conversation
It is good to know that it isn’t easy for someone to talk about hard things. There are times I will say this is hard for me to discuss, “I really don’t enjoy talking about this issue…it is truly upsetting to me at times but I think we need to in order to move ahead.” This helps the other person understand you aren’t flippant or gleefully discussing difficult things but that you recognize the gravity and importance of the conversation – it is being taken seriously. Or maybe I say that I am having a hard time getting my thoughts together. This allows us to be patient with each other.
7 – Be willing to pray for and bless the other person
This is a great way to end a conversation whether it ended well or not. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. This is saying we can still be friends even though we don’t agree. This is one more thing you can do in the pause – pray for the other person (as well as yourself). This will help put your mindset in the right place.
What are some things you would add to the list?