Social media and I are having a rather tenuous relationship these days.
In Facebook terms, It's Complicated.
Over the past ten years I've enjoyed keeping up with family and friends. Rejoicing with triumphs, holding virtual hands during tragedies, following trends and even receiving inspiration through blog posts.
I love a good discussion. Sometimes wrestling over topics of faith or philosophy can broaden my view.
Other topics (I'm looking at you, politics) can be overly divisive as so many roll up their identity in being supported or agreed with from side to side.
Sadly, I've seen folks who have much in common split over a topics where they aren't in unison. Usually it's really a matter of communication, but it too often results in broken relationships and hurt feelings.
People who I really believe would be laughing over coffee are "unfriending" because one party or the other took a misunderstanding personally.
Sometimes I think the breakdown is the fact that with all the noise, we have made it too hard to listen.
For years I've struggled with this form of communication. There are no facial expressions, voice intonations or a gentle hand across a table ready to pass over the differences to reach another person's heart.
In recent years I've been reminded of the term “active listening”. It's where you repeat back to someone what you thought you heard. You give them a chance to illustrate their meaning so the message doesn't get lost in the chaos of our own feelings.
It keeps you from heaving your own connotation on the one who's trusting you with their words.
I'm reminding myself to do that more. If I'm online, texting or writing my thoughts out to be read, I'm learning to take my time, carefully selecting words with the right amount of weight to match the situation.
I'm choosing to steer away from interjecting my own preconceived notions into the words of others and being satisfied with not having the last word.
When we come to grips with the fact that the opinions of others toward us often have more to do with their own filters and little to do with who we are, we find freedom.
Our relationships begin to carry the gravity they are intended to carry. We learn what areas to let people in and how close we can allow ourselves to be.
Let's be people who are willing to ask questions. “What did you mean by that?” can literally mean, “I didn't understand, but I care enough to ask you to repeat it to me.”
Let's allow others to clarify with us. Let's lean into patience when we think we're making sense, but somehow didn't get our point across.
More than anything, let's embrace kindness over being right.