I don’t believe that social media is a safe place to have serious conversations about topics like politics or religion. The best place for those is face-to-face. You can tell a great deal about a person’s heart when you look into their eyes and observe their body language.

This weekend I had a negative experience on social media. I made an “I” statement that suddenly became about other people and their stuff. I decided to use it as a teachable moment to educate people on the importance of listening and owning their “stuff.” Two aspects of communication that are lacking in most conversations.

Reflective Listening

As a trained and certified Wellness Coach, I routinely practice the art of reflective listening. Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker’s idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly. Reflective listening is a valuable skill that anyone can use. During a dialogue the skill of reflective listening signals to the speaker that you are paying attention to them. In everyday conversations, we are only partially listening. We are already thinking ahead to how we’d like to respond and we fail to internalize the conversation. Little if any attention is given to absorbing and seeking to understand what is being communicated.

Here’s an example of a traditional conversation.

Me: When I see flags flown by Trump supporters I wonder what do they think about people that look like me.

You: That’s a strange question. I voted for him and I can tell you what I think of people that look like you. Do you really want to know?

This response sabotages real communication because it has become about the respondent’s reaction. In addition, if we are online I cannot look into your eyes or see your body language, therefore many of the aspects of nonverbal communication have been lost and this conversation is less effective and polarizing.

Without the ability to have the same conversation face-to-face there are other ways to positively move it forward using reflective listening.

Here’s an example of reflective listening using the same opening comment.

Me: When I see flags flown by Trump supporters I wonder what do they think about people that look like me.

You: It sounds like seeing a Trump flag brings up some uncomfortable feelings for you?

Me: Yes, it does.

You: I’d like to hear about those feelings.

Simply changing to reflective listening opens a door to real communication, tells me that you heard my discomfort, and your reply gives me permission to elaborate on my feelings without judgment. I understand that this style of communication is not obvious to everyone, however, as I said this is a teachable moment.

Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is a powerful tool that we all have access to. It is the ability to give careful thought about your own behavior and belief. I lead a workshop titled, “Called to Something Greater, Answering Your call to Lead.” During this workshop, I guide participants through a reflective learning journaling exercise. Reflective learning is regarded as an extremely useful and powerful technique for affecting self-discovery and personal and professional growth. When we engage in self-reflection we apply similar skills and techniques. We take a look in the mirror, raw and uncensored, and we describe and assess what and who we see. We own our “stuff” and speak from “I” instead of they, you or them.

7 Ways to engage in self-reflection
  1. Use I when expressing yourself. Own your stuff.
  2. Do you notice any negative patterns in your life? Think about the feedback you receive from others.
  3. Face your fears. When you hear something that goes against what you believe ask yourself why does this bother me? Why does it evoke these feeling?
  4. Ask yourself open-ended questions
    • How do I feel about this topic? How does this make me feel?
    • What can I do to change?
    • What do I think about this situation?
    • How does my behavior impact this situation?
    • What can I say to be a part of the solution?
    • What can I learn from this?
  5. Be honest with yourself
  6. Seek clarity through reflective journaling
  7. Use the information to make personal positive and lasting changes
What You do Next Matters Most

These steps improve communication whether in the boardroom or bedroom and especially on social media. However, I don’t recommend having passionate discussions online unless you plan on staying with your tribe, like-minded people who believe what you believe, however, that’s part of the pickle we find ourselves in as a nation today.

Question? Self-reflection leads to self-knowledge leads to action. Where would you like self-reflection to lead you?

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