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Navigating the Etiquette of Social Media

Navigating the Etiquette of Social Media
Jumping People

    Blogging, social networking and a veritable host of methods of stay in contact with people are all very new. There is no real handbook of online etiquette that we can turn to with questions of how many comments are too many or whether we really have an obligation to follow our second cousin’s blog.

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    The mere word ‘etiquette’ feels old-fashioned, without application in a web-based world. I’m not suggesting that the Internet needs formality or help addressing emails, though. Instead, I think that the aspect of etiquette most helpful to those of us living a significant portion of our lives online is the ability of social rules to suggest a next step. At the very least, I think that paying just a bit of attention to old-fashioned manners can help those of us who hope to avoid looking trollish. (There may be no helping those trolls who enjoy irritating others.)

    Miss Manners — Judith Martin — said the following in a 1995 interview, and I can’t help but think that it’s still true:

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    You can deny all you want that there is etiquette, and a lot of people do in everyday life. But if you behave in a way that offends the people you’re trying to deal with, they will stop dealing with you…There are plenty of people who say, ‘We don’t care about etiquette, but we can’t stand the way so-and-so behaves, and we don’t want him around!’ Etiquette doesn’t have the great sanctions that the law has. But the main sanction we do have is in not dealing with these people and isolating them because their behavior is unbearable.

    Our goal in participating in networking sites and other online media is almost always to interact with other people. If Miss Manners is right, ignoring the niceties of behavior is the fastest way to lose out on the benefits of social networking.

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    How to Avoid An Online Faux Pas

    For the most part, being a reasonably nice person is enough to avoid most accusations of bad manners. That’s not quite enough, though. There are a few types of behavior that don’t necessarily seem to be in bad taste but wind up irritating the person on the receiving end. I don’t claim to have a direct line to Miss Manners on all matters of the Internet, but I’ve come up with a list of things that I think should be included in the first Internet etiquette manual.

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    • Give attention if you want attention. We all get plenty of requests on our time, whether some PR flunky has sent out a mass press release to every blogger in your niche or someone on LinkedIn wants an introduction to one of your connections. I’m not suggesting that I want everyone to do something for me before I do a favor for him or her. Instead, I want those askers-of-favors to make it clear why they’re asking me: PR guys should be telling me why my specific blog should talk about their products and LinkedIn users should be making it clear why I’m the best person to make a connection beyond the fact that I’m available. Prove I’m not just some name on a list.
    • Don’t overwhelm your connections. Every time I log in to Facebook, I have about 10 invitations to throw sheep, play werewolves or otherwise do something to my friends. Half of them are all from one person. I don’t even check what invitation he’s sent anymore — I just automatically ignore them. This particular person has lost my attention in a big way, that he could have avoided by just slowing down on the number of applications he invited his entire friends list to in a given week.
    • Be as clear as possible. There’s a tendency to try to take shortcuts when writing online, but being less than clear is the fastest way to irritate someone. It goes far beyond 1337-speak and poor grammar, though: readers can easily misconstrue ambiguous writing.
    • Keep private information private. I know plenty of well-meaning folks who wouldn’t hesitate to give out a friend’s email address or phone number in hopes of helping out another connection. I even do it — but only if that contact information is readily available. I’ll Google the person’s name, and if I find an email address or phone number easily, I don’t worry about giving it out. But if that person has gone to some effort to keep their contact information private, I do my best to respect their wishes. (Offering to pass along information to someone who keeps their contact info private seems to work almost as well.)
    • Don’t contribute to information overload. It’s extremely difficult to keep a conversation involving hundreds or even thousands of participants on track, like on a large mailing list or on a comment thread on a popular blog. But I can’t think of a single person that really enjoys all of those tangents. Avoiding them when possible is truly good manners.
    • Avoid anonymity. As a general rule, little good seems to come from anonymity online — everyone seems to delight in discovering who an anonymous blogger or poster might be, therefore compounding any damage done by associating your name with an unpopular opinion. There are, of course, some topics that certain people can’t write about, such as their employers, without some form of protection, and I can’t provide a good solution for those cases, but anonymous individuals rarely stay that way online.

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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