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Twitter: Use it Productively

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Twitter: Use it Productively
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    Have you heard of Twitter [twitter.com]?

    It’s the funniest thing. It allows people to answer, in brief, the question no one was asking: What are you doing, right now?

    Hundreds of random people keeping other random people up to date on their random day-to-day business. Twitter is the no frills, no hassle mini-blogging tool that’s really catching on. But why?

    Two minutes ago someone posted “waking up, showering, looking for socks”. Before I question how it was possible for this person to write such an update, I ask why he feels compelled to share? Well, like almost all the current Twitters out there, I’m still figuring out what it’s good for.

    How can we use Twitter productively?

    First, let’s look at what makes Twitter different from, say, a blog or a chat room.

    1. It’s simple.

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    I don’t need to spend time figuring out how to use it. Set up is quick and so is the ability to update.

    2. It’s social.

    We’re adding friends, and keeping track of other people’s updates as ‘followers’. When you visit Twitter, your friends’ updates are shown along with yours, in chronological order [with avatars].

    3. You can update from your cell phone.

    OK. This is interesting now. I can send updates, as well as receive updates, as text messages on my mobile. Instant Messenger and Gtalk included.

    4. RSS Feed Enabled!!

    Now we have a product.

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    Those are the elements that make up Twitter. It’s easy, fun and versatile. How do we use it for good and not wasteful evil?

    Twitter as a ToDo List. Particularly useful while I’m away from the computer. I can send Twitter an SMS of something to do when I get back home. Or just something to remind myself of something; a song to download or an an email to write.

    It’s basic but requires a few extra functions. One being tagging. At the moment it’s very linear with the most recent tasks starting at the top and working back. There’s no room for prioritizing, or sorting – with tags.

    Also I can’t cross a task off after completion. I can, however, Trash the item, or mark it with a star as a favorite – which is the closest I’ll come to tagging.

    That said, now I have a ToDo list where I can delete completed tasks, and ‘star’ important ones that need to be done soon. I can’t ‘star’ anything from my mobile, but it’s a start. Also I can’t use Twitter for reminders from my mobile because there is no future TimeStamp feature. If I can schedule an update to appear at a certain time, I could have reminders come up on my mobile when I need them.

    Keep in mind that I am able to subscribe to my updates via an RSS Feed. In my feed reader I can have a ‘ToDo list’ from Twitter. Handy? How about we expand on that…

    Twitter for People Management. This idea is a little more out of the box but focuses on the social aspect. I can keep track of my friends, family or housemates from one feed so everyone is up to date.

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    RSS feeds are social. Let’s share them. Not only can I subscribe to my own updates, I can subscribe to a feed that aggregates all my friends’ updates. So when I post it appears in the feed, when Bill posts it appears in the feed. This is most useful when we’re dealing with 3 or more people.

    We can be organising a night out while at work, or keeping everyone in one house up to date with everything. “Out of milk”, “I won’t be home tonight”. I could send a group text message, but this way I only need to send it to one place. Twitter makes sure everyone gets the message, whether they are on the computer or out and about.

    Twitter for Business Management. This is very similar to people management but we can focus on the versatility of Twitter. Because we are now able to carry out a group conversation over the internet and mobiles simultaneously, managing a group of people can be a little easier.

    My business partner, who is scouting locations for a photo shoot, can keep me and my photographer up to date with his progress. While he is shooting off updates from his mobile about good and bad locations, me and the photographer can share our thoughts online, while my partner stays in the loop.

    Twitter also allows you to send Direct Messages to a particular user. So if my business partner needs to run an idea past me, personally, without our employees reading in, we can do it.

    Then after all is done, we can head back home and look over the updates. Choose what’s working and discuss everyone’s Twittered ideas.

    Twitter as a Newsletter. Say you run a video store. You don’t blog because it takes up too much time and you don’t really have much to say. Maybe you don’t even have a website. What you would like to do is keep your client el informed on a few things without all the hassle.

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    Twitter allows you to post directly to a feed. Without a website, you can have a feed your customers subscribe to and receive updates from. For instance, new videos that have just come in, or day-only sales, closed on the holiday etc. Plus, you don’t even need your computer to do it, SMS! Now you’re communicating with all of your video rental members while you’re in the store, or out for dinner!

    Although you can’t tag updates or friends, you can turn on and off your IM or Mobile notifications person to person. If you like adding friends but only want to receive SMS updates from only certain people, you can do that.

    twitter header

      Twitter is an interesting application, and it’s making some waves. It seems like the idea is there, and it’s working well, but the purpose isn’t yet established.

      These are the guys that brought you Odeo, probably the best option for podcasts on the web right now. Twitter is a remarkably simple idea that is executed perfectly. However, to really be able to stretch it’s usefulness, some extra features could be added.

      Tagging, for instance, would expand this application greatly. Why is it on the web if you can’t tag it with something! I can subscribe to certain users’ feeds but I can’t subscribe to certain groups of users’ feeds. Plus I can’t sort my own updates.

      Mobile phone updates are feature thin too. This is, to me, a stand out feature of Twitter. Without this I may as well be in a chat room or on MSN – or emailing with attachments and no word limit! However, if I could tag [if only as a favourite] updates from my phone, or send a certain ‘group’ of friends messages specifically, we are looking at something more than glorified group texting.

      twitter update

        I think Twitter is an exciting move towards a universal publishing platform. There’s no learning curve or intimidation. We don’t need to be twittering away, updating the web with our most mundane of activities, “I am writing on Twitter about writing on Twitter…”

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        Use it productively!

        What Are You Doing? [Twitter]

        More by this author

        Craig Childs

        Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

        How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

        Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

        When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

        Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

        What Makes People Poor Listeners?

        Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

        1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

        Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

        Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

        It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

        2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

        This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

        Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

        3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

        It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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        I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

        If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

        4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

        While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

        To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

        My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

        Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

        Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

        How To Be a Better Listener

        For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

        1. Pay Attention

        A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

        According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

        As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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        I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

        2. Use Positive Body Language

        You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

        A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

        People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

        But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

        According to Alan Gurney,[2]

        “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

        Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

        3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

        I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

        Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

        Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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        Be polite and wait your turn!

        4. Ask Questions

        Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

        5. Just Listen

        This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

        I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

        I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

        6. Remember and Follow Up

        Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

        For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

        According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

        It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

        7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

        If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

        Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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        Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

        Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

        NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

        1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
        2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

        8. Maintain Eye Contact

        When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

        Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

        By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

        Final Thoughts

        Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

        You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

        And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

        More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

        Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
        [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
        [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
        [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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