Riddle me this! What do the following all have in common:
Your latest, painstakingly edited tweet.
Your latest Facebook rant.
Those workout pics you just posted on Instagram.
That Tumblr post you just wrote.
Your “words of wisdom” that you posted in that reddit feed yesterday.
The answer? They were all about you! Or your family. Or your opinion (which, you were obviously correct about, by the way - especially in that post yesterday afternoon).
What else do these things have in common? They are becoming white noise. When EVERYONE has an opinion, or a life event, or something they just HAVE to say. Right now. Because...well...the people MUST know!. ...when this happens, people start to check out. They start to be bored and look for the next new thing. Why? Because they want to be heard. They want to stand out.
They want to matter. (...just like you do. Just like I do. Just like we all do.)
So...I post on social media too and I’m not suggesting we stop. There is (believe it or not) a lot of good stuff out there. However, if we truly want to matter we have to stop throwing our two cents in (...and it’s not lost on me that in order to encourage this...I’m throwing my own 2 cents in, but even hypocrisy can be leveraged for good. I hope.). What can we do? Give people permission to share their lives with us. Not just on social media (though that’s a start), but in person. If you see someone that appears to be having a bad day. Instead of running way, stop them. Say, “Hi.” And start asking them about their day.
Here’s the trick: don’t jump in with an anecdote. Don’t chime in with some sage advice. And, if you’re anything like me, bite your tongue and hold your breath if you are tempted to make a joke or do something that otherwise might break the tension or lighten the mood. Just listen. In fact, you aren’t just listening. By opening the doors for that other person to be heard, you are giving them permission to be heard. You are telling them that they matter and, in some small way, you are changing their life (or, if you want to think a little less epically, you are making their day). By giving yourself permission to just listen, you are giving the other person permission to share, be heard, and to feel that they matter (Spoiler alert: They do).
So, where can we practice this? Everywhere! At dinner, ask your kids about their day - and then be quiet. As you read or watch TV in bed with your significant other, ask them what was one thing they would change about their day if they could - and then zip it! In a coaching session with one of your employees, ask them where they want to be in 1 year - both personally and professionally, and then hold your tongue. The next time you are on a sales call - ask your client about their needs, and let them share, vent, and unload.
Give yourself permission to listen. And give the other person permission to be heard.
And...later...post your usual on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumbler will all be there later. I promise.
Until next time, make today great!