Have you noticed communication is getting tougher and not easier? With all the ways one can get the word out, make their opinion known, share their thoughts, it should be easier. But, sadly it’s not. Now you have to say it with fewer words, say it in a way that catches the attention of others, and say it fast before the subject changes.
It seems we need to find a better way to communicate. Better yet, we need a smarter way to communicate. Here are some questions to consider as you seek to communicate well online.
#1 How will others “hear” what I am about to post?
As a pastor there have been a number of times someone would come up to me after I preached. They might be thankful, angry, or some other reaction and I would inquire as to what I said to invoke this response. They would tell me and I would be left scratching my head because what they said they heard had nothing to do with what I actually said. If it is tough in person just think how misunderstood you can be when it’s posted online.
#2 How much time will I pray before I hit post?
I cringe when I read some post that Christians send out. The language, the tone, the pictures, the locations…I could go on and on. What were they thinking? I think the better question may be did they pray before they posted?
#3 Do I know the context as well as the history of the person I am about to quote?
Nothing ruins a “good point” like lack of context and others things the person you just quoted also said. In this time of “cancel culture” you don’t need to let your lack of research stifle your voice for good.
#4 Before I respond to this person’s post, did I really hear what they were trying to say?
This is like a “golden rule” thing: Read what others have written as you would want them to read what you post. No assumptions, no assigned motive, no expectation of perfection just read to understand their point of view. If what they say needs correction or clarification then do so with grace in your heart and kindness in your words.
#5 Before I identify myself with this cause, movement, or idea have I thoroughly researched its history, purpose, and goals?
There are times in which a cause or statement resonates with us and we want to let others know but wisdom tells us to look a little deeper. God used a “donkey” one time to say something profound but it was a once in a lifetime experience. Everything else he did prove he was nothing more than a “donkey”.
#6 Do I understand the meaning and implications of the “saying” I am about to use?
Words and terms change meaning as well as what they imply. Even though the meaning hasn’t changed in your mind, it might have in the minds of others. Google “verbiage” before you use it, for old folks (like me) use something other than Webster's.
#7 Is a quick response the easy way or the best way?
When it comes to social media people seem to think their first thought will be their best thought. From what I see from post I’ve read that probably is not true for the average person. Don't take the easy way when you plan to engage, do the work before you immortalize your words.
#8 Is there a “fresher”, more insightful way to say this?
In most conversations there will be time when you think of “bumper sticker” slogan you can use but what does that accomplish? If the goal is “likes’, repost, thumps up, then take that route. You can simply reiterate or react to what has already been said or you can add insight. Better to leave them thinking “you were thinking” rather than “what in the world were they thinking”.
#9 Do I need to run this by someone who might have a different perspective before I post this?
This is tough because we normally like to get folks to affirm our thoughts rather than challenge our thoughts. It is better to learn from a “friend” and be the wiser for it than to post and be humiliated by it.
#10 I know what I mean by this "cultural reference" but what will it cause others to think about?
Sometimes as we are processing our thoughts we think of a historic or cinematic scene that “says it all” but does it really? The point you want to make may be lost to those to whom you are making it. Remember the number of characters is limited because we are a society of limited attention spans.
As believers we have a higher duty than to make our opinions known, we are to make Him known. What you post online can be a great tool to achieve that purpose or it can become a stumbling block. Remember once you click post, you can’t take it back. So think, pray, and plan before you post anything online.
DAVID STOKES is the Associational Mission Strategist for the Central Kentucky Network of Baptists.