With special guest William M. Timpson, Ph.D.
Technology enables us to learn and connect with each other in ways I never imagined as I worked toward a degree in the leading edge field of computer science “back in the day”. At that time computers were often used for complex computations, a long distance phone call was expensive, and writing letters was time consuming and provided a very slow Return on Investment. Fast forward to 2017. Almost every day I am taken aback by the wide variety of options we have to communicate instantly with almost everyone we know and even some we don't know. Facebook and other forms of social media enable us to easily keep in touch and share the most exciting (and mundane) aspects of our lives with relatives and friends that are near and far; some we may not have seen face-to-face for decades and some who may live on the other side of the world. Twitter lets us receive seemingly unfiltered messages from so many, including the President of the United States. And a plethora of news channels enable us to filter perspectives so that we can customize our impressions of world events and the attitudes of others. Most of the time I think that this is great and that it enriches our lives and improves our relationships. But sometimes it seems overwhelming, my view of the world and current events becomes skewed and distorted, and/or I am left with a feeling that “everyone” else has a life fueled by a steady stream of euphoria and joy while I’m sitting at home doing laundry … again. That can be a Tech Frustration.
Recently, my husband, 21-year-old son, and I watched a video about Millennials in the Workplace. It sparked a great discussion, and let’s just say that the Baby Boomer parents and Millennial son didn’t see eye-to-eye on all of the opinions shared. It was a lively conversation. And it got me thinking about relationships and how they can be enhanced or hurt because of the existence of social media, our attitudes about it, and our determination to use it carefully or treat it casually and/or carelessly.
Through some Restorative Justice volunteer work, I met an interesting and inspirational guy named Dr. William Timpson. Dr. Timpson is a professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University, and he has a fascinating background that includes work in Northern Ireland, South Africa, South Korea, and Burundi. Dr. Timpson and the Restorative Justice program have taught me a lot about listening and conflict resolution. Recently I asked Dr. Timpson how he thinks technology and social media are impacting our ability to strengthen relationships and resolve conflicts. Drawing from his 2002 book, Teaching and Learning Peace (Madison, WI: Atwood), here is some of what he told me.
Dr. Timpson: We all know that good communication can be pivotal in defusing a volatile confrontation. It helps lower emotions and defenses so everyone can obtain better understanding and define peaceful resolution alternatives. This information draws on Tom Gordon’s (1974) Teacher Effectiveness Training to describe three sets of skills that provide an effective model for establishing good communication: 1) Deep Listening, 2) Empathetic Expressing, and 3) Consensus.
Covey, S. (1989) The seven habits of highly effective people, New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Gordon, T. (1974) Teacher effectiveness training. New York, NY: Peter H. Whyden.
Solnit, R. (1994) Savage dreams: A journey into the landscape wars of the American West. New York, NY: Vintage.
Timpson, W. (2002) Teaching and Learning Peace, Madison, WI: Atwood.
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This is not a political post, although some stories have been pulled from the political spotlight. You won’t read anything controversial below, and you may learn new ways to show your friends that you respect and appreciate them.
Apparently the Obama daughters attended a state dinner last year. While I’ve heard a lot of criticism of President Obama (and even his wife) over the last eight years, none of it, and I mean none of it, has been focused on their parenting skills. Either they are exemplary parents, or the people I know don't feel comfortable throwing rocks at other parents right now. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. In one article Michelle talks about her girls and explains that she and her husband “tried to normalize their lives as much as possible” while they were living in the White House. I’m guessing that she didn’t think that their attendance at a lot of State Dinners would support that objective. But apparently she did want them to have that experience … once and at the right time. Hold this thought. (Or, speaking of presidential daughters, take a break and watch this 2 min video which is just fun and funny.)
While the Obamas were raising their daughters in the White House, and even before that, Donald Trump was making it clear that he likes to negotiate. I do too! My husband and kids know that my favorite negotiations result in win-win-win outcomes even though I simply promote myself as a “win-win negotiator” on LinkedIn. Few things are as rewarding as getting exactly what I want while making sure that other people get exactly what they want (or more) at the same time. Constructing mutually beneficial outcomes is a challenge I enjoy and my desire to achieve win-win outcomes is why I prefer to attend a “show” over a “big game” and why I volunteer with a Restorative Justice program instead of the Special Olympics. All are interesting and worthwhile activities, I just seek out and appreciate win-win opportunities the most.
These stories provide an introduction to two of my favorite Facebook features; 1) Who should see this? and 2) Edit or delete this. I use both features most days because they make it super easy to precisely control who sees things I share via Facebook, and they let me correct and/or improve my comments if I find errors or improvement opportunities after they're posted.
You may find these features valuable if A) You respect your friends’ and family’s time, B) You value the way you are perceived by other people, and/or C) You want to share your ideas in a way that will be respected by others and may even cause them to see something from a different point of view.
Respect Your Friends
If you think you see everything I post on Facebook, you’re wrong … and lucky :) My mom knows that I recently made her famous Hungarian Mushroom Soup for the first time, but I figured few others would want to hear about it. People who responded to my question about future political posts know what I think about the recent elections, but apparently a number of my close relatives, not to mention good friends, were very happy to be spared the experience of reading my political musings. The Facebook Who should see this? feature makes respecting people's time and interests very easy.
Manage Your Brand
The best collection of career advice I received came from Patty Azzarello who reminds us, “You have a Personal Brand right now whether you know it or not.” She offers lots of good advice to help you ensure that you are perceived the way you want to be perceived. The Facebook Who should see this? feature gives you a lot of control over how you are perceived. And frankly, I wish that some people would use it more often. (Because unfortunately, some things can never be unseen.)
Open People’s Eyes
If you start a conversation with an insult, it’s likely that your friend won't hear anything else you say. It’s even less likely that they’ll respect what you say or that you’ll be able to influence them to see something from a different perspective. If you want to change someone’s mind, you may want to start the conversation in a way that will create, not destroy, trust. This means that you need to customize your messages based on the recipient(s). The Facebook Who should see this? feature will help you do this too.
Since many seem unaware of the Who should see this? and Edit or delete this features, let me show them to you.
Facebook Feature: Who should see this?
Facebook Feature: Edit or delete this
This post opened with the story about the Obamas because it's a great example of people sharing information, or in that case an experience, with others (i.e. their daughters) at the right time ... for the daughters. Donald Trump and I have learned that when you are negotiating with an audience, especially when you strive for win-win or win-win-win outcomes, you need to start by establishing a level of trust ... with the audience.
When you take the time to use the Facebook Who should see this? and Edit or delete this features to share the right message with the right people at the right time you respect your friends, reinforce your image as a careful and considerate communicator, create and maintain trust, and you may even enable people see things in a new way.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Now you know what it means to me.
P.S. If you think this article is about you, you may be right, but only a little. Mostly ... it's not you, it's me. This post was inspired by many of my own experiences as well as observations gathered from too much time on Facebook. It's a jungle out there, and I'm simply striving to help you avoid a few Tech Frustrations ... and maybe a few personal frustrations too.