Given the current context of the world, we could all use a little extra sunshine, grace, and laughter, right? While we need strong advocates and professionals on the front line, we also need more kindness in general.
So here’s what we believe is one of the most important questions you can be asking given our current condition. What can I do to communicate in a way that reduces the overall burden rather than adding to it? Here’s how to communicate with kindness.
Listening expert, author, and renowned TED speaker Julian Treasure fears that we are moving toward what he calls “personal broadcasting.” Instead of having conversations and really listening to each other, we’ve become accustomed to broadcasting our opinions on social media without really engaging with others. Putting in our “2 cents” amounts to a tweet or a post that we hastily send out to the universe. It doesn’t really matter who is listening, or if anyone is listening at all. This fractures the communication system by removing the interaction between communicators.
A kind communicator isn’t a personal broadcaster. So before you jump online to broadcast your own experiences, feelings, or thoughts, get curious about other people. Research has proven that if you use the phrase “tell me more,” you’ll instantly be more likeable. When you dig into another person’s thoughts and feelings, you communicate concern for them. And that goes a long way toward establishing and fostering authentic connections.
Another way to communicate with kindness is to practice empathy. We can look to another author and renowned TED speaker for help with this principle as well. Brené Brown helps us to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy and their outcomes in this short video produced by RSA.
Brown reminds us that “empathy is feeling with people.” It’s not feeling for them or at them. It’s feeling with them. Even if we don’t understand or agree with their response to, say, a worldwide pandemic, we can empathize with them. In doing so, we communicate with kindness. And the ability to see and feel something from another person’s perspective is one of the most powerful skills we can hone, not just as a speaker or leader, but as a human.
Has your email inbox been flooded with every single company’s response to COVID-19? Mine has too. And while I understand that companies are doing this to protect themselves legally and to reassure their customers, individual communicators shouldn’t follow suit. These types of messages are more along the lines of personal broadcasting—laying it out there to check the box in doing my part. And that’s needed, but it doesn’t help us connect.
The RSA video above, Brown ends with these words, “The truth is that rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better, is connection.” So as you seek to navigate as a human communicator in uncertain times, shift your focus. Don’t respond, connect. Get curious about another person’s response or perspective and empathize with that person. Take the opportunity to be altruistic. Look for ways that you and your company can help. Don’t equate a social media post with activism. Get busy helping, really helping.
When you engage in these kind communication practices, you’ll be doing your part to lighten the load a bit.
At Ethos3, we’re doing all we can to help others tell their stories in online and creative formats. And we’re trying to navigate these uncharted waters with an extra dose of kindness. Want to learn more about our services?
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