When was the last time you had ‘foot in mouth’ disease or were at the receiving end of it? With the prevalence of Instagram, email, Snapchat, and so much more, the ramifications of not filtering before hitting [send], [post] or speaking can cause waves of after-effects. A simple comment on Facebook can go viral in hours and open people up to a world of abuse. It’s more important now than ever to start being mindful of what we say before we say it and modelling that for generations coming through. It’s also easy to forget that a moment of reactivity can last for decades on the world wide web. Face to face conversations can cause long lasting effects but they’re contained to the recipient, not so on public forums.
So how do we stop knee-jerk reactions? Perhaps it begins with delaying instant gratification.
We’re not in this mode of functioning anymore but it has it’s merits! Yes, it’s satisfying to unleash an emotional response in frustration, disapproval or just plain disagreement instantly. One of the ladies I do Qi Gong with on Tuesday night was saying she took offence to a comment someone posted on Facebook and replied in what she thought was a fairly moderate way. Days later she is still suffering the backlash from a momentary comment, that in normal conversation would have just passed by in an instant or been palmed off as something of little significance. Unfortunately though, compassion is yet to take a stronghold in online public forums. We can grow it though by…
…developing the ‘brain-to-mouth’ filter
Steps to experiment with this week:
- Acknowledge internally the reaction and name it (I’m feeling really frustrated at what … said!)
- Imagine what you’d love to say and even write it down (not in a text/email/online post – it’s too easy to hit send by mistake)
- Now, count to 7 slowly and then consider… am I: blaming, shaming or judging with what I’m about to say? If ‘yes’ it’s time to contain it. These 3 things lead to backlash and relationship breakdowns.
- Could you share what you want to say in terms of “I” statements? I feel…, I believe…, etc.? These will minimise offence to others. It also means you truly own it and you’re prepared to take the consequences for saying it.
- Lastly, really think about what outcome you want to achieve by saying something. What’s the real intention? Is it to educate, build awareness, help someone learn and grow? Great! If not, it’s probably best left unsaid and reflected upon in the quiet solitude of your mind before it’s released to the wider world in which you live.
Compassion relies heavily on mindfulness, thinking about what we say before we say it, to minimise harm to self and others. By modelling healthy ‘brain-to-mouth’ filters for others we’re teaching compassionate communication. Let’s do our best together this week.