My mother always told me that if I di
dn't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all. It seems that communication over the internet means you don't need to look your victim
, er, Facebook Friend in the eye. Folks don't seem to make it a point to be as uplifting and gracious as they are when face-to-face. As I navigate the Information Super Highway, I often reflect upon this scripture, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
A while ago, I had a little situation on one of the social networking sites. I had posted an article and reposted some interesting things that others had seen fit to post. I received replies from someone picking nits about the content. I've had this happen a time or two before (I've seen it happen to others many times on the internet.) and always found it rather interesting. I'm not going to name names or even the site it was on. I post virtually the same things on all sites each day. All I'll say is that it was really just a case of nitpicking.
The people who pick nits rarely reply to anything in which they cannot find something to disagree. They are usually not uplifting in any way and most often don't bother to put things graciously, but instead prefer to show everyone how ignorant the other guy is and how smart they are in contrast. However, in my experience, the nitpicker isn't usually seen as smarter or helpful, but rather as picky and condescending.
If I disagree with someone, I usually find it best to send a private message unless it I feel it's something that will lead others astray. In that case, I will be grace-filled and loving in my reply. For example, I might tell someone that I "look at it a different way" or reply "in my experience..." or share that "in my research..." or "my understanding is..." I will usually assume the other party is simply mistaken, not a liar. I almost always gently correct if I feel something is just not so. It's always better, in my opinion, to tell someone they are incorrect instead of callously stating they are WRRONG or a liar.
But I find that too many people on the web are unconcerned with being gracious. And although Proverbs 16:24 says, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
", I notice it among the Christian community as well. I've talked about this before on the blog, in my articles and in my communication studies.
Sometimes it's simply a matter of a mood we are in. Sometimes we are just in a contrary frame of mind. Perhaps we had a bad day so we look at things and notice what we disagree with. This provides many opportunities to Tweet and Facebook our opposition in virtual anonymity, a tempting prospect that allows too many to fall into nitpicking.
My advice when you post on Twitter and Facebook (or any of the other social networking sites) is to stop before you publicly disagree with someone. Yes, even an obscure post on Twitter or Facebook is a public post. Reflect on these questions before you hit the "share" button:
1. Is it really a mistake or are you reading too much into it?
Are you perhaps being too picky, stretching the meaning, reading it out of context? Is what they posted really a problem or are you looking for situations in which the statement could be taken another way. Did the other party mean it the way you are interpreting it or are you pretty sure he meant it in a completely innocent way?
2. Does what you disagree with rise to the level that the person should be made aware of his/her mistake?
If the person did, indeed make a mistake or state an untruth, does it really need to be corrected? I've written many times about my children and their creation of the Conversation Correction Patrol. I even wrote a children's ebook by that title once! Sometimes we look for things to correct in other people, but don't realize that there is no need. The other parties involved know that Julie meant 12 noon and not 12 midnight for nobody in their right mind would have lunch at midnight. The only thing you will accomplish by making a big deal of Julie's mistake is embarrassing her.
3. Is it best to send the person a private message?
Is this something that should be handled personally or would it be received well if you posted it for all her Facebook friends to see? Sometimes it's more gracious to notify someone of a faux pas in private. Think about how you might feel if someone yelled out at a party that you were so dumb as to think lunch was at midnight. That's more or less how it is received when you make a big deal of a small mistake in public (online).
4. If not, have you chosen the most gracious words?
If something needs to be said, even if it is in private, have you taken care to use the most gracious words you can in pointing out someone's mistake or have you condemned them, made them feel dumb, or called them a liar?
5. Have you said anything positive, encouraging or uplifting to this person or are you only sending them replies when you have something negative to say?
Even if you have been gracious by pointing out something that should be corrected, take a look at what other communication you have had with this person. Is the only time you have communicated with Martha been when you told he she was wrong? Did you bother to say you'd pray for her when she announced she was ill? Did you congratulate her on her newest project or promotion? Have you uplifted her or have you replied to her only
when you spotted an error?
Choose your battles and your words wisely. Remember that just because you are right, doesn't mean you are justified in saying so. Sometimes you will win the battle, but hurt a friend. "An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of the citadel."
Proverbs 18:19 Even if the person doesn't take offense, this sort of "tug and pull" communication can be draining.
I know that some people see errors glaring at them and feel they just have
to point them out. Anyone involved in any part of the editing process may be a card carrying member of the Communication Correction Patrol. I'm an author so I know. In fact, anyone with bright kids might know this intimately! Those who spot errors feel the overwhelming need to fix stuff, but I implore you to stop and think if this is the best course of action in each particular situation. If so, please handle with care. If not, might I suggest Nitpickers Anonymous. We meet on Thursdays!
JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication, but it is her humorous approach to communication skills which has made her a highly sought-after Christian speaker and writer. Her articles appear in homeschool publications, such as Homeschool Enrichment Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which also endorses her Say What You Mean curricula, including Say What You Mean Defending the Faith. You can also find JoJo on web sites such as Crosswalk.com and Dr.Laura.com. For more information on communication FUNdamentals and Christian-based communication skills for the whole family, please visit http://www.ArtofEloquence.com