Creating a Kinder World – Tones

I’ve been having a lot of discussions with people lately about the written word. Now that many folks are working from home, there is more written than verbal communication in the workplace. Many people stress over the tone of their messages or emails at work. This applies to texts and social media posts as well. Am I the only person who reads my social media posts a dozen times before pressing “post” to make sure that my post sounds positive and kind? Or, am I the only person who thinks that someone should have checked the tone of their posts before posting them? Everything these days is open to interpretation, and that interpretation often depends upon the interpreter’s state of mind. We cannot know how our words will be interpreted, but we can try our best to make sure they sound more positive than negative.

We also stress over our oral communications in a different way. Someone may say something to us, and instead of taking what they said at face value, we look for hidden meanings. Sometimes we change a positive to a negative. Someone may say “you did a great job,” and if a person is in a negative frame of mind, they might think that the person was just saying that to be sarcastic, but that the person really thinks they did a lousy job.

I was reminded of this on a travel Facebook group I follow. Someone asked about staying in a hostel. A person responded, “there are many safe hotels in New York, but I wouldn’t stay in a hostel if you paid me.” This sentence can be interpreted in so many ways. My first thought was that it sounded negative, judgmental, snobbish, or perhaps it was a negative commentary on New York hostels. But upon further consideration, I realized that I would have said the same thing in an oral conversation. I would have been laughing when I said it, though, so the intention of my words would have been clear. I WISH I was a person who could sleep in rooms with dozens of other people, I really do. I would save so much money when I travel! But alas, I am too much of an introvert.  I have a feeling that that is what this lady also meant in her post.

The lessons I learned from this are:

  1. When typing the written word, try to make something sound as kind as possible. If the lady would have thought more, she could have ended her sentence with “but that’s just me,” and her meaning would have been more obvious.
  2. Try not to overinterpret the written word or oral conversations. This adds a lot of stress. Usually, on social media, if a person interprets a post as negative, they respond with a negative comment and it can get ugly.
  3. We cannot read minds. A person I know assumed she was not invited to a function because the host held a very negative opinion of her. I asked her if she was a mind reader and if she had any proof about that person’s opinion. If she was going to read minds, I suggested that she assume a positive motivation instead of a negative one. Perhaps the person assumed she was already invited. Or, perhaps the person is mean, but if that is so, then that person’s meanness does not have to affect how we respond or how we feel about ourselves. If someone is mean, that is on them.
  4. Even if a person meant something negative in their oral or written words, in an effort to create a kinder world, we can still respond in a positive way. For instance, to the lady above’s post about hostels, I may have said something like “I know what you mean, I wish I could stay in hostels, but I would not be able to sleep a wink, but I sure envy people who can.” We can always, no matter how negative a post may be, respond with kindness and positivity. We do not have to add to negativity. In math, two negatives make a positive. This does not apply in social media.

After I wrote this article, another poster in my travel group posted a picture of herself at the airport going on a trip. It was a glamorous international trip, and she wanted to share her excitement. She also happened to be wearing a mask. One poster questioned the mask, and added that masks are a government conspiracy. Several people jumped in and told her to mind her own business and to leave her conspiracy theories to herself. Reading these posts got my adrenalin going for a few minutes, and I had to remind myself to take some deep breaths. This world is interesting because we are all different. Arguing on social media will not change the world, and it definitely will not change opinions. People who post controversial things to perfectly innocent posts want to cause arguments; they want to stir up anger, because that is what they feel and they want others to participate in their anger. (I am not offering an opinion about a mask, there are appropriate places to debate issues, but not on a post that is entirely about something else). Instead of participating in anger, which may seem easier, the better thing to do would be to spread positivity.

Just some ideas on ways to stay positive in 2024!

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