A Twitter Conversation Worth Having

Oct 04, 2019
I heard an NPR story about the trauma journalists deal with on social media. They post stories about the facts they are uncovering and they receive hate-posts from people they don’t know. I choose to believe that if we’d just hit pause for a moment before we post a reaction, we’d post differently.

I just heard an NPR story about the trauma that journalists are dealing with on social media. They post stories about the facts they are uncovering and they receive hate-posts and threatening postings (like publishing their address or photos of their children) from people they don’t know. Add this to the list of young people, politicians, and anyone purporting an opinion or sharing a story that is meaningful to them who are all experiencing the same thing. Call me naive, but I choose to believe that if we’d just hit pause for a moment before we post a reaction, we’d post differently.

There is a growing conversation among journalists, teachers, technology wizards, parents, and other citizens about how we turn this tide of disrespect and vitriol into more meaningful dialogue. How do we foster conversations that help us connect, build understanding, and find common ground.

TED Talk: I grew up the Westboro Baptist Church, Here’s why I left.

Meghan Phelps-Roper shares a powerful positive story of how Twitter conversations can actually support understanding and personal growth and awareness. Her story points to the possibility of using the internet to move us beyond the polarization and hostility that is being fueled in our country today.

Here are a few tips for engaging others in online conversations worth having.

When You Are Responding

  • Don’t respond if you’re in the middle of reacting. Instead, Pause, Breathe, and Get Curious!
  • Before you respond, ask yourself a few questions:
    • Why are you reacting the way you are?
    • What assumptions and judgments have you made about the other?
    • Are your assumptions or beliefs true? Are you certain?
    • Absolutely certain?
    • Do they need to hear your opinion? Will it matter if they’re not open to hearing it?
    • What do you want to do with your response? What might be a positive, higher order outcome?
    • How might you foster that?
  • Remember, there is a real human being on the other side of that screen–a thinking, feeling human being.
  • Respond by asking questions to help you learn more about them, their ideas, the outcomes they want or are hoping for.
  • Be curious. Stay curious. Stay open to their truth. Your best chance of influencing anyone is to first understand them. And doing so often changes your thinking and your assessment of who they are . . . and possibly who you are.

When You Are Posting

Posting about family events, friends, and travel is different from posting opinions and articles on topics that are controversial in nature. If you are initiating a post or sharing someone else’s post, here are a few things to consider:

  • Take a moment before posting to reflect on why you are sharing whatever you are about to post. What is your intention, your highest hope for this post? Ask yourself if posting this will actually help achieve that.
  • Take the time to think through ways to frame your post that actually invite people to consider whatever it is you are sharing.
  • Is it true? Fact-check what you are going to share so you don’t spread fake news. There are a number of websites that will fact-check a posting: snopes.com and factcheck.org. You can also check political facts at NPR.org, and politifact.com. If it’s fake news, don’t spread it. And comment on the other person’s post to let them know it’s fake news.
  • Think twice or three times before slamming other people. Remember there is a real person out there who’s life may be impacted by your post. Are you adding value for that person?

Who you are and the values that are important to you are reflected in your online posting and social media messages. Choose to show up as your best self and engage others in conversations worth having. That can include sharing facts, sharing your opinions, advocating for actions AND you can do all that in ways that allow others to have and share their opinions and advocate for their actions.


Cheri Torres is Lead Catalyst and CEO at Collaborative by Design. She works with leaders in organizations and communities to enhance their ability to fuel productivity and meaningful engagement through effective communication. Learn more at ConversationsWorthHaving.today

If you want change, asking generative questions is your best bet because generative questions change the way people think and create compelling images for action. To learn more about generative questions, read Conversation: The Lifeblood of Well-Being and Success or download the Conversation Toolkit available on the Conversations Worth Having website.


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