Practicing Loving Speech Online

Always Stunning, The Cherry Blossoms

I’ve been thing about writing and commenting online lately. Probably more than most, I have a history of mixing it up and leaving a comment or three that left heads spinning. In the past year, I’ve made a move to practice more loving (or benevolent) speech online.

Choosing to invest in kinder speech, and to not leave a path of strife on the interwebs requires mindfulness and acceptance of my character defects. I don’t pull punches. When it comes to tough discussions, I fight to win. That means someone’s going to be upset most of the time.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post that lit off a movement. The post was written because I had said critical things behind two colleagues’ backs in a private group, and felt I needed to make these statements publicly or not at all.

The post, while representative of my general views sans the personal call-outs, still haunts me. Regardless of the issue, in hindsight my words caused significant pain, and set off a bitter blog war.

Last week, I put my hand out to one of those colleagues though I disagree with him frequently. It’s just blogging and marketing, not Syrian genocide. Life moves on and so have I.

Promise and Failure

Me at the Nats Game

This issue directly correlates with my zen beliefs, which encourage loving speech and deep listening as embodied by the fourth mindfulness practice.

I try to practice the mindfulness trainings, and even have a zen name, which translated to English is Infinite Compassion of the Heart. When I look at my speech online historically, I see a consistent failure to meet the promise my name holds.

Zen Buddhism is funny in that it’s really not a religion, more of a living ethic or integrity system. That’s why someone like Phil Jackson can call himself a Zen Christian. The two are not in conflict (at least from the buddhist perspective). Point being, you strive to achieve zen ideals in daily life, not commandments to live by or go to hell.

More often than not since last fall, I’ve maintained a mindful tone.

I’m not a boy scout, though.

Sometimes I screw up, like here on Margie’s blog. Sometimes the situation bears breaking my own rule and waging public criticism (like this Komen post).

Sometimes I intentionally curse on Facebook or here because I don’t believe in the facade of personal branders. People curse and have bad moments as well as good ones. Like these people are angels 100% of the time in their real life.

One thing Zen has taught me is to embrace your flaws and bad parts as you seek to grow your better attributes.


White Cherry Blossoms

In my experience, the next step in public discourse is learning when to use words, and when to be silent.

Perhaps the other party really does suck, or they’re truly offensive. How to handle these situations? It’s easy to be funny, snarky, cute and, quite frankly, nasty. But to quote an old friend, two assholes don’t make a situation better.

It’s much harder driving home a point without taking victims. Can you wage public criticism in a general way?

Commenting and posting has obvious marketing value, but if the conversation offers little consequence to the larger efforts of business and society, then I consider whether to invest a comment. Often, I’d rather be quiet than enter the conversation wading pool.

Sometimes it’s just easier to share a picture that shows beauty or life in progress than say anything.

Silence is a choice. Whether it’s because I don’t have anything substantive to add or because my words may hurt someone, restraint of tongue and pen works.

I may be less fun, but all in all, it’s a better way to live. There’s less virtual blood on my hands, and I feel better for it.

Do you practice loving speech online?