I’ve been pondering what constitutes a great relationship. Even tougher, how do you translate a nascent good relationship into an online experience?
Let’s reflect upon what works well for in-person relationships. Consider one model of cultivating relationships (with thanks to Martin Buber et al.).
Forming a great relationship covers at least three dimensions:
Most of us are moving so fast and are so “multi-tasked-out” that we’re frazzled ghosts of our authentic selves. We all long for authentic connection. But to do so, we must know ourselves authentically.
The best place to start is with Plato’s dictum: Know thyself. Or take Shakespeare: To thine own self be true. These quotations remind me of the best advice I received from my homiletics professor in seminary: when you prepare a sermon, preach to yourself!
On some level, we all want to know another and be known. We crave honesty rather than a Photoshopped image for public consumption.
As my 81-year-old mother recently reminded me, most of us are so busy that we don’t take the time to enjoy life in the moment!
Do you want to connect with your real self? Spend time with babies and the elderly. Infants are helpless bundles of need. They immediately elicit the best part of yourself. Being with people your senior is a powerful way to see yourself more clearly—so spend time with parents, grandparents, mentors! You’ll both benefit from that experience if you’re teachable. One of my mentors, Vernon Grounds, cultivated friendships with people as much as 40-50 years his junior.
Social media, like TVs in the 1940s and 1950s, is so new that it’s in the “black and white” era. It’s a bit kludgey and quaint in some ways. We have far to go to catch our online relational maturity up to what we experience in person in theatres or with 3-D flat screen TVs.
If people perceive you as part of their online “tribe” you will indeed become one of them. Growing up in Hawaii, we used to “talk story”—take time to share a meal and be together. Try to do the equivalent online with shared experience/shared groups/shared connections.
3. Liminal space between people:
Put people at ease wherever your space is. I jokingly tell people to come into my office when we meet at a table at one of the independent coffee shops. I frequent. Make the table you’re meeting at a safe, sacred space to connect.
Why not make others feel at home in your online spaces as well? Visit their websites/blogs/groups and contribute the authentic you. Try to exceed expectations in your posts—go beyond merely announcing your latest blog post, event or coupon.
It’s a fine line between following social mores and being a paper cut-out. Create multidirectional dialogue by retweeting key phrases. Really listen to and comment on what others say. Create as close to an in-person experience as possible—experiment with that powerful medium, video.
What tips can you add?
1. Ask yourself: when I’m online am I being selfish and self-promoting or authentic and serving?
2. Shared experience: do I have the mindset that I’m here to live, to “talk story,” to hang out, to participate in and contribute to communities? Do I leave each on-line community a better place than when I arrived?
3. Let your virtual community be an extension of your real relationships: consider how you get to know, like and trust people. Am I sharing ideas/information that will be of value to these folks?