Greg Schindler

Technology has made it possible to instantaneously connect everyone, just about everywhere at any time. Today we seem to communicate less and less as we seem to be forced to be brief and to the point.

We live in a world where 140 characters in a tweet motivate many people in a variety of ways. That word “motivate” may easily be substituted with “manipulate” depending upon your view of the world “half-full” or “half-empty.”

Stay with me for a moment, take a deep breath, and become an observer. As an observer, there are strict rules not to engage in the process or influence the situation in any way. Just sit back, watch and take notes.

There was an article written on a social media site last month regarding a benevolence activity. The intent was simply to motivate some of the readership to participate in a fundraising event. Then there was a response written, just a “few sentences” trying to convey a concern that the recipients of the benevolence activity may have a negative impact to our neighborhood. At this point, there were several written responses taking offense to this concern.

I guess if I were not in the observer mode, I might have jumped right in with the offended and provide my two cents. I thought about the words in those few sentences made by the offender and then spent some time trying to understand the individuals that were offended.

Reading each sentence carefully, this person had a genuine concern or fear. Have we come to the point that we no longer take the time to understand intent?

How about a committee of volunteers who decide that several trees on a median should be removed? Because we don’t understand intent, should we quickly respond with outrage? Do we fully understand the consequences of our response? Who will volunteer if the thanks you get are lots of criticism?

I think Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote is more relevant today than perhaps in her time; “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The word “inferior” may as well be substituted with “outraged,” “offended,” “angry,” etc.

Assuming “good intent” is much more important with your neighbors than anywhere else in our social media lives. We will never understand intent if we don’t spend more time listening to each other or participating in the process.

Perhaps prior to giving “consent” to how you feel and respond, perhaps ask a few key questions: Can I make a difference? Am I willing to participate? What are the possible consequences of my response?

Because you are my neighbor, whatever you choose, I will always assume good intent.