Sunday, August 23, 2009

Compassion on Twitter

I have always been an ‘in person’ kind of person. It is how I usually communicate at work, as well as my social life. I have the advantage of watching body movement, looking into people’s eyes, listening to the tone of their voice, the volume in their voice, pregnant pauses and what is being said between the lines. As a counselor, mastering this skill insures success with clients. They often come to me lonely and confused. They tell me things that they’ve never told anyone else and are always reluctant for fear of being judged. But this isn’t done easily. First, I have to make certain that they are comfortable and feel safe. A smile helps. A soft voice and then reminding these troubled souls that whatever their problem happens to be, I realize it is very important and vital ‘to them’, thus, it is very important to me. As a story unfolds, I actively listen. I try to understand everything that they are saying and if I become confused, I gently ask for some clarification. And throughout their entire story, I continue to give positive feedback…always trying to find the good in whatever they are telling me. This builds confidence and, ultimately, trust. And them the sessions begin. Each one is built on the previous one and a pattern soon emerges where the client and I exchange pleasant, meaningful cross talk. They are always reassured that I am 100% on their side. Taking this skill to Twitter was a goal I set for myself. In 140 character tweets, I soon saw a wide range of issues being posted with a lot of deep emotion behind them. I tried to imagine the troubled user sitting behind their computer, trying to reach out and hoping that they would be heard, or acknowledged, or recognized. These people were looking for a connection. Easier to do in my office than on a computer, but not impossible. I have been able to reach several people with empathy, compassion and kindness and have been able to do it all with words. First, it is important to reinforce that it is very courageous to post their life in public and how much that I admire them. Then, I reiterate that they are not alone. As the story unfolds, I give the choice of posting me in private or in public. Most people prefer to post in public because they want people to know who they are and they want to let people know what is troubling them. Most of all, they are looking for help. Some say that posting their stories is cathartic, as they have been bottling up such pain for such a long time. In some instances it feels safer to do it, first, online as they can remain somewhat anonymous. As I follow these users, I am blessed to be able to be a part of their daily lives…always ready to lend support or give a social service referral if necessary. I do not speak for any specific organization. I am speaking from myself and my own personal experiences. I am not acting as a professional on Twitter, but I do practice professional ethics. I am but one man, among many, reaching out to assist my neighbor in times of sadness and depression. Compassion is possible and, at times, essential on Twitter. My wish is that we all practice it, thus, bringing unity into our cyber world. I am Richard Bassett, CADAC and I can be found on