“Habit #5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
A novice educational writer enters a party, and after listening for a couple minutes, he notices that it is a gathering of like-minded educators who are socializing and discussing important issues of the day. The newbie thinks, “ This is my chance to network and connect with as many people as possible!” Without so much as a greeting, he runs around the room and thrusts recent copies of his article into people’s hands. What is the likelihood that anyone in the room is going to read the article, let alone enter into an important dialogue with this party-crasher? By the way—did I mention that his BOSS is somewhere in the room?
The Internet has allowed like-minded individuals to connect globally and create self-governing social networks that hold meetings and gatherings at all times of the day or night. In some of the social networking sites, like Twitter, the din of the crowd can be so loud that important voices are drowned out by the incessant noise. When looking at the narrative above, one would suppose that the author who entered the room and thrust articles at people would be disregarded as just another loud mouth.
I am a relatively new professional blogger, but I have taught language arts skills in a public school for going on 14 years. Former students would laugh at me if I attempted to act in the same manner as the aforementioned party-crasher. Although I must admit, I have recently crashed many discussions on Twitter trying to populate this blog. My students would remind me of a previous lesson that focused on the quote, “Seek first to understand, then be understood, ” found in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey.
Social networking creates an interesting environment for participants looking to network with like-minded educational professionals. Usually, the participant is sitting in isolation working on a computer without any established professional boundaries. This personal isolation of the physical space may have a negative impact on an individual’s perception of appropriate and positive social interactions. It is helpful for me to imagine my boss looking over my shoulder while I prepare a post for publication. It is difficult to predict who might wonder into a social networking event and listen in on a conversation.
The story featured at the beginning of this post is an illustrative example of a typical forum or social networking space online. When entering the room, one must listen to the conversation and pick up the narrative “thread.” After an understanding for the tone of the space, the guest can then enter into conversations with members. After trust and respect are established, a request to read a blog or other posting is acceptable. I learned the hard way; although networking is valuable in professional life, one must never forget to always be mindful of positive social skills.
Gregory M. McGough, M.Ed.
CII Chief Academic Officer