Not long ago I was driving a five-year-old grandson to kindergarten when he asked me how to make friends. That’s ironic because networking is hardly my strong suit, but he doesn’t know that. And I guess that’s what kids expect grandfathers to know, so I really wanted to help him. I tried. It sounded like a lot of clichés to me, but then I’m not five years old.
I think it’s about Empathy. That’s too big a word for a kid, so I called it feeling what the other kids feel. You have to be a friend to have a friend; the golden rule; kindness. etc. My mother would have said “put yourself in the other kid’s place.” My mother-in-law called it “see yourself through the other kids’ eyes.”
Just a few hours later, in a group of mostly-baby-boomer types drawn together by interest in entrepreneurship and possible angel investment, Twitter came up. I like it and I said so. Somebody asked me for supposed secrets of success in Twitter.
Without actually thinking of that moment with my grandson earlier that day, I gave them these five tips for success with Twitter. And as I did so, it struck me that it’s mostly the same thing: empathy.
- Offer something other people want. In Twitter specifically, nobody cares what you’re watching on television or eating for lunch. It’s publishing, not babbling. Use twitter to offer people quotes, humor, ideas, and – my favorite by far – useful links they can follow up on.
- When in doubt, treat others like you want them to treat you. Teasing, mocking, insulting, shouting (all caps) are not appreciated.
- When you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything.
- When you’re angry, wait. Breathe. Think about it before you do it. Public arguments are ugly. And (when published on Twitter, at least) they live forever. Angry words are not biodegradable.
- Return favors. When somebody does you a favor, remember it, and do them a favor back. Thank you is nice but a favor in return is more effective. In twitter at least, too much thanking becomes clutter. Twitter involves a lot of passing other people’s tweets (posts) along, called re-tweeting, so when somebody likes what you’ve published (tweeted) there and passes it to others, find something of theirs to pass along (re-tweet).
The next time I was with my grandson, I gave him almost this same list, revised only slightly, for kindergarten use. And while I’d like to report that he took it to heart and he’s now the life of the proverbial kindergarten party… well, at least we’re both still trying.
(Image: My own photo. All rights reserved. © Timothy J. Berry)