Thursday, May 26, 2011
Armchair BEA: The Six Principles For Cultivating Relationships
For me, the process of making and sustaining relationships here parallels what I'd do in real life. The first two principles I follow as my guidance system for everyday living, and although - like most people - I practice them imperfectly, I do practice them consciously, and I become more skillful every day.
* Be genuinely yourself. This may manifest a tad differently online than in my personal life, because here I hold primarily one role: action-reader. In real life, I must practice to honor and cultivate my true self in the context of friend, partner, daughter, community member, sister, teacher, and many others as well. Here, I believe it's about creating and maintaining a blogging persona that is always congruent and genuine, even when it may be offering up only one view of my multi-faceted identity. But in every case, striving to act with integrity toward who I am - even if it's a self that manifests exclusively in cyberspace - comes first, and naturally leads to solid relationships.
* Celebrate by offering gratitude for others' every positive action. On this blog, and on ActionReaders.com, I consciously set aside time every single day to respond to comments, visit followers' blogs, and write on ActionReaders members' walls, all to offer enthusiasm, support, and gratitude. And I make every effort to write to authors whose books I've admired or enjoyed, offering my specific thanks for their achievements and the value they bring to my life. It's an entirely joyful process for me, and one of the most important ways I can change the world without attempting to change other people. And clearly, it strengthens relationships.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Although when I first read the book, I didn't expect it to have a particularly profound effect on my conduct, it has. I suspect that its power lies in the simplicity and universality of the principles: One can use these in every situation, to help guide every choice and action.
* Be impeccable with your word. Here at WhatSheRead, and also at ActionReaders.com, I strive to commit only to actions I intend to take, and take quickly. That means I don't ask for an ARC copy or participate in a blog tour unless I know I will have the time to read and provide a thoughtful, specific review in a timely fashion. Result: Solid relationships with publishers. And I don't make comments on others' blogs unless I have something specific and genuine to add to the conversation, even if that means I simply offer my gratitude for specific aspects of their blog - or their character - without referencing details of a particular post. Again: Solid relationships with other bloggers.
* Don't take anything personally. That means I let go of attachment to how many followers I have or how often a particular post is visited or how many members have signed up this week at ActionReaders.com. If I were blogging or creating a ning for personal gain, perhaps I'd be tempted. And it's not that I don't strive to offer ideas and reviews of value to a large number of people: I do. And certainly I'm mindful of the need for marketing, especially as ActionReaders grows into a worldwide, world-changing force. But taking these developments personally wouldn't help me to maintain my enthusiasm, so practicing this principle keeps positive energy flowing through all my actions here on the interwebs.
* Don't make assumptions. ...about the character of 'the person behind the curtain' of blogs I visit; or that just because we differ in opinion on one book we have little to offer each other; or that if their blog is formatted in an unusual way or isn't easy to navigate on a particular day, it's because they lack technical skills (as many of us know from recent Blogger snafus, this particular assumption just isn't helpful!); or that a publisher won't want to offer me an ARC because my blog's too new; or even that just because I don't see "direct hits" on a post, it's not been visited (as it may well have been if a visitor scrolls through a weeks' posts); or that a blog that has fewer or more followers than I is more or less 'successful' than mine. All of these are potentially dangerous assumptions that could strain relationships. So I try hard to avoid them.
* Always do your best. I review every post five times, at least. Yes, errors do creep in, but I can let them go, knowing that I have offered my best effort. And - with the exception of time-sensitive hops like these - I wait at least three days between writing and posting just to make sure I have the emotional distance to edit the final version with clarity and compassion. If I can't make the time to take this care, I simply don't post. And, of course, I do my best to keep both of my sites looking clean and professional.
So there they are, my six principles for cultivating relationships online. I suspect every one of you visiting today practices them too, and trust that they provide yet another cause for solidarity and celebration among us all.
MFB, (Oh, and that's my bonus 7th principle: Strive to 'fail better' every day.)