The rise of social media and the digital age has taught us to speak our minds. This is a wonderful thing, as freedom of speech is one of the core tenets of a democratic society. However, it seems that somewhere along the way we’ve lost two key skills: the ability to listen and to respond.

The news has become flooded with controversial topics; it’s no wonder we feel the need to voice our opinions all over social media. However, there are certain topics that require us to be level-headed and to think before we speak.

Here are a few tips on how to communicate effectively:

* Simply ask yourself, “Why am I engaging in this particular conversation?” If the answer is that you want to voice your own opinion, or that you want to try and ‘win’ an argument, then it is unlikely that you’ll find any merit in an opposing viewpoint. This renders the conversation useless, as both parties are simply speaking ‘at’ each other, with neither one willing to lend an ear.

* It is important to understand the difference between a response and a reaction. Due to the immediate nature of social media, we’ve become accustomed to instantly reacting to the messages communicated to us. However, when engaging in a conversation, one should take time to digest what has just been said, then respond thoughtfully rather than reacting instantaneously.

* Remember that the point of engagement is to exchange ideas and possibly grow from the experience. If both parties are not prepared to listen to one another, chances are conflict will occur.

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be on your way to facilitating fruitful dialogue.

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