A recent cyber bullying incident instigated by a renown blogger in the natural birth and parenting community has me reflecting strongly on the importance of gentle advocacy when interacting with others. Though my disappointment is palpable due to the extent of their hostility towards those who only encouraged maintaining a safe environment to seek non-critical support in, I realise that bringing attention to this person directly is counter-productive. So instead I would like to focus on promoting positive changes around activism by highlighting the importance of compassionate communication.
Being an activist myself within the blogosphere and in my daily living, I have come across ineffective advocacy occasionally by well-meaning people who unfortunately push their personal agenda unnecessarily and even unkindly at times, when sharing information with others online or in person. Having gone through the process myself, I can understand the difficulty in restraining oneself when passionate about a particular subject. However it is essential that in order to exact positive changes within our communities we must first cultivate empathy, acceptance, and authenticity when networking. There is definitely a learning curve to this approach but the positive results are worth the effort.
Usually the underlying intention when sharing knowledge is altruistic but this can easily be obscured if we fail to take into account the very real and valid feelings of the intended target and meeting them where they are in their lives. People are generally not receptive to those who push knowledge and opinions down their throat, no matter if the information can be transformative in some way. A person who feels condemned for their choices or life circumstances rather than emotionally supported will become defensive and moreover, hurt, if we lack in empathy while interacting with them. Facts may be neutral, but people are not. We all have our own experiences that shape our thoughts, our emotions, and our choices. We are all at different stages in our lives; having to deal with different circumstances and issues. The one thing we do have in common is the need for amity and genuine support. Parenthood is challenging in itself, and can be even more isolating when our community passes judgement on our efforts instead of offering encouragement.
Really, not all situations call for unsolicited advice and we must weigh these encounters carefully. Most of us know the aggravation that accompanies when relatives do just that and how it undermines our life choices for our families. It is no different when friends or even strangers do the same when we are not even seeking that information particularly – or are even capable of being receptive to it at the time. We must ask ourselves then if getting involved will genuinely do any good and be genuinely helpful, or if the time is not ripe for yielding positive results. It is much more effective within a relationship to give the impression that when they are ready and willing, we are a safe person to discuss the topic with. Until then, it may be more beneficial to simply offer sympathy for their situation and allow them to diffuse their emotions in a secure environment. Otherwise we are frankly just insisting on pushing an agenda to make ourselves feel good rather than be genuinely supportive and helpful. The defensiveness and hostility that often results then prevents any learning to occur and are left with negative feelings unnecessarily.
The proverb "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" applies strongly in regards to any kind of advocacy. When approached in a positive and compassionate manner, communication lines remain open and people are then receptive to new information. If perceived as being genuinely caring and considerate, defenses lessen and profound conversations can then occur. Simply living our truths within our own families and teaching through example is more than effective enough in the meantime.
Many others have written about this topic and offer excellent things to consider when interacting with others effectively. I have compiled a list of them here for perusal to encourage personal growth in this area for those interested in becoming gentle advocates for their causes.
The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy by Pandamoly
Compassionate Advocacy by Code Name: Mama
Compassionate Advocacy by Authentic Parenting
Non-Judgment by Consensual Living
10 Tips to Communicate Respectfully by Code Name:Mama
Passionate and Compassionate…How do We do It? by Becoming Crunchy
Kind Matters by love Notes Mama
Saying "I'm Right and You're Wrong" Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause by Loving Almost Every moment
A Little Light Conversation by Touchstonez
Agree to Disagree Online and Remain Respectful by boobie Time
Compelling without Repelling by Hobo Mama
Natural Parenting: Advocacy by Example by monkey Butt Junction
I Am the Change by Let's Take the Metro
Struggling with Advocacy by McApril
The Importance of Advocating Compassionately by My Semi-Crunchy Life
Being Gracious with Parenting Advice by My World Edenwild
Explain, Smile, Escape by Anktangle
Assuming Positive Intent by Consensual Living
Accentuate the Positive by Fine and Fair
The Thing You Don't Know by Becoming Crunchy
Peacefully Keeping My Cool by Pandamoly
Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love by Nigh Needs Attachment
I will not hide behind my persona by Attached at the Boob
Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut by I Thought I Knew Mama
Compassionately advocating for my parenting choices by Fleeting Moments
Just Be; Just Do. by Anktangle
Formula Feeders and Bottle Users Welcome by Hobo Mama
Mama Bashing by Dreaming Aloud
Empathy and respect by Zen mummy
Hiding in my Grace Cave by Hobo Mama
Everyday Superheroes by Code Name: Mama
Parenting as a mirror by Kate Wicker