Keys to Being Social: Courage Image: Creative Commons by BK, on Flickr

Keys to Being Social: Courage

Recently, at a meetup, a lovely woman (yes, not only 20 somethings are into social) confessed she was worried she wasn’t keeping up with the trends and wanted to try [insert new, fancy, social platform here] but didn’t know how. The men responded with very logical answers about making time, putting it on your daily agenda, and fitting it into your schedule. Sounds right.

As a woman, my intuition kicked in.

Raising my hand in a very non-powerful, meek way, I waited patiently for my turn to speak. I turned around, looked her in the eye, and said, “It sounds to me like you’re motivated but afraid. Maybe you need [the social media version of] a walking buddy.”

Boom.  I saw in her eyes that I had hit the nail on its proverbial head.


It’s a horrible, silent predator that cripples to the point of defeat, forcing us to retreat into a cave. Fear leaves us feeling powerless to change the things we want to improve in our lives.

My friends often describe me as the “penguin who jumps off of the ice first” but that’s just with social media. The truth is I often don’t try uncomfortable things without a little prompting – either internal or external.

The “Keys to Being Social” series has focused heavily on strategy and how it relates to our character. With this post we’ll focus on courage. What does courage have to do with social media? It is the lack of courage that keeps people from either fully engaging or prevents them from experimentation. It does take a bit of bravado to pull off humor and some courage to try new things.

Walking Buddy

The “walking buddy” comes into play at this point. Do you have a mentor? How about a support network? A friend or mentor who can encourage you is an important part of our lives. In the digital age, ironically, we are able to work more independently and feel as though we don’t need others (working at home being one of those trends). Yet, companies like Yahoo have realized that when their employees work at home, the company suffers in the innovation department. Why? It’s the lack of creativity.

Wait. What?

All throughout school I despised group projects. It always came down to me being the one who does all of the work. What suffers in individual work is brainstorming, checking ideas, conflict (it can be a good thing), and the support you get when an idea clicks.

I’ve learned to brainstorm with my coworkers about company blog posts (how else will you learn about stormwater retention?). I bounce ideas off of my husband who is a well-educated, open minded person. Above that, I have a blogging version of a walking buddy – my oft-quoted, life-long, best ROI of Twitter, friend, Carol Stephen. Either online or off we’ll bounce ides around like brightly-colored plastic balls in a bounce house, allowing ourselves to be silly. It has been a fruitful relationship. I challenged her to blog in the first place; she challenges me to blog more often. This whole series has come about because of her encouragement.

External Courage

Encouragement. Yes. We all need it. Do you think about what the word encourage means? It means to give courage – to fill with courage. Each and every one of us has the power to encourage someone else in a way that will help them succeed.

The bequeathing of courage can be done both online and off. Frankly, praise should be public and correction should be private. My think-tank does this. There is no way I’d be who I am today without their support (encouragement).

My friend Pam Aungst describes how a “Secret Group” on Facebook changed her life:

“What happened after that is indescribable. This group of women have become WAY more than just ‘Twitter friends.’ We have personally and professionally gotten to know each other on a deeper level than ever expected. We share about personal joys and issues, as well as professional successes and challenges. These women feel like family to me.”

Family. Yes. That feeling comes because of acceptance. Acceptance is what makes people feel safe enough to share their fears. This is why it is so important to be involved in a peer group.

Internal Courage

Some things are comfortable. We don’t need courage for those. Those are easy. But when faced with a challenge, we need to tap into and conjure up the confidence that comes from inner strength – courage.

On being shy, James Victore, in a 99u editorial, “Risk-Taking Op-Ed: Confidence vs Shyness,” states:

“My own definition of confidence is ‘being there.’ This means being in the moment and acting with intention, not distracted by second thoughts or being ‘in your head.’ Not listening to your inner critics or assuming what others are thinking of you, judging or presupposing ‘their’ reaction instead of just moving forward—and confidently.” [Emphasis added]

That’s a kind of internal courage lifehack. Be in the moment. Don’t worry about what people will think. Just create.

As social media strategists, many times our aim is to either find out what people think or to shape what people think. You can’t start the first draft, however, until you open up your laptop. You have to start by starting.

Internal courage is made up of both faith and experience and is mixed with our determination.

Do we think of brave people as naturally brave? Maybe. But maybe it’s just sheer determination. You know, like the ant who moved the rubber tree plant. It could be your outlook. Do you have the ant’s “high hopes?”

Faith can start externally but has to be nurtured internally.

“Fake It ‘Til You Become It”

In Amy Cuddy‘s “Your body language shapes who you are” TED Talk she describes how people actually feel more in control, more courageous after changing their posture for just two minutes.

“We are also influenced by our non-verbals: our thoughts and our feelings and our physiology. … When you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to feel powerful.” Amy Cuddy

Through the 21 minute talk, which I highly recommend, she gives her own story of transforming from feeling powerless to feeling powerful and how we, also, can transform the way we think about ourselves.

“Don’t fake it ’til you make it. Fake it until you become it.” Amy Cuddy Tweet This

Defining Moments

Everyone, at some point, at some level, experiences fear. Naturally, that will translate into tweets and posts on social media as people often share their anxieties.

How are you going to respond to those tweets?

This is your defining moment. This is where your character expresses itself into tactics. Will you reply with a word of encouragement? Will you start an argument? It’s up to you.

You can either help them escape that dark pit of fear by throwing down the rope of kindness, empathy, and maybe even accountability, or you can walk away. Your response defines who you are – it defines your character.

Sound Off

Did I hit a nerve? Am I out in left field?  Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet.

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