Micro Messaging and Us

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Micro Messaging and Us

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A while back, I sat down for some video training for a new job. Much of the training contained the standard stuff one would expect to hear, but there was one section I found very interesting. It was about micro-messaging, I had not heard this term before, but once I understood what it meant I recognized it as something I had experienced from others in the past. I have surely done it myself as well, which is what made me stop and take notice.

Within micro-managing there are sub-categories such as micro-Inequities, micro-affirmations and micro-advantages.

According to Wikipedia and Mary Rowe who wrote articles in the 1970s on the topic, the categories are summed up like this:

Micro-inequity is a theory that refers to hypothesized ways in which individuals are either singled out, overlooked, ignored, or otherwise discounted based on an unchangeable characteristic such as race or gender. 

Micro-Inequities are subtle, often unconscious, messages that devalue, discourage and impair…performance. They are conveyed through facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, choice of words, nuance and syntax. Repeated sending, or receiving, of Micro-Inequities can erode, commitment, loyalty and have the cumulative effect of diminishing overall…performance.

Micro-advantages are subtle, often unconscious, messages that motivate, inspire and enhance …performance. They are conveyed through facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, choice of words, nuance and syntax. They may lead to greater self-esteem and improved performance.

Micro-affirmation, in Rowe's writing, is the reverse phenomenon. Micro-affirmations are subtle or apparently small acknowledgements of a person's value and accomplishments. They may take the shape of public recognition of the person, "opening a door," referring positively to the work of a person, commending someone on the spot, or making a happy introduction. Apparently "small" affirmations form the basis of successful mentoring, successful colleagueship's and of most caring relationships. They may lead to greater self-esteem and improved performance. (Wikipedia.com - Work place referencing words removed for purposes of article)

While these studies were focused on the workplace, it made me realize that these messages (both positive and negative) are part of our everyday communication  in dealing with those at church and in our daily lives as well.

The video I watched played out scenarios explaining these behaviors and also explained that oftentimes the person using micro-messaging doesn't even realize they are doing it. Something like this might happen: "Sam" is speaking to John at church. What is communicated is cordial and seemingly friendly. John thinks Sam and he are close friends. Then "Bob" joins the conversation. Sam greets him warmly, slaps him on the back and carries on very excitedly and in a jovial way. The first conversation was cordial, but when Bob arrives, John is sort of pushed out of the picture. He observes the second conversation and he realizes he is not within this man's inner circle and now feels devalued.

There is nothing outwardly wrong with this scenario. Sam obviously has no idea he has injured John in any way. The point is that John now feels devalued. This could have been avoided by a simple inclusion into the second conversation.

Imagine another possible scenario. A group of people is trying to plan upcoming events for a church social, a family reunion, or a charity event.  "Susie" comes up with a great idea for what she terms "Eating after dark" and fills them in on some basic ideas she has. Those heading the group cut her off and begin to make excuses for why this would not be a good idea. They don't care for Susie and consciously or not, choose to throw her idea out. "Joe" (a popular guy) realizes this is a great idea, but first agrees with the group that Susie's idea is bad. He then reintroduces the same idea using different language and renames it "Dining under the stars". The group immediately thinks this is an intriguing idea and wants more information.

There is no difference in the two ideas and Susie knows it, but the damage is done. She feels her idea has been stolen and then to top it off, the group has accepted it coming from someone else. Susie now feels dejected. She will not put herself out there again to be humiliated and because of past similar experiences, may decide to withdraw completely from the group. This may be an extreme example, but looking at both scenarios, you can see how we could do this in other small ways.  Maybe someone's idea is shot down and then reintroduced the following month or year and accepted. This would have the same negative effect on the person who originally offered it up if there wasn't a good reason for not initially using the idea.

Another scenario I viewed was of two women talking. In the first, one of the women was cold and overall came off rude in her responses. This was not because of what was said, but because the woman did not smile and spoke in an "I don't care" tone. Then they replayed the same scenario; the only thing that changed was the way in which the woman expressed herself. She smiled and her voice sounded caring, which made her come off as more pleasant and welcoming.  

I must say that, when viewing this scene play out, I disliked the woman in the first scenario very much. I felt tense and emotionally antagonized. The emotion of the same woman in the second scenario however, made me feel open and conversational. I would feel welcomed by this person in the future.  

Matthew 22:39 Matthew 22:39And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
American King James Version×
says we should love our neighbor as ourselves. How can we show that love if we are rejecting someone, even inadvertently? The key is to be more mindful in social settings. There is wisdom in being aware of what we are doing and trying to do better. We need to pray that God would show us if we are unconsciously doing something negative, so that we are aware of it and change.

Agur was a wise man and in Proverbs 30:32 Proverbs 30:32If you have done foolishly in lifting up yourself, or if you have thought evil, lay your hand on your mouth.
American King James Version×
he said, "If you have been foolish in exalting yourself, or if you have devised evil, put your hand on your mouth".(NKJV throughout)  In other words, it's better to stop talking than to feel we are better than someone or to plot against them. If we hurt someone by neglect or by outright snubbing them, then we have put ourselves in a higher position than them in our own mind and by doing that, we have devised evil.

Christ told us, "These things I command you, that you love one another." (John 15:17 John 15:17These things I command you, that you love one another.
American King James Version×
) We cannot say we are showing love towards others if we cause another person pain.  We need to be careful to not subtly turn our backs on others. It's easy to do when we are busy doing other things; when we feel uncomfortable with people because they are different, or because we disagree with them on any given subject.  

We may have also been raised to think a certain way about some people. It's not necessarily something we believe, but something that has been set within us that we find difficult to overcome. We may be internally put off by how someone acts or it may be as basic as being uncomfortable around someone with a disability or of a different race.

I am not saying that we have to agree with everyone, or that our discomfort with others will easily disappear. What I am saying is that we can learn to overcome whatever it is that causes us to err against someone else.  We often need God's intervention to do so. We should pray for the strength to change our attitudes, the way we see things, or that God would show us our negative inclinations.  Jesus Christ came upon lepers, lame, blind, ill, injured and a variety of sinners. He never turned away, nor did He treat them as unimportant or unworthy. His silent message was of inclusion. What He did do is show them love, patience and forgiveness. We must learn to do the same. I highly recommend a study on the subject of micro-messaging. Through it we can gain insight into how to communicate in a loving manner so we, as Christians can try to do good to all.

For more on how you can be more aware, request the free study aid, Making Life Work.