Suzanne Monroe: “Here Are 5 Things We Can Each Do To Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder &…

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Suzanne Monroe: “Here Are 5 Things We Can Each Do To Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder & More Tolerant Place”

Real-life arguments can be tough, but they can be resolved more easily than online arguments because likely you will see the person again. With online attacks, you can turn off your computer and never revisit the post again. You can essentially ignore the situation by shutting it out physically. But what you can’t always do is resolve it emotionally. Even if you log out, you can still feel the feelings of the attack. If you don’t resolve it in a healthy way or have a way to process the argument, the effects of an online attack can be longer-lasting and even more damaging to your psyche.

As a part of my interview series about the things we can each do to make social media and the internet a kinder and more tolerant place, I had the pleasure to interview Suzanne Monroe. Suzanne is Founder and CEO of the International Association of Wellness Professionals (IAWP), a global education company that trains and certifies Wellness Coaches.

Suzanne is the Director of the IAWP Wellness Coach Certification program which provides a world-class education from the industry’s most renowned experts in holistic health, natural medicine, wellness, coaching, entrepreneurship and holistic business. She is a leader in the conscious business movement, that includes creating success by aligning your passion with your health.

Suzanne started the IAWP to inspire others to share the important message of holistic health and wellness while creating a career following their passion and purpose. Today the IAWP is a thriving community of over 25,000 wellness professionals worldwide that are a part of the IAWP mission to change the health and wellness of people everywhere.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

My first career was in the pharmaceutical industry, first as an international marketing consultant and later as a sales representative. In 2007, I started my own health and wellness coaching business. I started with a small practice as a Wellness Coach to individuals and organizations, then I grew to a professional association and multi-million dollar, global education company (The International Association of Wellness Professionals) where we train and certify Wellness Coaches worldwide.

I quit my career in the pharmaceutical industry because, after seven years in a corporate environment, I felt something was missing. I had a deep desire to do work that was meaningful and to discover my purpose in life. In my personal life, I was passionate about holistic health and wellness. While working in the pharmaceutical industry, I had difficulty reconciling the push of prescription pills from 9–5 with my personal practices of using natural medicine, experimenting with various holistic therapies and visiting local farmer’s markets on the weekend. Finally, the desire to follow my passion in life and align my daily activities with what I truly valued pushed me forward to leave my day job and start my own business. I’ve never regretted it!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

An interesting story not a lot of people know is that when I was first getting started in holistic health and wellness coaching, I still had my old day job as a pharmaceutical rep for a while. I like to say I was pushing pills by day and healing with herbs by night. Essentially I was moonlighting as a wellness coach to get my business off the ground and running while I still had my 9–5 job that paid the bills. It was a time that allowed me to gain confidence and build a solid plan that would support my passion.

The only problem was, living what seemed at the time to be two opposite lives, I felt like a fraud. I worried that people would find out that what I did by day didn’t match up with my new role in wellness. My biggest fear was that one of my new wellness coaching clients would see me in my business suit with my box of pills and marketing brochures in a doctor’s office and the truth would be discovered.

What I realized years later is that being a part of the traditional healthcare field did not take away from what I was doing in my new career, but actually added to it. I was able to see both sides of the story and understand from an insider’s perspective what was going on behind the scenes for both patients and physicians. While I didn’t enjoy my old career personally and always felt something was not in alignment for me, I’m grateful now for that experience as it helped shaped my path into holistic wellness and the work I do today.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first got started as an entrepreneur, my office was a little room that was part of my garage. It was freezing in the winter, hot in the summer and unfortunately wet in the spring. It certainly wasn’t built to be a professional office and it wasn’t ideal working conditions but it was all I had. The mistake I made was never taking a picture of my first office. At the time, I didn’t want anyone to see it as it was not pretty. I concerned myself with people thinking it didn’t match up to the business I was building, so I only met clients and colleagues at off-site locations.

The lesson I learned is that it doesn’t matter what things look like on the outside. My office was not ideal, but I had an inner vision — creating a global community of Wellness Coaches who transform the health and wellness of every human being on our planet.

This lesson of looking at not just the outside, but the inside is an important thing to keep in mind, especially when we think about social media. People tend to post the best photos of themselves and their life. And it’s easy to look at someone and think that they have it all together or that another person has advantages or something that you don’t have. Perusing your feed can make you feel like you are behind or not as successful as others. But the truth is, we all had to start somewhere. And if your “somewhere” is, however, your life looks right now, then embrace it. If you have a big vision on the inside, don’t worry about what things look like on the outside right now. Start with what you have and keep moving toward your dreams. And don’t forget to take a picture!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

One of the most exciting projects we’ve been working on over here is the launch of a new course within our certification curriculum called IAWP Wellness Messengers. This course trains our coaches on how to be visible and show up authentically as they share their message of wellness with others. One aspect of this training includes how to interact on social media in a positive way and how to provide value and resources to support others, rather than simply “selling your stuff”. I think it’s a truly powerful skill to have in our times so that those who are leading and supporting others can be positive examples.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Have you ever been publicly shamed or embarrassed on social media? Can you share with our readers what that experience felt like?

Oh yes, I have! Someone once called me a fraud on social media. This brought me right back to that moment I just shared earlier in this interview about the start of my entrepreneurial journey where I actually felt like a fraud. So for someone to call this out to me, it brought up that old fear of “Did I have enough knowledge to really help people?”

Rather than buying into my own fears, I noticed the coincidence of these two events and realized this was a full-circle moment for me to get clarity on what the word “fraud” really meant for me. And what I discovered was that we all worry whether we know enough to be able to support and lead others. It’s this worry that we aren’t good enough that holds us back from making a difference.

Once the initial shock of the person’s comment wore off, I realized this was a pivotal moment for me to understand myself better. And I believe this lesson is important for anyone who wants to share a message or help others. Because we all have a similar fear at one point or another — do we know enough to help others? Are we valuable enough to make a difference?

Today in our Wellness Coach Certification program, we’ve integrated this key lesson into our curriculum to help other coaches who are on the path to sharing their passion and their message with others. We show them how they don’t have to be the perfect expert and they don’t have to know everything to be able to help and inspire someone. We call this lesson “Be the guide, not the guru.” Being the guide is about being curious and learning where another person is coming from, rather than shutting down or staying removed as the “know it all expert”.

What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?

In this instance when someone called me a fraud, I saw that not only was it healing for myself when I made the connection to my own self-worth but that I could go a step further and practice what I preach with “Be the guide, not the guru”. To be the guide, I had to get curious and ask what was really going on for this person? What was behind her comment? What fears might she have? Why did this person feel they needed to lash out at me? What was happening in their own life that they were posting negative comments about me?

To be the guide, rather than a removed guru, I also had to make a personal connection. Rather than distancing myself or deleting the post or comment (which believe me I wanted to!), I could do something different. I could lean in rather than lean out. So I reached out to this person.

Ultimately I was able to have a phone call with the person. We discovered a miscommunication and misunderstanding that was easily resolved through a real conversation. Today, that person has participated in multiple pieces of training with our association and has become one of our greatest success stories. I’m so glad we were able to both step in as guides rather than gurus so we could make a real connection and shift the outcome.

Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?

I’ve never posted anything that was mean or harsh, but I did something even worse. I threatened to post something harsh if someone didn’t listen to me and change their point of view. I was leveraging my social media base to instill someone to pay attention to me. This is something I regret because it’s not a positive way of communicating and is not how I want to act as a person.

Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?

I had to remind myself again of my own principle of “Be the guide, not the guru.” A guru posts their opinions and thoughts without regard to what people will think or how it will affect others. It’s a dead end. The guru distances himself or herself and likely won’t respond or engage in conversations. They are the end-all, and the “buck stops here” is the approach.

But a guide is someone who shows up to really help others and make real connections. Guides are there to get to the heart of the matter and make a difference. In this instance, it was a great opportunity for me to take a look at myself and my own actions and to make a more personal connection with the company that I was dealing with and engage more authentically rather than forcefully. We were able to find common ground and resolve our issues rather than act out of anger.

When one reads the comments on Youtube or Instagram, or the trending topics on Twitter, a great percentage of them are critical, harsh, and hurtful. The people writing the comments may feel like they are simply tapping buttons on a keyboard, but to the one on the receiving end of the comment, it is very different. This may be intuitive, but I feel that it will be instructive to spell it out. Can you help illustrate to our readers what the recipient of a public online critique might be feeling?

It’s easy to forget that a person behind a post is a real person. A person with a family, with a job, with feelings. A person who wakes up every day as you do and eats breakfast. When people post negative comments through social media, I think they forget that there is a real person behind the company or behind the post that will be affected by their comments. They forget for a moment in time that their comments may be taken to heart and that the receiver does indeed have a heart.

We’ve all had the experience of saying something we regretted to people we care about and then having to say sorry about it later. I urge people to pause before posting. Take a few moments to picture the real person who will read your post and how they will receive it. Wait a little while until you cool off and then decide if you still must post your comment in the same tone or language.

Do you think a verbal online attack feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?

Real-life arguments can be tough, but they can be resolved more easily than online arguments because likely you will see the person again. With online attacks, you can turn off your computer and never revisit the post again. You can essentially ignore the situation by shutting it out physically. But what you can’t always do is resolve it emotionally. Even if you log out, you can still feel the feelings of the attack. If you don’t resolve it in a healthy way or have a way to process the argument, the effects of an online attack can be longer-lasting and even more damaging to your psyche.

What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?

Because an online interaction cannot always be sorted out through healthy communication, both parties can be left hurt. Both the shamer and the shamee. The shamer stays in a place of righteousness and never gets to hear the other person out. The shamee is left to deal with their emotions on their own. These can become emotional wounds that we say we have moved on from, but are just hiding underneath the surface. I think we might even store these feelings in a little box in our brain called “Unresolved social media arguments”, where they fester away.

With that said, it’s important to do your own part and to show up as the best version of you. When you show up authentically and come from your best intentions, you can know you did your part. And if you do that, despite what anyone says, you can feel good about how things go, whether you receive negative or positive feedback. You can’t control what others think and how they act, but you can focus on your own actions.

Many people who troll others online, or who leave harsh comments, can likely be kind and sweet people in “real life”. These people would likely never publicly shout at someone in a room filled with 100 people. Yet, on social media, when you embarrass someone, you are doing it in front of thousands of even millions of people, and it is out there forever. Can you give 3 or 4 reasons why social media tends to bring out the worst in people; why people are meaner online than they are in person?

Our fingers are faster than our filter –

Let’s admit it, we all have mean or negative thoughts from time to time. Normally we have a filter to process things before we speak up. But on social media, our fingers are faster than our filter. We might type our first reaction and hit “post” before we had time to think it over.

Screens are shameless –

When we have a screen between us, we feel less shame about what we say, as if it’s an invisible barrier that stands between us and our comments, somehow protecting us. People in a group conversation or thread may not know who we are personally, so we may feel that saying something harsh doesn’t directly impact another as it would in person.

Freedom to fight 

For some people, being able to say what they really mean without thinking how it will impact others might give them some freedom. Maybe at work they have to keep their mouth closed or in front of their children they try to put on a happy face, so when the moment comes with some “freedom to fight” or say whatever they’re thinking, they just can’t help themselves. Nothing is holding them back and it’s the one place they won’t have to deal with backlash for saying whatever comes to mind.

If you had the power to influence thousands of people about how to best comment and interact online, what would you suggest to them? What are your “5 things we should each do to help make social media and the internet, a kinder and more tolerant place”? Can you give a story or an example for each?

Don’t Fear the Feedback — If you’re going to participate in social media and put yourself out there to the world, prepare yourself mentally that you may be a target for negative comments. There are opposing views in the world and if you choose to share your voice, there will be others who disagree. With that said, don’t fear the feedback. For anyone reading that wants to share a message through social media, I want them to know that receiving negative comments does not have to break you down. Negative comments can ultimately be a great opportunity to understand one another better as hopefully, my story shared in this article conveys.

Pause Before Posting — Don’t let your fingers decide your timing. You may have something burning you want to say or a comment you feel is appropriate, but always take the time to pause before posting. I try to digest people’s posts offline before I respond online. I step away, do something entirely different, and shut off my phone or computer for awhile. The space and time creates a natural barrier and gives me time to consider a thoughtful response.

Make Real Connections — Don’t rely on social media as your only source of connection and conversations. Make real connections with people in your local community where you can engage in a two-way dialogue. This creates a safe place to digest your experiences and hear yourself talking out loud. I personally enjoy meeting with a close friend weekly to digest life experiences and process things out loud.

Practice Kindness — We can all add a dose of kindness to our everyday interactions. Imagine what it would be like to think of one kind thing to say to everyone you interact with. Now, extend that simple practice to social media. What if you only commented something kind to every post that caught your attention? How would that shift the conversation? Personally I can become bogged down in social media and may even avoid posting anything. But recently I tried practicing kindness by making kind comments on all posts I engaged with over a 24 hour period. It was uplifting for me and I think impacted those who engaged with my posts, even if in a small way.

Be the Guide not the Guru– I’ve shared this lesson throughout this interview, but it’s the most important one to remember. As a guide, you can be curious, ask questions and learn more about others rather than assume a position of being right and the expert. A great example of this is one of our IAWP Certified Wellness Coaches who connected with someone through social media about their personal health challenges. Rather than telling the person what they should do, the Wellness Coach asked a lot of questions to really understand what was coming up for the person. Through this process, she learned that the person’s experience was different than she initially supposed and she was able to guide her to the best resources.

Freedom of speech prohibits censorship in the public square. Do you think that applies to social media? Do American citizens have a right to say whatever they want within the confines of a social media platform owned by a private enterprise?

Yes, we should have freedom of speech even on social media. But it would be great if everyone was nicer and kinder and took time to be more thoughtful about how they respond to one another. The best thing we can do as individuals and leaders is to be an example for others by how we use social media. You can’t expect everyone to act like you, but how you show up is what matters at the end of your day. The more people take personal responsibility, the greater the collective shift we will see.

If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or remove hurtful attacks?

I wouldn’t stop people from making hurtful comments but I do think negative uses of social media should be flagged and called out. We can’t stop people from being hurtful with their words, but we can tell them it’s wrong to treat others this way. I would create a new Empathy emoji people could push when these kinds of comments are made so that the receiver could see how many people understood that others are standing with them, that others see how hard this might be or how hurtful this was. Instead of likes, or just happy or sad emojis, I think adding a “Hey, I’m with you, this was hurtful” or “This is not respectful” empathy sign would be nice. At least I would use it!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love Theodore Roosevelt’s quote made better known in recent years by Brene Brown who used it as the foundation of her book Daring Greatly. It’s a great quote as it relates to this interview’s topic, too. For those who are sharing a message on social media and are “in the arena”, it’s a good reminder to not take critical comments too personally, as usually the person commenting is not in the arena.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Recently I was quoted in Oprah’s online magazine and it made me realize I would really love meeting with Oprah in person. I love her ability to inspire others, to be vulnerable about her own experiences and to say what matters most. To be in her presence would be a true gift.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I would love for you to follow the IAWP social channels for positive and actionable information around succeeding as a wellness coach and following your passion for holistic wellness.

We focus on making our channels positive and informative spaces on the internet and we would love for you to join us.

IAWP Twitter —

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Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

Suzanne Monroe: “Here Are 5 Things We Can Each Do To Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.