This is a story we tell ourselves too often as peace builders: 

She stands in line at the grocery store. She’s had a long, hard day, and she should’ve been home an hour ago, but the divorce mediation took longer than expected. She looks over the lines at the grocery store, scanning for…what? Suddenly, she sees the back of someone’s head.

“Is that one of my former clients?” She thinks as she ducks her head to look at the magazines on the wrack with headlines from “Lose Weight Now” to “5 Ways to Pick Up a Woman.” 

She glances back up, as it becomes her turn in the line. Back-of-the-Head looks over from the other line and is staring at her. She glances back at the check out clerk, smiles and continues to check out. 

Finally, she walks out of the grocery store. 

Later in the evening, while curating her Twitter feed, she sees this Tweet: “Guess who I saw today @grocerystore. How did they let a cheating hack check out! #truth #divorcemediator.”

The fear of this incident (and the potential for many others like them) occurring is what separates those who seek to expand their influence online through content development and marketing as peace builders, from those who stay away from it altogether. 

Beyond the usual excuses of “It’s too many platforms” or “I don’t know what to do next” is the lament, that comes out in the unstated query “What do I do if someone has a difficulty or problem with something I’ve written, said, or done and then posts their comment on social media?” It gets even worse when the savvy peace builder goes past the courage it takes to begin to publish content, give speeches, and even create a podcast, and suddenly attains a few followers and some influence. 

The flipside is the idea that there are too many people in social media, marketing, content creation and other areas, who give themselves fancy titles like “guru,” “ninja,” or “wizard.” Then, when tested, they lack the commensurate skills, experience, or education to back up the self-given title.

There are three questions for the savvy peace builder to ask themselves about influence, power, thought leadership and the idea of perceived versus actual, hypocrisy:

What do I want my expertise to do for me as a thought leader? – Does the savvy peace builder desire to help people, build influence, get a book deal, get an academic appointment, maintain a salary or grow in professional stature? This question is not something to be considered lightly, and as the peace builder’s conflict footprint grows online, the temptation is to go along with what other people (fans, followers, audience members) may think. By answering this question deep in their own heart, the peace builder can sleep at night without worrying about Twitter trolls.

Where do I want to build influence?—We’ve stated it before (link here) but I bears repeating: written words, video, images, audio clips…it’s all content for the savvy peace builder. I can easily see a day where the influential thought leaders in the field of peace building create platforms entirely based on streaming videos of the online mediation process. Or, even podcasting…oh wait, Pattie Porter is doing that right now. The platform the peace builder chooses to build on matters. And if they don’t like the other people already on the platform, there is enough Internet real estate out there (an infinite amount, really) to move somewhere else.

Who do I want to impact in the content space I’ve chosen? –Audiences and feedback matter, as many a peace builder knows. The way into the heart of influence and to truly build thought leadership, is to ruthlessly and endlessly advocate, address and listen to, the audience you have picked as a savvy peace builder. Then, ignore the people (and trolls) who seek to call out hypocrisy, but who are really looking to destroy human connection, rather than build it up.

Questions or feedback about this?  Write to me at jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com or connect with me via Twitter @Sorrells79 or check out my Facebook Business page and leave a comment there, or message me on LinkedIn.

By Jesan Sorrell

Jesan Sorrells is the founder, owner and principal conflict engagement consultant at Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT), a boutique, private, conflict communication and corporate training consultancy, based out of Endicott, NY. HSCT focuses on delivering Christian based, alternative dispute resolution solutions in the areas of conflict communication, conflict skills development and conflict consulting for a variety of clients, including corporations, higher education organizations and nonprofits. HSCT accomplishes this by leveraging cutting edge, pioneering and entrepreneurial resolutions to conflict, communications, social media, and organizational development for its clients through trainings, seminars, workshops and 1-on-1 consulting. http://www.hsconsultingandtraining.com