Everything I Need to Know about Twitter I Learned from Hospice

By Piper Bayard

As some of you know, I volunteered with Hospice for a time. I am also blessed with the best tweeps (Twitter friends) on the planet. So much so that lately a few people have come to me for advice about how to find such amazing tweeps. It’s simple. I treat everyone like they are about to die.

George Washington on His Deathbed by Junius Steams

No, I don’t ask them for their stuff. . . . Well, okay, there was this one woman. But I knew her melodramatic threats to kill herself with a spork while reading my first manuscript were completely insincere. I mean, she doesn’t even go camping to own a spork. Though come to think of it, I haven’t heard from her for a while. But I digress. . . .

This calls for a list. When people are dying . . .

1. We don’t judge them.

Their Judgement Day will come soon enough, and the Big It needs no assistance from us on that score.

2. We do listen to them.

In that moment, they are more important than we are so we keep our mouths shut and our ears open.

3. We do let them know they are heard.

This doesn’t mean we agree with everything they say. It means we validate that they said it. One way to let them know we heard them is to say, “That sounds . . .” Difficult, painful, amazing, intense, etc. I mean, when someone tells us their mom is in the ICU, it’s not hard to find an adjective. It does sound painful and intense. When they tell us the book contract came through, it does sound joyful.

4. We don’t argue.

Letting people know we heard what they said is not the same as agreeing with them so we are not violating our integrity when we refrain from disagreeing. “It sounds like you feel quite passionate about that.”

5. We don’t offer unsolicited advice.

Most of the time when we want to fix other people’s problems, it has nothing to do with being nice people. It’s because their misery is making us uncomfortable. So we understand that other peoples problems are not ours–we have plenty of our own–and we simply provide our presence unless they specifically ask for something more. “That sounds like a difficult situation.”

6. We don’t whine about our problems.

It’s one thing when we share the truth of our lives, such as our allergies, our sudden hospitalizations, or our sadness when a child leaves home. It’s another to whine about our hemorrhoids. (Note: Hemorrhoids are those pains in the butt that never really go away, like wretched stepmothers, drunken relatives, or abandonment issues.) Dying people may be interested in us, but NO ONE wants to hear about our life’s ‘hemorrhoids’.

7. We do validate their feelings.

When they say they are angry because a new jerk on their HOA board is going through their neighborhood counting dandelions and sending out violation notices, “I can see why you would be upset about that.”

8. We do validate their lives.

We read their words and comment on their pictures, and we let them know we are a witness to their existence. People need to know we see them.

9. We do find sincere, positive things to say.

We notice their accomplishments. We notice their efforts. We notice the beauty of the day.

10. We do show our gratitude.

We say thank you. Because every single time they share themselves with us, it is a gift we may never experience again. And every single time, they didn’t have to do it.

Making great Twitter friends is simple, because it’s like life. What we give is all that matters, and we may never get the chance to give to this person again. So treat everyone like they are dying.

Or, as William Shatner says, “Live life like you’re gonna die, because you’re gonna.”

I’d love to chat with you while we’re here. Please follow me on Twitter at@piperbayard and say hello. I always follow back humans. You can also find some awesome Twitter friends at the hashtag #theconnecter.

What social media tips would you like to share, and how did you learn them?

My sincere gratitude to each of you for sharing this moment in time with me.

47 comments on “Everything I Need to Know about Twitter I Learned from Hospice

  1. pamelavmason says:

    From my recent experience from my dear mother in law’s passing in hospice,
    I learned we do what we can to touch, reach out, in any way possible. Maybe it’s words of gratitude, a pat on the back, or just an acknowledgement of their presence. And done in a positive – or at the very least neutral way – makes the difference between a contentious Twitter experience and a respectful, if not pleasant one.
    Emotions come out in hospice… and they show up in social media. Keep it professional and grown up, and use your friends’ private email if you need to vent.
    And remember the written word never disappears… it lives on eternally in cyberspace. (There’s a Chinese proverb on that, but I can’t quote it.)

  2. Oh Piper! Thi explains so much! You are the first person I met in the Twitterverse, and I am eternally grateful. And I will try to consider this as I communicate with others on social media. You truly fill people up. It’s almost disarming to see you ask: “How are you today?” like…who does that? Everyone is always trying to outsnark the other guy, but you smother people in genuine attention. So thank you for reaching out, Piper. You truly are #theconnecter

  3. Stacy Green says:

    Great post, Piper. Your line about people trying to fix others problems because their misery is making us uncomfortable is so true.

    Your lessons are great, and for me, one of the most important things to do on Twitter is to say something worth listening to, not just needless spam. And think of others first.

  4. amyskennedy says:

    Piper, this post helped me with something not even remotely connected to Twitter. Thank you.

  5. amyshojai says:

    AWESOME post, oh my goodness. Thank you for the reminder. I think we all come to (fill in the blank) from our own perspective to the point that it does often become “all about me.” This is a terrific exercise and reminder to not just wear the other person’s shoes but feel the popcorn left inside that causes the limp, or the struggle to not trip over the broken shoe lace, or whatever. Wow.

  6. So beautifully said Piper. I think this is stuff I should use not only in twitterverse but in my life as well. Much of it resonated with me…
    I think when it comes to Twitter, I try to be honest and sincere…I also try to balance my push/retweet of information with conversation. Sometimes I struggle with creating that balance but I get on the horse and keep at it…

  7. Loved this post. “Most of the time when we want to fix other people’s problems, it has nothing to do with being nice people. It’s because their misery is making us uncomfortable.” So True!!! People just want their hurt/joy/frustration acknowledged and trying to fix things or offer insincere platitudes do nothing to help.

  8. susielindau says:

    I love this Piper! Hemorrhoids! Hahaha!
    I like the idea of validated not always agreeing. Words to live by!

  9. Running from Hell with El says:

    This is great, Piper. It reminds me that I get lazy about saying thank you sometimes . . . and as simple as the rules are, I think we need to hear them. Thanks, my friend.

  10. Great post, Piper. So often we sail through our lives so focused on our own problems we don’t think about these things. I know I’m too often guilty. Thanks for the wake up call. I think it can be applied to ourselves, too, the idea to live each day as if it’s your last, because one day it will be.

    And you are indeed #theconnector!!

  11. […] unexpected hurtful reactions come from people you respect, admire, or even believe to be friends. Treat Sweet Tweets Right–er, Write, the Hospice Way from awesome blogger Piper Bayard really helped me with this–and maybe it will help readers […]

  12. Terrific post, Piper. Thanks for the reminder. It doesn’t take a lot to focus on someone else and listen and make sure they know they’re heard. The hard part is getting outside our own problems to focus on others.

    Hugs woman!

  13. Go Jules Go says:

    This is a fabulous post, Piper! Thank you! It’s amazing how normal social decorum can go right out the window with social media, so it’s great to hear you reinforcing kindness and listening – both in your words and actions. I struggle to keep up with Twitter, and SO appreciate the advice of rock stars like you; I really feel like I don’t know what I’m doing half the time! #likeiusethesetomakepunsandiknowtheyrenotmeantforthatbutijustcanthelpmyself

  14. Jess Witkins says:

    So there’s a method to your kindness, huh? LOL. You are one creative and wonderful woman, Piper! Thanks for always treating everyone with such genuine interest.

  15. Thank you Piper! I think your suggestions are a wise way to walk through life in general. 😉

  16. Julie Glover says:

    Wonderful advice, Piper. My sister-in-law has worked for Hospice, and she is one of the most compassionate people I know. She is in particular a wonderful listener. We could all learn from what Hospice people deliver–an open ear, a kind word, a loving touch. Thanks!

  17. Beautiful insights on how to connect on Twitter AND care for a dying person. Love love love this!!

  18. That’s a great connection, Piper. Though, should I be worried the next time you send me a message?


  19. This was such a great post. I needed to be reminded of better and kinder ways to use social media all the time. It’s so easy to forget and take it for granted…:) By the way, don’t ever stop blogging on my blog. I look forward to your stories and love when I see your comments!!!

  20. An awesome post – thanks for sharing, and as Elizabeth said, you’ve shown us a wise way for life in general. Fantastic – and thank you.

  21. […] and so will the final product. Piper Bayard recently posted some wonderful advice on her blog about how to treat people. I thought it very […]

  22. […] Everything I Need To Know About Twitter I Learned From Hospice by Piper Bayard […]

  23. […] so will the final product. Piper Bayard recently posted some wonderful advice on her blog about how to treat people. I thought it very […]

  24. […] learned a ton from Piper Bayard’s post on what she learned from hospice. It can apply to not only your Twitter relationships but all your relationships in life. I plan to […]

  25. This is a great post. I’m just a *tad* on the awkward side, and often see Tweets I start to reply to, then think better of it. Who am I to comment? I have 625 Twitter followers, follow a bit more than that, and in the flesh and blood world, I know exactly 2 of them. My contribution serves no real purpose. But when framed as above, reading w/o participating, or pulling back from a comment is akin to turning my face away from the dying because their pain makes me uncomfortable. Having had a 7 year span where too many people did just that as my Father-in-law was dying, your post put things in perspective – it’s not about me.

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