Learn to Be a Jedi Communicator

A concise guide to communicating compassionately both online and off. Our greatest impact in the world is made through our relationships with other people — how we communicate, how we comport ourselves when we communicate, changes the world around us.

Learn to Be a Jedi Communicator
Created via Canva

A concise guide to communicating compassionately both online and off.

I was asked to write something on the topic of communication for the broader online Jedi community — a humbling task. But, with it completed, I realized that everything I wrote here is applicable to anyone looking to foster better communication skills (online or offline). Let’s all let a bit more “Jedi Mindfulness” into our lives.

Looking back over my own communication history, I see plenty of places where I failed to apply the principles I will shortly lay before you — though, then again, it is this exact process of trial and error which has allowed me to better myself and improve my communication skills both on, and off, the internet. Hopefully, I will continue to learn from all my failures to come.

Point one: When you set out to improve your communication abilities, you will undoubtedly fail.

There will, I guarantee, be times where old habits trip you up or where the unexpected pulls the rug out from under all your training and high hopes. What’s important is that, after you fail, you get back up and keep working.

Frequently, our greatest impact in the world is made through our relationships with other people — how we communicate, how we comport ourselves when we communicate, changes the world around us. We fail to pay attention to this at our peril.


First, I’ll talk about some general communication points, things to consider while communicating and strategies for communicating better. These are very simple and should only be considered the tip of your training.

For more reading on this subject, I suggest the following books:

  • Mind Over Mood
  • Non-Violent Communication

Understanding how what we do, and what we say, affects the world around us is a vital part of being a social being. To do our part in creating a more harmonious society, it must be our goal to sow the seeds of balance wherever we roam. In order to do this, we need to have trained effectively in two major areas: internal awareness and external action. For effective communication, both are vital.

The first area — let’s call it introspection — deals with the following questions:

  • “What am I feeling right now?”
  • “Why am I feeling this right now?”*
  • “What am I thinking right now?”
  • “Why am I thinking this right now?”*
  • “Why am I saying this/acting like this?”*

*I put a star here as a reminder that the answer will never reside in the actions of some other person. It is our own, internal, world that creates all of our emotions, thoughts, and responses. Even in circumstances of violence, how we respond will be determined by our own inner state, not by the actions of those aggressing against us. Until we are able to see where our inner state is coming from, we cannot move forward in a truly independent manner.

The second area — external action — deals with how we act in the world.

Learning to act in a certain way can actually help improve issues of negative introspection you may be dealing with (a sort of “fake it until you make it” practice). In external action, we are utterly concerned with how what we do might affect those people we are interconnecting with. Some thoughts that might arise which help us know we’re thinking about things from this perspective are as follows:

  • “What does my tone sound like? Can I make it sound friendlier?”
  • “I am upset by what this person said/wrote but I will wait to respond until I am no longer upset because I do not want to make the situation worse.”
  • “I did not understand what the person said or meant, how can I phrase a question in such a way that I do not hurt the person’s feelings but also clearly ask for the clarification I need?”

These are, perhaps, a little stiffer than the real thing, but I hope you can begin to see the point. When we are thinking in this way, our concentration is centered on how our actions are affecting the other person. We are attempting to minimize any discomfiture that they are experiencing; to bring into our experience a sense of empathy for the other person.

For many of us, however, understanding how our actions and words affect others is difficult. Everyone is different and we all operate within different levels of ability when it comes to communication. If you are uncertain how your words will be interpreted by those who read them, you do not need to let that dissuade you from responding. Instead, concentrate on your internal perspective and ask the question: “Am I okay right now? Am I feeling good about saying this? Should I take a moment to pause?” As long as you are communicating from a place of good intent, and taking as much care as you can to ensure that you are not reacting from a negative emotional state, you are doing your best to communicate well. Hopefully the other person will be able to recognize this, or ask for clarification if they are uncertain as to your meaning or position (and remember that you can always ask for clarification as well, concentrating on your own inability to understand — as opposed to the other person’s inability to make you understand).

Let’s consider some more points which frequently arise in the course of a normal life and which may sometimes lead to poor communication. I’ll suggest some countering tactics for these as well.

  • Whenever we are angry. When we are responding out of our own anger there is no way for us to keep empathetic thoughts of the other person in our mind. The solution is to always take a pause when you are feeling anger.
  • Strong emotions of any sort. It’s actually good to take a pause for any strong emotion — for negative emotions, it allows you to distance yourself from the experience of the emotion and keep from acting in harmful ways because of your emotional state. For positive emotions, it can allow you to deepen your appreciation for the underlying cause of the emotion.
  • Sarcasm. When we feel the urge to be sarcastic it’s probably better to take a moment and reflect on why we’re responding in this way. Sarcasm can be a mutually-enjoyable thing, sure, but it can also be a sharp defense mechanism — one which can hurt the unwary person we’re communicating with. Also, sarcasm in any online format is rarely going to come through in a positive way. If in doubt about how someone will receive what you write or say, err on the side of caution and don’t be sarcastic.

If these are coming up for you while you’re communicating with someone, just remember to pause. Pausing is your best friend.


Now, the largest modern community is largely based online. The internet is a wonderful tool for communication and knowledge but it also has some serious drawbacks. Human beings are creatures of subtlety when it comes to socializing — we rely on a whole host of minute expressions, body language, tonal fluctuations, and general circumstances to decide how to interpret something someone says to us. All of these decisions take place in the background of our mind, usually, informing our emotions, thoughts, and actions — often without us being fully aware of even half of what’s happening.

On the internet, we don’t have any of those cues. What we do have is our imagination. Our mind takes the text on the screen and does its best to interpret all the information we are missing. Mostly, what our mind does is assign a tone to what we read, since recreating the subtleties of body language isn’t easily accomplished.

Tone, through the written word, is informed by a vast array of tiny elements. The largest of these are as follows: vocabulary used, structure of sentences and paragraphs, grammar, and additional elements (such as emoticons). We are also much more likely to assign to our online communications, in the place of physical context, the context of past communications (with either the person we’re communicating with now — or with individuals who our mind interprets as being somehow similar).

Vocabulary isn’t just about how many times you use large words in a sentence; it’s about all of the words you use. And how we place these words onto the page matters, too — what order we assign them; what feels natural to us (likely what feels most comfortable to our internal voice, and this can be different than how we normally speak out loud). Grammar is more important than it’s normally given credit for, too, and the type of grammar we use can create vast differences in inflection. Being careless with our grammar can have unintended side effects — though being picky about how other people use their grammar will usually result in a negative response. Finally, it’s important to decide if you’re trying to be formal or informal! Most of the time, we’re going to be addressing one another somewhat informally, with more formal language appearing when we’re trying to make some sort of specific point. :) <- (and then there are emoticons and “smileys,” which help to replace some of the missing contextual clues that take place in normal, face-to-face conversations). Yay! :D

*Note: identify as differently-abled or come to English as a non-native speaker? Skip to the end of this document for a special note regarding those issues and communication.

Recognizing the complexities underlying the process of communication is our first step in bettering our own communication and our responses to the words of others.

Continuing forward, I’d like to mention a few specific points to consider when communicating with people online.

The first is simple: be courteous and respectful. Remember that you are dealing with other human beings. Even if they are the meanest, most sarcastic, rudest person you have ever met, they deserve your respect.

Actually, if they are that awful and difficult to communicate with, there’s a preemptive step you should take before even trying to communicate with them: decide if engaging with them at all is even necessary. Chances are good that it’s not. It’s much better to avoid trying to argue with people online because it’s very hard, nigh impossible, to actually change people’s minds via a few paragraphs of typed text on a computer screen (especially when you consider that the other person is probably not at all open to having their mind changed). So, in this worst-case scenario, cut off communication.

It is okay to not respond. Remember, sometimes the “pause” can be permanent.

But in any case, it’s of utmost importance to first keep in mind that the people you communicate with deserve nothing less than your most courteous behavior. This will help lift up the community as a whole, too. Of course, you’ll make mistakes, but it will be clear to everyone that you are trying to act as your best self.

Beyond this simple maxim, however, are a few general guidelines to help you out:

  • Don’t make assumptions. Did someone write something you can’t understand? Did they write something which seems to you to be somehow rude or inflammatory? Well, these are just your assumptions. Remember the limitations of the textual medium. Remember to pause. If you encounter a point where you don’t have enough information to be sure what someone intended with their message, and it’s necessary for you to respond to them for some reason, simply explain that you are confused and ask for clarification (be specific in describing exactly what you would like the other person to repeat or clarify). Remember to be kind and courteous when you do this — a “thank you” never hurt anyone (but don’t necessarily expect the courtesy to be returned — this is your practice and it can’t be contingent upon other people behaving the way you would like them to).
  • Be specific. Don’t generalize when you’re responding to people — especially if you are engaged in some sort of more heated discussion (or a discussion which has potential to become heated). If you need to criticize an idea, be specific and be kind — and make certain your critique is focused on the thing to be critiqued, never on another person.
  • Don’t be passive-aggressive. This should probably go without saying, but if this is a habit you have, work as hard as you can to lose it. If you are unhappy with how someone has treated you, seek out proper support — never post about it in ways which could create further friction. The flip-side of this is keep things positive whenever you can.
  • Hold off pressing “Post”. Nothing in this online realm is actually as urgent as we think it is in the moment. No matter what you post, you should first re-read everything you wrote. Then, you should give it at least another minute or so before you decide to post your response. Stand up, get a drink, go to the restroom. Then come back, take one final look at your writing. Then, and only then, should you put it into the internet (and only if you’re sure it needs to be read by other people).

Do you like activities? Try this little quiz on for size! Then, once you have your number, read the rest of the article about how to improve your communications online.

Addendum regarding differently-abled communicators and culturally-different communicators.

In order to communicate effectively using the principles I discuss here, it is important to take a self-responsible approach. If you are engaging with someone who appears to be either having difficulty communicating or who is using a different style than you are comfortable interacting with, don’t seek to hold them accountable to your idea of “proper communication.” Instead, concentrate on maintaining your own good communication skills. Criticising other people for how they communicate is not actually likely to make them better at communicating and it is likely to create unnecessary friction. Remember, you can always ask (using precise language) for clarification and, if this fails, you can pause for however long you need to ensure that your own positive communication doesn’t suffer.

For those of you who read this and identify as “differently-abled,” there may be specific aspects of communication (for instance, grammatical correctness or consistency) which are difficult for you. The first thing to remember is that this is okay. As long as you are doing your best to communicate effectively, you are doing what’s needed to foster good communication. There are several aspects of communication which I lay out, above, which you can still take advantage of, especially the following:

  • Asking, using clear language, for clarification if you do not understand something.
  • Pausing in order to give yourself the space and time required to serve the needs of your own wellness.

For those with cultural backgrounds (including a background where English is a second language), communication can be difficult as well. It can be very intimidating to put oneself forward when using an unfamiliar language. The same points apply to you as to differently-abled communicators: do your best, ask for clarification when necessary, and pause whenever you need to.

The idea, here, is that we are aiming for a more thoughtful form of communication within the community as a whole; we are aiming for communication which is less reactive — which means communication that is less emotionally-charged and more kind.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

Subscribe for my regular newsletter. No spam, just the big updates.