I have learned a few lessons, particularly from a recent back and forth I had with one such disgruntled reader. I know that people have every right to say what they feel. Hell, we do! And I wish I could be more like Barb and gently say something like, “We appreciate your comment,” or some such response. But I can’t. Or at least I couldn’t. Or haven’t yet. But now I will. Maybe.
Here is my issue with it. The most recent sparring match on the blog is a good example of my point because it was a day where several people had opposing points of view from mine. And I loved it. Had no issue with it at all. Actually a few of the comments were food for thought and made me see something I had not previously seen.
So the whole knee jerking that I did with this one particular person made me examine my response and question myself. These were my conclusions: The three times I have engaged in challenging word ping-pong have all had something in common. The comments aimed at me were angry and disrespectful. I don’t have issue with someone disagreeing with me, but I clearly have issue with feeling attacked. The most recent attack was by someone who totally misunderstood the point I was making and accused me of saying things I simply did not say. In my second response to her, I urged the person in question to re-read the post so that they would see that I had said nothing they were claiming I had said. This suggestion fell on deaf ears.
Given who I am and how poorly I deal with stress, I set out to delete the comments. I find that when I look at the ugly or the angry in print it makes my stomach churn and I cannot let go of the bad feelings. So I felt I should delete them and put them behind me. My reasons for deleting were the “my house, my rules; my blog, my rules” line of thinking. I would not let someone abuse me in my own home, so why should I on the blog? Afterwards I second guessed myself and wondered if I should just have let it stand. After all, I thought, maybe with the many lumps of sugar come a few lumps on the head. But then I pondered it some more. What do you say when you are being yelled at on the blog? I was not about to keep doing the back and forth with this person who was clearly missing my point. So ... do I just try and be reasonable and when the response is unreasonable, do I just say, “Thank you for your comment,” time and time again? Where do you draw the line? I would love to hear what you guys think. Delete? Not delete? Engage each time. Engage until it is futile? I sincerely think I handled it wrong by deleting, but I have no viable alternative at this point. The recent person in question told me I should be ashamed of myself for deleting and that I did a great disservice to my readers in doing so. Did I, readers? I want your honest opinions.
I want to be accessible. I want to be thick skinned. But I want to feel safe.
Barbara: I guess I have to go first! Okay. I obviously love and respect you, Deb, and am of the mind that you are entitled to do whatever makes you feel most comfortable in your own “home”. I supported you on the day and I support you now. It is our blog; it is our home.
That said, your compelling question made me think. And thinking made me analyze. And analyzing made me consider a point of view. If it were me (and I guess it is me too because the commenter in question was definitely talking to both of us), my first instinct is that I would have left the comment up. I guess because the worst accusation was that we were “judgmental”. I could live with that even if I don’t feel that way. If we’d been called “bimbo dirtbag sluts”, um, I probably would’ve taken it down (my bimbo sluttishness is my own private business, people). So is that my line in the sand? In the words used???
But I also try to ignore comments that I feel are irate or hostile. Deb, you are very honourably committed to addressing every single person on the blog and I really respect that, but in this case, I’d already decided I wasn’t going to engage. I mean, I might try to get in one counter point (like, “No, that’s not what I meant; I meant this,” or something of that ilk). But I also know that those discussions (aka disagreements) tend to carry on ad nauseum, with each person “hearing” the other with less and less clarity, and with the discussion (aka argument) getting more and more convoluted (as each tries to make “more sense” and inevitably making less).
All this said, the trickiest part for me in answering your question is that my most painful Achilles heal, my most vulnerable underbelly in writing this blog (in writing ANY of the stuff I write), is in my fundamental, determined, and frankly sometimes desperate need to make sure my point is understood. Not in an aggressive, “I want to change your mind for you” kind of way, but (like what you were going for, Deb) in a “THIS is what I mean, not THAT,” kind of way. In a, “Please, please UNDERSTAND me,” kind of way. And then, once I’ve communicated my own true perspective and experience, let the reactions and opinions fall where they may.
Like you, I don’t expect people to agree with me all the time. In fact, I relish the turning of the idea or thought or belief because someone has come in here and eloquently and compassionately made a contrasting point. For heaven’s sake, our tag line is “two different opinions”! I have only ever gotten into trouble (aka gnashing-teeth-frenzied-yelling-pulling-my-own-hair-out altercations) when I’ve tried to EXPLAIN my point to someone who utterly believed my point was some other thing entirely. My lesson-learned was that it wasn’t worth it. I don’t want or mean to dump that lesson in any of your laps. Many people might decide they need to fight the good fight until the bitter end. But in my very personal case, it simply isn’t worth it. To me it feels a lot like pulling sharks away from the carcass after they’ve frenzied on the blood.
But in the end, the real real truth in this debate is that I don’t like how the whole thing made you feel, Deb. And for that I would do anything. Even take down a comment.