A True Story: An Upset Reader

2011 January 10
by Grace Boyle

An interesting thing happened to me about a year ago, in late 2009 on this blog. I never spoke of it until now, after going through old e-mails I was reminded.

Friends of mine, two guys, one of which I’ve known since fifth grade and happened to date in our early days of high school guest posted here a couple times.

They had started writing a blog on dating and relationships, from the perspective of two males. As I helped them get rolling with writing and the blogging world, we all thought it would be interesting to write a series of posts here. Although I don’t write a lot about dating, I do write a lot about relationships and I appreciated their candid writing coupled with humor. It was an experiment, a let’s-mix-it-up.

Sometimes, they had opposing viewpoints to my own. They weren’t all “safe” posts. They were honest and from the inner-workings of their minds. I understood this.

Brazen Careerist featured one of their posts across their “professional” network and I heard from readers they enjoyed the unique twist this series took (tweets supported this, too). It was just a couple posts, out of the hundreds I had already posted.

After one of the posts, I saw a blog post belittling my decision to include them on my blog from a reader. I can’t link to that post, she since deleted it (retracted her statement…? I read the entire post then or else I would link to it here).

She was a reader that I knew had been a supporter and commenter for a while. Naturally, I reached out.

I apologized for the posts “offending” her as she stated, explained my motives, thanked her for her feedback and said I was always available to continue the conversation.

It was a lesson in me being completely humble. I accepted her distaste and frustration in her public post she wrote about me, the blog and the guest posters. It was a lesson in understanding not everyone will like your blog. A hard lesson for me, I don’t strive to hurt anyone, ever.

She responded and her first sentence, “Thanks for responding. It was unexpected.”

It was actually the most expected thing I could have done. Then again, she doesn’t know me or the nature of my character.

She used these words: crap, offensive, crass, cringe-worthy and poor handling to describe the guest posts and their opinions on my blog in her e-mail reply to me.

She ended the e-mail with this paragraph, direct quote:

You should consider specifically how this might read to the more professional audience you’ve drawn in through your writing and how it will come off when put in the context of the rest of your blog.

I really like your blog, but knowing there could be more posts like this or that this could be the direction you are taking your blog doesn’t entice me to continue reading. I’m sure there are people out there who feel differently, and if this is the direction you want to go, that’s your business. If you aren’t aware of how badly it comes off to some people, though, I hope this is helpful.

She spoke her truth. I appreciated it. I also appreciated that we were able to have a mature conversation. She never bashed me, she just supremely disagreed with me pressing “publish” on these posts – disappointment might have been a better word.

I responded to her with this e-mail, direct quote:

Of course I responded. I was surprised and a little taken back by your post but as I already said, this is part of blogging and I know that not everyone can agree with what’s on my blog. I will always listen and I appreciate feedback – so thanks for your response.

From your anger and words, this seems to have really struck a nerve. Thank you for your honesty. I always believe that truth alone triumphs.

I don’t think I’m taking my blog down a certain “road.” And it’s interesting, that the editors at Brazen Careerist chose to feature the post across their professional network. It’s something new and I wasn’t sure how it would work out. I wanted to invoke conversation and talk about different view points. I didn’t want to hurt other people and if people decide to think less of me, then I am truly sorry. I don’t think it changes who I am. People who interact with me daily through my blog, (email, IMs, Twitter, even phone calls) and my friends, family, etc. know the quality of my character, morality and values. I do not believe it has been compromised.

I will continue to write how I know best. These guys are writing about relationships, dating and sex for a few more posts, then that’s it. I think that relationships and dating need to be talked about openly and there are a lot of misconceptions in general between men and women. There are some parts about men and women that aren’t positive. So in my eyes, I don’t see why we have to lie about it or pretend it’s not the truth, even if it doesn’t make it right. As I said, I don’t have to defend the guys, and even some of their content I didn’t agree with. But almost like an op-ed I opened up the floor, so criticism and positive feedback both were expected.

Again, I apologize. I would love to continue the conversation and would hope you still read my blog (a large amount of my well received posts versus just a few that aren’t) could make or break you’re decision I suppose…? I understand and will respect whatever you choose to do.

I hope you enjoyed your weekend. I am always an open door. Please feel free to e-mail me anytime and thank you again for writing and sharing.

Best,

Grace

I also sent her post and e-mail sentiment to my two friends, the authors of the posts so they were aware and asked them to read it (but mid-way through this she took the post down). I respected her as a reader and in moving forward, paid close attention to editing their posts. But who am I to say what a male thinks? Who am I to change their opinion? I didn’t post those posts as me, they were as them. That’s what a guest post does – it invites a new audience, maybe a new school of thought, it might surprise people, it might let people down. I took that risk and they finished out their guest post series.

She never responded to my last email and since then, we haven’t spoken. I haven’t seen her around my blog, either.

My efforts are never to outright offend someone. But if it weren’t for varying opinions, beliefs and views where would we exist? As my e-mail response stated, I didn’t have anything to hide. I am not fake when I’m on the blog, in my office, in public, with friends – I am me. I am lucky to work at a company that encourages that openness.

What about Redhead Writing, a nationally recognized “professional” blogger who swears repeatedly on her blog, writes about love, dating, hate, bitch-slaps and blunt advice. It’s a take it or leave it – life is take it or leave it. Look at Chelsea Talks Smack. She describes her blog like her own personal diary ranting about her breakup, dirty thoughts – it goes on. Thousands of viewers gobble her up. While she was interviewing, our boss said, “Oh, I’m reading your blog now. You’re not shy are you?” As he chuckled. She was hired because of her skills and fit for the position, her blog didn’t detract a thing. No one is to judge her writing and inner-working of her mind. (Also, a reason why I don’t work at a bank or corporate environment).

I digress…

I wanted to share this with other bloggers, as much time has passed. I learned a lesson and I understood a different angle of blogging. My topics, typically don’t offend people. There are many bloggers who push the envelope and offend people daily. I choose to not read people that might offend me. It doesn’t strike a nerve because as my favorite Nietzsche quote says:

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. -Friedrich Nietzsche

That’s the power of thought, the power of freedom of speech, the power of individual publishing and the power of the individual.

My traffic has doubled since this email. I didn’t lose readers. My relationships have flourished. I continue to learn and leave my mind open like a parachute, not closed. I chose to not suffer or beat myself up over this, but rather be honest, kind and respectful. I hope that was portrayed and my personality is reflected in my writing, beliefs and life – 100%.

We can only do our best, in the moment, as we know how.

How have you reacted to negative feedback or those that disagree with you?

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  • http://twitter.com/samdavidson samdavidson

    Grace! Thanks for opening up and showcasing how you handled criticism. Well done. I think you handled this situation with professionalism.

    It also goes to show that if you don’t have critics, then you’re not doing something remarkable. Once you reach a certain level of prominence or are vulnerable enough to put yourself out there, people will start hatin.’ Just brush that dirt off your shoulder.

    End rap references.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    You’re right, Sam. At this time it was only about a year into my blogging life and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. But I appreciated it so much because 1) it made me think 2) it made my recognize who I am and 3) like you said, critics show you’re doing something, you are known and pushing the envelope.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. I was happy to share and after this time, it was actually nice to clear the air and write about it. Because after all, this is my blog and no one else’s we should all be able to do as we see fit. Thanks!!

  • http://www.enteradulthood.com Diana Antholis

    You handled this situation with grace. (pun not intended but it fits pretty well huh)
    I think we all have come across situations like this in our lives. Someone disagrees with you at work, at home, at school. It is definitely a mark of good character when you can handle it so well and not let it get to you. You learned from it and moved on. Bravo.

  • http://twitter.com/ChelsTalksSmack Chelsea Talks Smack

    I think you’re a gem for responding the way that you did and you do have to stay truthful to what’s important to you and express what it is YOU want- ultimately readers have to understand a certain amount of flexibility will happen as you grow, evolve, change and share on the internet- you aren’t a one trick pony, none of us are. I knew when our boss read my blog, WHILE interviewing and I knew it was the reason I would feel accepted and fit in our company :) That was essential for my work environment. Thank you for the shout out, I will continue smack talking and you continue being lovely gracie- I’m still reading :)

  • Sneha

    Hi Grace,

    I, for one enjoy reading your blog. I think you handled the situation so well, and in any case, you ( or any guest poster ) should be able to say what they want. Freedom of expression right? Readers should just take it or leave it as there are thousands of types of blogs out there–whether they are boldy written content or not— and that’s what makes them so enticing to read. If everything was written to one style, it’d be a bore to read.

    I’m always looking for ways to improve my own writing and blog (limitfreelifestyle.wordpress.com) so feel free to drop by if you’d like. I’m always trying to improve my own writing style and content and would love if you could guest post some time.. Your comments are ALWAYS welcome.

    Keep doin’ what you do lady!

    Sneha

  • http://diamondkt.blogspot.com David

    Sam read my mind! I was just about to say “brush it off your shoulder like a pimp.” Although, I think you already know how to do that – gracefully.

    Take the Mark Zuckerberg approach – “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” In other words, you can’t increase your reading audience without pushing the envelope every now and then. Afterall, those are the best blogs! Ones that say something new and thought provoking, not the ones that regurgitate the same info and viewpoint you can find repeated everywhere else – BORING!

    And you know what? Every once in awhile people will surprise you. I was pleasantly surprised at the kind feedback I received when I wrote one of my most offensive posts “The Manwhore Relapse.” So keep doing your thing, Gracie. Too many people in this world censor their own writing for fear of what people will think of them. Don’t you be one of them.

  • http://akhilak.com/blog Akhila

    Grace, I think you handled this really well as other commenters have said. Honestly, I really do not understand this poster’s concerns and anger over this matter. Many bloggers write far more offensive, deeply personal things on their blog. I never thought your blog seemed unprofessional – it is a mix of the personal and professional, and you’re free to say what you want within your own boundaries and limits. Other people might feel uncomfortable to post about relationships, etc, but it doesn’t mean you can’t.

    If you worry about every post offending someone, you can never move forward with your blog. It’s just impossible to take into account every person’s preferences or opinions. You just have to write/post what you enjoy and what makes you happy!

  • http://twitter.com/RHS76 Romelle Slaughter II

    Grace, I am with everyone else in saying that you handled the comment very well. I am disappointed that she has never responded to your email and hasn’t been around your blog.

    I guess she was so surprised or taken aback by how your “disarmed” her, that she felt embarrassed and decided not to follow or post comments on your blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/derekscruggs Derek Scruggs

    Considering that Brazen Careerist was started by Penelope Trunk, it’s a safe bet your content was on the tame side. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Diana Thank you (and I appreciate this pun)!

    A few friends were surprised I responded kindly, but really, it’s in the shape of my character and I don’t know how to respond any other way. I’m glad it was handled and I’m glad I was completely honest and upfront. Thanks for your support!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Thanks Chels :) In this day and age it’s so easy to offend so many people with every little thing you do. I don’t think I’m an offensive person, but what may be totally “normal” to me, is outrageous to someone else. Makes the damn world spin!!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Hi Sneha. I’m glad to hear you like reading my blog. That’s always so nice to hear. I suppose writing a post about it (targeting me, linking to me, etc.) but not coming directly to me seemed passive aggressive. Of course I track when I’m mentioned or someone links to me…

    In that case, we must be true to ourselves and if you don’t want to read the best part is that no one is forcing you to.

    Your blog looks great. Keep speaking your truth, enjoying and having fun. Its very important to have fun!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    I’m a gracefull pimp? :)

    Although I wasn’t looking for any support (this obviously happened a long time ago, it is brushed off my shoulder) it’s nice to hear everyone’s reaction and encouragement.

    Thanks for the kind words, always appreciated.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Akhila, thank you so much! There are many ways to offend people. There are different ways of thinking and beliefs so often without intention, someone might be offended (like these posts).

    Thanks for your support and encouragement!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Romelle, thank you so much. You never know how people are going to react…maybe I left her with not wanting to argue her point or she felt strongly enough to just turn her back. Totally her choice and I will respect whatever she chose.

    You bring up a great point though. Thanks :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Derek, haha, touché.

    I’m not worried about it :) but was intrigued when I found her email from last year and a blog post was born! Thanks for popping by.

  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

    Grace, I also think you handled the situation extremely well. But then we’ve already discussed that at length. 😉

    The joys of blogging and social media and the internet and instant gratification. A purely speculative analysis of the whole exchange leads me to think that she was affected by Simon & Cole’s post in a way that was completely unrelated to the post or your site at all (great writing has a way of stirring up stuff inside us.) Once you reached out and made her truly look at what she was feeling and what she was saying, she realized that perhaps it wasn’t entirely the content that she was affected by. Thus the retraction and no response. What else is there to say when you realize you have acted poorly? (I’m sorry is always nice, but…)

    Speaking of “I’m Sorry” I really appreciate the fact that you note that you apologized for hurting her. It’s a thin line, but one that I think is worth talking about. Apologizing for hurting someone is VERY different than apologizing for what you did. Often I take blog/post discussions offline to email. And often I am afflicted with a pang of apology if what I said hurt someone. But rarely (because I don’t really write malicious or salacious stuff) do I feel sorry about what I wrote. I stand behind my beliefs, and apologizing for causing another person pain does not change that.

    I am, however, astounded by the number of messages I will get from people engaged in discussion about my beliefs that include the phrase (or a variation of) “I hope that we will be able to stay friends after this.” I cannot recall ever having a civilized discussion with someone about my beliefs that ended with me wanting to shun them. Yet most times the phrase in invoked, the inductor finds ways to fall out of my life (no more comments, no @’s or RT’s, no more coffee dates, no more invites) which leads me to believe they were probably saying it more for them than me.

    Hrmmm…maybe I should just write a post about this since I’ve got a good 1/3 of one here, huh?! 😛

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Thank you Elisa :)

    You offer such an incredible perspective and I know we have lightly touched on this before. It’s such a good conversation to have and something that any blogger could likely relate to (why I ended up writing about this, a year later).

    I would LOVE it if you wrote a post off of this. You already have all the words :) I think that is why blogging is so wonderful, we share and then walk away with more and learn more and write more.

    Finally, thank you for your encouragement. I never realized that I didn’t “apologize” for hurting her and I really did understand she reacted a certain way because of a way she likely felt…like I said, if it was so awful or if I am a crass person in her eyes, she never has to see me again :) Or read me. I’m glad I didn’t feel dejected too, I feel stronger than ever.

    Thanks again xo

  • http://twitter.com/WorknMomJournal Working Mom Journal

    I love Penelope Trunk and I love your blog as well. I think the blog world is all about inclusion and if someone is having a problem with that – well, there is the bridge.

    Blessing
    info@workingmomjournal.com
    http://www.workingmomjournal.com

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Oh, thank you so much for your kind words. You’re very right about the bridge…great point. Thanks for sharing and stopping by!

  • http://cutefatgirl.wordpress.com/ Lis

    To each their own. No one is forced to read YOUR blog, but it is yours. Your message, your thoughts and your words. Isn’t blogging about expression. I am so impressed at the manner in which you responded. So respectful and polite. Very Cool.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Lis, thank you. Glad to hear you respected what I wrote – at the time, I was just being myself and it came outpouring. Writing this time around was helpful too because it shows you even more about yourself.

  • http://thetrailblazinglife.com Collin Vine

    Wow, that’s such an interesting story – thanks for sharing!

    You’re totally right. There’s not point in trying to please everyone. How does that saying go: try to please everyone and you’ll end up pleasing no one? You just gotta be you. The boys at 37 Signals talk in their book Rework about the importance of saying no to suggestions, stating that you need to stick to your vision. If you started tweaking your blog based on everyone’s suggestions, it would no longer be *your* blog. And the whole point of having a blog is to make it yours.

    Cheers!
    Collin

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Collin, thanks for stopping by and sharing your feedback.

    Sticking to your vision, it’s really important and I know how it can be easy to be “swayed” but that’s just it. It IS our own blog, each of us exercise the right to do just that.

    I appreciated her words and for saying what she thought, but I held true to what I was doing and also tried to be as respectful as possible (but didn’t change me). Thanks again, Collin!

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