A True Story: An Upset Reader
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.
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 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?