I’m going to start off with a little story to establish my empathy and understanding. And then I’m going to go on the attack. First, the story:
Over the weekend, I wrote a rather lengthy treatise to my son’s head teacher, outlining my concerns about a particular behavioural issue. I’d gotten up at 3:30am to write it because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. By the time I’d finished I was looking at something that could have been a blog post. I showed it to my husband the next day (at a more godly hour) and he marveled that I’d written something apparently coherent at such a ridiculous time of the night. Anyway, it passed the “show it to a sane person first” test, and so I sent in the message via my son’s school notebook on Monday.
I was worried about what the head teacher’s reply might be. I was concerned that she’d see it as an attack on her or other people it referenced, so I was expecting a dismissive or aggressive reply. But I felt that it was worth the risk when I wrote my little novel to her, the concerns I wrote about had been robbing me of sleep for a while.
So the reply comes back. I read it through once. I am not surprised at what I read: It has judgemental tones, and a touch of passive aggressiveness. I feel like a child been told off and been told to sit back down. I run through possible replies in my head; should I counter-confront her? Reiterate my concerns more strongly? Bring my own passive-aggressiveness out for a play..?
Instead I remind myself that I was expecting a defensive reply from her, and to just take a step back. Read it again, with a clearer mind, see if my expectations have coloured what I’ve read.
This time I read it as a calming response from a head teacher to a concerned parent. A reassuring reply to show she hears my concerns, and to let me know that they’re trying their best. She accepts some of my insights, and will implement them into her solutions for the behavioural problems. So instead of my rant back at her, I simply write one word in reply: “Thanks 🙂 ” And I put the notebook down, and go back to looking after the kids for the afternoon.
So yeah, I get it. I get when people sometimes read my posts and decide to colour it with their own ongoing concerns, that they come at them with their own agendas. I understand that people walk around everyday with their own pet projects in their minds, and that they will sometimes seek out posts just because they want one more public forum through which to make everyone think about what they can’t stop thinking about. Even a bad day – or lack of sleep – can make us predisposed to seeing the calmest open-minded post, as an out-right and personal attack. At which point a commenter can be inclined to hop on their high horse and go off the deep end. I reserve the right to mix metaphors.
There have been times when people dedicate entire posts on their own blogs, to attacking me for something I neither said nor intended, even after I endlessly tried to explain to them that we’re not even in disagreement. The same thing happens in my comments section; people bring along their own agendas and largely ignore my actual words, insisting I mean something else than what my words say; claiming I have hidden agendas (that just happen to be the opposite of their own agendas).
There have been times that I’m left doubting my own ability to write clearly, even though I have two honours degrees in fields that require extremely clear communication, and even though I have been employed for over a decade in roles that require me to mark other’s essays. I’m not a perfect communicator, no one is. But I am a careful and thoughtful one. I run the vast majority of my posts past my husband before hitting “publish” just to make sure they make sense and convey what they’re meant to convey. If I’ve been misunderstood, I really don’t mind clarifying my points. But there are clearly those who are solidly determined to turn posts into whatever they think it is or should be about; to twist words and meaning (or ignore them altogether) in order to justify themselves standing on their soap-box while they waste my time with off-topic and aggressive comments, that I then feel I must reply to. I have to let these ridiculous comments through, otherwise I look like I’m censoring them. I really can’t win.
So I’m writing this post, for future linking reference. If I have linked you to this post after you’ve commented on my blog, then yes, you can be assured that indeed this post really is about you. If you want to comment on my posts, then actually comment on my posts, not on some mysterious hidden message and agenda that you have read into it to suit your own unrelated ends. And next time, before you decide what you read is really an attack on you and your deepest values, just take a breath and remind yourself on the little story at the start of this post: Give people the benefit of the doubt, and take their words at face value, just the way you’d like to be treated. It really does make for a much more pleasant daily existence. Communication is challenging enough, without building your own agendas into everyone else’s words. Sometimes people really do mean what they say. It’s a novel idea for some, but give it some thought, and maybe you’ll stop thinking the world – or I – am really out to get you.
Edit: I just wanted to share this blog-response to my post, from Homestyle Mama: “What did you just say?” It’s wonderful to know that a post I was unsure whether to publish or not, could end up being a positive influence in someone else’s life. Sometimes speaking your mind doesn’t just help you out, it helps others too. Isn’t blogging a wonderful thing? Thank you too, to all the supportive and encouraging people who popped up – here and on facebook and on twitter – to let me know I’m appreciated after they read this post. You’re all wonderful 🙂