Kindly respond. Kindly.

There is a different attitude here. Commenters are kind. Not everybody comments; even I don’t comment on every post I read — there simply isn’t time. But apparently there’s time for a little magic. This is a story about being saved by that magic.

First, some background.

When I read, I read critically. That’s not to say I criticize, but I use critical thinking skills rather than just accept everything as Truth, Wisdom, or Excellent Writing. This is probably a direct result of Dad’s admonishment:

“Don’t believe everything you read. Don’t believe everything you see on TV.” Dad

When I do comment, I try to add something to the discussion, not just repeat what others have said. If I have questions, I’ll ask them. If a blog seems to be masquerading as Truth, Wisdom, or Excellent Writing, but I see Hypocrisy, Arrogance, or Delusion peeking through the eye holes, I make a choice.

  1. Stop reading and move on without leaving any mark except the automatically counted Hit.
  2. Leave a Like to acknowledge I read the entire piece. Or,
  3. Dig a little deeper.

Isn’t that how honest critics respond?

The key to providing an honest response is kind honesty. Hyperbole doesn’t help; it’s rarely honest. Gushing doesn’t help; it’s disingenuous. Sarcasm doesn’t help; it’s destructive and mean with no redeeming factors except to bring a cold giggle to people who enjoy those kinds of putdowns as long as they aren’t the target.

I have taken to saying:

“I don’t claim to be an Ursula K. Le Guin or even a J.K. Rowling, but I know good writing when I read it.” Me

(I like these little quotation blocks. Sometimes I use them to laugh at myself.)

I’ve promised you a story about being saved by magic. It begins here:

I found a blog I shall not name that presented itself as a mindful search for Self. Every entry I read was a glowing lesson in self-assurance and serenity. Contentment. But its name was at odds with the inner peace it purveyed. With guidance from its author, I dug to its deepest roots and found a tragedy so unfortunate, you would be excused for believing it was as unique as the poor sufferer held it to be.

Unless you knew how often this particular tragedy plays itself out across this country. Or you knew first hand the agony of dealing with a different tragedy of similar proportions.

That doesn’t make any of them less tragic, and each has personalized variations to be sure, but this one had some gaps in the telling that left me believing the author, while accepting blame only for having had the best intentions other people misinterpreted, knowingly carried more responsibility for the tragedy than s/he was willing to own.

To some degree, a fraud, misleading many followers into believing s/he was a victim of other people’s irrationality and lies. Followers who were drinkin’ the Kool Aid.

I carefully crafted my comment to express my honest sympathy while still questioning several points that made no sense if the reader dared to examine the author’s version of the Truth. In the politest way possible, I called the author out.

Even as I wrote, I had an icky feeling in my gut. Was I stepping over a line? Was I hiding skepticism and disapproval behind sympathy? Was this response passive-aggressively cruel? Was it really necessary that I register my opinion at all? There was a real hurt here, after all.

Knocking my Doubt on its ass, my Willfulness took my Sense of Justice by the index finger and said:

“Do it. Post it.” Willfulness

My Sense of Justice is easily aroused to action.

Here’s the magic. The instant I clicked on “Reply”, my response vanished. Not into Your Comment is Being Moderated Land. Into the ether. Gone.

And I realized I’d just been saved.

Before I try anything like that again, I need to test these waters because there is a different attitude here than over on, say, Facebook. While I want to write fearlessly and honestly, I don’t want to be cruel. I believe that balance is possible, but I’m new to blogging and I need some guidance.

What do you think? Should I express my doubts when I have them? Should I keep them on my own space and not in the doubtee’s comments? Should I keep them to myself?

I’d really like to know what you think. Just be kind.

 

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Author: Sue Ranscht

I am a writer. Let me tell you a story...

18 thoughts on “Kindly respond. Kindly.”

  1. Great post! I get myself in more trouble replying to posts and engaging citizens of the World Wide Web. Just last week I replied to comments on a syndicated piece of mine and started a maelstrom. I thought I was being kind and diplomatic but turns out too much snarky-ness oozed through. After bringing it to my attention, my wife oversaw the mea culpa. She’s way more save when it comes to online, social media diplomacy. Way different rules.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and taking time to share your thoughts, Tony. There must be a substitute for snark and sarcasm when calling someone out. But if we can’t see it ourselves in the first place, it’s fortunate to have someone as savvy as your wife to point it out. Have you taken to enlisting her as an editor before you post? lol

      Like

  2. An interesting lesson on this topic is the blog of OM (Opinionated Man) who now has over 50,000 follows. His brand of honesty and calling people out are part of his persona. Yet he has a sensitivity that is larger than what he lets on to, and a sense of humor, courtesy when needed, occasional humility – all those things tend to make him feel real and loved by readers. Got all that in the mix and I guess you just have to be who you are. Some get offended. Some get befriended.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I took a look at OM. Interesting back story; seems to be all you’ve said. I don’t know that I aspire to the heights he’s reached in terms of followers, but I do aspire to the balance he’s achieved as a persona. Looks like this is a chance for me to take the leap of faith. Thanks for the insight, Shirley!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. At first I offered some very gentle and helpful suggestions to writers who posted their not so great pieces or poems, till I realised this was the last thing they wanted. Especially when all the other comments were ‘Lovely!’ or ‘You are so talented!’ So I’m no longer a spoilsport, just try to be supportive but not fake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes. The unsolicited critique. Am I correct in inferring you suggest I just keep my opinion to myself in this case? Lol. (Is a literary critique equivalent to challenging someone’s personal voracity? If someone had called BS on Jim Jones, would the Kool Aid simply have been left in the vat to evaporate?)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, say what you feel, in a kind way, as you so eloquently say here. It’s normal, human, to want to err on the side of caution and friendship, but at what cost to out ability to replay those moments in our minds? It’s okay to ask, to express our feelings.
    I really enjoyed reading your post. Thank you.

    Like

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Silvia. Thank you for commenting so thoughtfully. It seems most people favor the kind honesty approach over the saying nothing non-approach. Guess I’ll be re-visiting that blog…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re probably right. I suspect the gap has to do with embarrassment and maybe even denial that s/he has any deeper responsibility for the tragedy. I guess the worst that could happen would be trashing my comment and unfollowing my blog. Lol

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kim. I think honest is better, too. I’d certainly never lie and say something was great if it wasn’t or say I agreed with something when I didn’t. So if it seems like a blogger is misrepresenting an important aspect of the story that’s pulling in so much sympathy, I should go ahead and call shenanigans? But kindly. You recommend doing in the other blog’s comments? Would that be trolling?

      Like

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