Thursday, July 15, 2010

#DearBlogger, It's All About Perception

If there is one thing life has taught me, it is that nothing is black or white.
And that everyone sees things differently.

What might appear as a vase to you may appear as two faces to me.
What comes across as vindictive and hateful to you may come across as honest and helpful to me.

We just have to work harder at seeing things from each others perspective.

Last night I was thrilled to be a part of HarperPerennial's #dearpublisher hashtag discussion on Twitter, where publishers and booksellers were actively listening to what bloggers and authors have to say. Which, of course, eventually spawned off into a sidebar #dearblogger hashtag discussion between bloggers and readers.

For the time that I was logged in and participating, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what other bloggers had to say - what they found that worked for them, what they discovered that didn't. It was an informative forum where bloggers and readers could speak truthfully to each other, request favors of one another, and talk about what they love most - blogging. Being a relative newbie to the blog scene, I appreciated hearing what people had to say and even met some great bloggers and tweeters in the process! Hooray for social networking!

It came as quite a shock to me when I logged in again tonight, after a stressful day at work, to see so many tweets to #dearblogger complaining of "hateful" and "vindictive" comments that paraded around as "advice". One blogger felt moved enough to post a blog telling people "Don't Hate". I couldn't believe that the twitter forum would have disintegrated so quickly and hatefully while I slept, and proceeded to read her blog to see what all the fuss was about.

Holy Shit! I was quoted by her! And not just once, but twice! And my quotes were labeled as"vindictive" stuff that shouldn't have been said! My jaw hit the floor. I mean, seriously, me? Vindictive? Have you met me? Are you kidding?

The two tweets that she quoted (I suppose I should be happy she didn't tag me or my blog after it? Nothing like a little negative publicity, huh?) were really quite harmless and of course taken out of context.

But people are people and perception is a tricky little thing.

Of the two tweets she quoted, this one bothered me the most because it was meant as encouragement to a fellow tweeter:

"You can review a book that you didn't like and STILL find positive things to say about it. There is an audience 4 every book."

For this tweet, I was replying to a newer blogger who was concerned about posting negative reviews for fear of upsetting people or being the target of retaliation. I simply wanted him to know that even though your overall opinion may be a negative one, there's usually always something you can call attention to positively. I've written my fair share of one and two star reviews, and while it's not fun to criticize someone's hard work, it is necessary to be honest and up front. And there are ways to do it without crushing their spirit. Twitter simply is not the proper outlet to be discussing things like this - it's 140 character limit makes getting ones point across very difficult! So if you will humor me, I will attempt to give my advice here, where word limit is not an issue.

It is easy for me to find praise-worthy things largely because of what I do for a living. I work as a Learning and Development Specialist for a pretty large off price clothing retailer. The backbone to any type of Learning and Development is feedback. Where I work, we create what we call a "Praise Sandwich" - it's a way of giving someone constructive criticism on the things we would like them to change or do better while also calling attention to the things they do well - leaving them feeling whole and productive and full of motivation, rather than crushing their spirit and making them feel useless and pathetic. This way, they walk away knowing exactly what they did that made a positive impact, and it also gives them the opportunity to look at, and consider, the things they have done that may have turned some people off.

Here is an example of a book that I reviewed that I really didn't enjoy at all. However, I found a way to communicate the book's purpose positively while still expressing my feelings on it. The author actually thanked me for the review! Go figure!

Again, this is my job - to find the positive buried within the negative, so it certainly bleeds over into the rest of my life. And it is certainly tied to perception.

What appears as young girls ear to you may appear as an old woman's face to me.
Our perceptions are tied to our personal experiences.

Uhm....... Where was I?
Oh yes.....

It can be hard to decipher someone's intent in a social medium like Twitter. What is meant as friendly and supportive can be misread as sarcastic. What is meant as hurtful can be misread as funny. Written language is left open for interpretation. We understand that. We do. And yet time and time again, we seem to seek for and hunt out ill will. Seek and you shall find, my friends. It's easy to twist words into what we want them to be, or what we think they should be, and it's even easier to hold people to our perception of those words. Isn't it?

Intent vs. Impact plays a huge role in perception. What I meant to say is not always the way it is perceived. How do I overcome that? How do I find the positive? Perhaps we should first ask, do we want to find the positive?

I would really hate to see a good thing get bashed based on someone's perception. Let's challenge ourselves to challenge our perceptions. And to help others work towards challenging theirs.

Some people naturally see the good while others can only see the evil.
What is your perspective.


  1. Hi Melina! Thanks for the comment. I see good too. And I could tell from your #dearblogger comments last night that you did to! I think it is amazing that you're blogging at such a young age. It's wonderful to see you promote authors and novels. You are inspiration to the younger generations!

  2. Thanks April! What did you guys think of the #dearblogger feedback last night?

  3. Wow... I read her post and I liked yours better. I'm wondering if someone said something 'mean' that she took personally...
    This was a great post. (I don't think your comments were negative or vindictive at all!)

  4. i missed the negatives or just read them differently. i enjoyed the comments. i've given up on a lot of contests because they take up too much time if you really want to compete. what i don't understand is why bloggers make it so hard on themselves. if they just made it one entry person. don't they realize that most people with undo all those extra requirements as soon as the contest if over? o, well, that's just me.

  5. Lori! Don't sweat it! I was participating in it and I definitely saw nothing wrong with your comments!

  6. I came into this whole #dearblogger thing kind of late. I'm personally glad I miss it. I think it started out well enough but got rather catty by the end.
    I do agree that it is often hard to express oneself accurately on Twitter. Perhaps #dearblogger was a bad idea.We have enough drama without going on twitter and creating more in 140 characters. Believe me, I have been a part of enough twitter related drama. It is just getting old.

  7. Thanks for your comments!
    Ashley, Jamie - thank you for your support. I had fun writing this post. it was the longest vent session I have ever put myself through but I wanted to make it more about perspective than anything else. How easy it is to see something different - no matter what the intent was.

    Sharonlovescats - It was certainly better in the early portion of the night. I was so happy to be a part of it, but again, it all comes down to what you are taking out of it personally. No one experiences things exactly the same. I appreciate your comment!

    Hodgepodge, I hear you about the contests. I try to make mine simply, but mean something. I dont like to count entries and have people posting all sorts of whacky things. I like to stir up some conversations, though it would appear that my intent there is a little lacking as well. No one seems interested in mine :(

  8. TNBBC,

    I only checked in periodically with #dearblogger and didn't feel what I saw was hateful. I agreed with most of the tweets.

    I read the "Don't Hate" post you linked to. My impressions: 1) She seems a bit sensitive to what "hate" is. That's a strong word. When someone said their eyes hurt from a black background and red text, all they're saying is the blog is hard to read. If I were the owner of said blog, I'd want to know this. 2) The "Don't Hate" blogger contradicted herself. At the end, she had a quote saying don't be afraid to do whatever you want. Well, that includes telling other bloggers their black background makes your eyes hurt!

  9. I don't Twitter so I've missed the conflict that spawned this post, but I want to commend you for handling what seems to be a difficult situation in a mature and professional manner.

    I've seen friends have some pretty serious falling-outs over comments made on Facebook and it usually turns into each person feeling that their comments are innocent and the other person's are malicious. I really like how you pointed out that it's up to each one of us to choose what to perceive.

    Sorry you had to deal with all this but I will say one of the reasons I follow the reviews on this blog is because I think you write fair assessments of books. I like how you are willing to say positive things even about works that aren't your top choices, and I like how you even managed to put a positive spin on the fallout of this incident. Keep up the great blog!

  10. Pop Culture Nerd - The blogger who posted "Don't Hate" was pretty receptive when I tweeted her about her misinterpretation of my comments and of course, she is entitled to her opinions. I just felt a strong need to counterbalance the "hate" part of it. And you are correct in saying that it got a bit contradictory towards the end. Advice really can be taken any which way...

    Lisa, words have a way of breaking relationships up, and driving stakes into the ground between friends. You are so right! That's also part of why I blogged the way I did. It's so easy to jump the gun and assume something and then hold the person to YOUR assumption. I hope this post helps people see that is always more than just one side to things.

    Thanks for the comments.

  11. This sounds rather unfortunate! It seems to me that advice can be taken or left and shouldn't be seen as prescriptive. Obviously what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for the next because we all have different blogging goals. (I missed the actual Twitter discussion.) Anyway, I'm glad to hear the blogger who posted "Don't Hate" was receptive to your comments!