I’m trying to work out whether I’m a fan of discussion or not. I like a good old chinwag, and brainstorm. But discussion? There is a strong tendency in me to want ‘efficiency’; So a part of me kicks in with ‘seriously, isn’t it obvious?’, but clearly it really often isn’t!
A ‘healthy’ discussion to me is where both sides learn things; either to understand other perspectives, or to shift theirs a little. It’s where all parties are confident enough in themselves to be open to new ideas, and to not need to convince other people of their ‘right-itude’ (you know what I mean – the fact that they are more right than anyone else in the conversation).
To me an ‘unhealthy’ discussion is where no one hears each other, everyone is stuck in their ‘right-itude’ so it starts to descend quickly into a personal attack.
But I’m seeing as I write this that if there’s to be discussion, there is bound to be a bit of both ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ in it. I wonder whether my concern over this has sometimes limited my blog, because I’ll often cover all aspects, rather than leave it to be discussed in the comments?
There have been a lot of incidents over the past few months that have got me thinking, in particular about discussion amongst Mums:
There was a big spat when someone called ‘Real Mum’ (great right-itude name) had a go at one of the newer bloggers, Mammasaurus. It was just plain old nasty ‘Mums judging Mums’ stuff, quickly descended into bullied victim + persecutor scenario. But if we all learnt to control our outbursts, would the mummy blogging community literally get bored?
There’s bitching behind the scenes in the mummy blogging community about ‘blagger’s as well. A number of people commented on a post I wrote called ‘I’m a blagger blogger, fancy joining me‘, without actually reading it, just desperate to not be associated with the term; so not much discussion there.
It’s not just Mummy Bloggers, celeb Mums love to have a good go to; Sally Bercow insulted Kirstie Allsopp in the Daily Mail: which to me felt like a complete waste of time. Plus publicly slagging off another mother, in a society where Mums aren’t regarded with deep respect anyway, is surely going to just make matters worse?
Twitter is full of spats between celeb mums taking umbrage at someone else using a different parenting technique. Half of them ended up in the big brother house together, where they realised surprise surprise ‘she’s actually quite nice’! Perhaps the short written word like Twitter, Facebook or blogs isn’t ideal for discussion?
There’s been some neighbourhood incidents where Mums bitterly fell out mainly due to a lack of empathy for different scenarios, ages, relationship lengths, no’s of children and financial situations. There was absolutely no discussion which is probably why it went all tits up. Perhaps ‘pastures new’ will be good for the Mums though?
Whereas there was another little spat in the blogging community back on Mammasaurus’s blog (she must be the lucky one heh!), which seemed to be respectfully resolved in the whole discussion/commenting process between the parties, with the slagging off commenting well controlled. Perhaps that was a good example of where it’s wise to get things out in the open and discuss them, otherwise it could have become really gruesome in a few months time?
I experienced being involved in a blogging community discussion after launching my ‘Mums Standing Up Together‘ campaign. I’d approached all the mummy blogging communities, but was more obviously supported by Britmums in their blogging prompts. Blimey do these women know how to press buttons and get the discussion going. Initially I was disconcerted (not upset) by the feeling that there were people writing about what I’d said and misunderstanding it. After lots of tea I decided it had been useful to ensure that I was really clear about what I meant.
At home there are plenty of ‘discussions’ between me and the hubby. Over 22yrs I’ve tried all sorts of things, like raising issues every couple of months (a bit like the big blow ups in the blogging community), or just compromising and keeping my opinions to myself which isn’t so good for my own identity. A constant regular stream of little discussions before they blow up seems like the best compromise for us. It’s unrealistic to not expect misunderstandings between the southern cheeriness of me and the hairy northernness of him.
Finally I saw a conversation on twitter where a mum took umbrage at Kelly Rose Bradford’s article in the Daily Mail and was pulled up for publicly criticising her (the joy of twitter!). Kelly didn’t reply to all the nasty comments on the Daily Mail and said that ‘I wrote it purely to spark a debate‘, plus that all her family and friends understood her job. This was a HUGE eye opener to me, because she saw the debate as the objective, whereas I see the resulting consensus or agreement to differ as the objective. This is potentially where I’ve often been going ‘wrong’. She didn’t feel the worry that I had about being misunderstood. What a huge revelation!
I blogged recently about setting Life Priorities for the chinese new year, maybe I need clear ‘people priorities’, so that I can be clear on who it matters understand me?
Oh and it definitely convinced me that photo’s are massively important, because that is one bad photo of you Kelly! Anyone fancy doing a photo shoot for me in return for a blog post, because mine looks a bit too ‘nice’ (back to the blagging!).
10 thoughts on “When Is Discussion Healthy or Unhealthy?”
Discussions are good, but sometimes they turn into rants, or turn in the wrong direction because of personal experience or agendas. But it can be nearly impossible to keep a discussion going on the Internet, where people can hide behind a handle and make quick judgements between sips of coffee. Only if we all respect each other would that happen. Sorry, it’s still early. x
That was definitely my opinion Susanna, and I agree that it’s totally much easier to be rude when you can also be anonymous. It would be much harder if you were standing there and saw the tears appear in someone’s eyes.
I just wonder whether the fear of being misunderstood made my blogs a bit cumbersome and uncontroversial ;o) I’m hoping to develop a thick skin as I have A LOT I would love to achieve for Mums, and I suspect that is going to mean a lot of trolls :o(
Oh Lisa- Great minds think a like and all that!
I turn 30 in 2 weeks, and perhaps its that but I have made a general promise to myself to a)not be such a car crash rant wise, and b) to ditch the negative. By negative I mean literally ditch anyone or anything negative to my life, my day to day, my blog anything. There are a few people in blogging who will be nice to your face but then are pretty happy to knock you privately. I think maybe these people are not confident in what they do themselves so go from one to another saying different things to different people.
I went through my friends lists etc, and it may be mean but I did ditch the people whose tweets and Facebook statuses are nothing but moaning, and that was ex-school chums and bloggers alike. That’s not to say I ditched those with a reason to be down, but just the ones for who life is all about negativity and being miserable and not taking action to make themselves happier.
I felt there was lots of negative vibes around my blog and twitter name, so I changed them, and my writing has suddenly sparked up again.
It feels liberating to be hearing tweets from other people who however crap life gets for them they think positively and smile regardless!
Totally agree about the confidence issue being the main reason behind the nastiness.
I did a cull too – lots of people in my business do fake ‘positive’ posts which are just as irritating! I must admit that I use twitter lists so that I don’t have to see the constant moans – I came to an early understanding that many of the very unhappy people didn’t actually want me to help them.
I saw your name had changed – how interesting that there has been such a difference. Must admit I think the new name has more breadth to it.
I have to agree with Susanna that sometimes the more inconsiderate voices don’t arise from the posts themselves but more from the comments. As we saw with my ‘leaving Britmums’ post. I did delete one comment and deleting comments is not something that I personally like to do, peoples viewpoints are important and I won’t delete them unless they are offensive.
I feel a really positive step would be to promote open discussion and communication more often. If someone has an issue with another person in real life they either discuss the issue with the person or sit quietly and fester away! What makes the internet any different?
Of course there are always two sides to any story and if someone feels wronged we cannot judge them in their upset and subsequent anger – we do not know their motives. They may be being spiteful and bitter – or they may in fact be the victim themselves and feel unable to speak out in any other way.
It is a tough one that’s for sure. I am all for discussion and debate – positive or negative. Sometimes it takes a negative input to make a positive change. Take ‘Real Mum’ for example, she spouted some rather offensive guff and personally outed an anonymous blogger in the process, there was outrage and calls of ‘don’t feed the trolls’. But it wasn’t all negative. Bloggers came from all networks to be supportive of each other.
Maybe we should all look at how we perceive these ‘happenings’, yes they are upsetting, yes they cause a bit of a stir but ultimately the blogging community stands up and says ‘that’s jolly awful’ together and that collective support is never a bad thing.
More discussion and more debate please!
Ahh I didn’t see you delete a comment, but I can totally see why you would do it – I’ve only done it a couple of times on my blog but I do think it is wise sometimes.
It’s a really good point that someone who looks spiteful might have a reason to be so – another good ‘stand in their shoes’ point.
You are right, when the hate comments arrive, then normally a pile of support will arrive too – sometimes it can even go the other way into bullying the hater. But it does show that there will always be people ‘there’ for us.
Discussion is a good thing but you have to remember that you cannot control how the person reading something takes it – they could be tired, irritable or downright narked and that may lead to things being blown out of context
Something along these lines has happened on our local toddler network and perhaps this has to be the year where I don’t say some of the things I want to – sometimes making a point for the sake of it isn’t very constructive. And yet there has to be people in the world brave enough to say the things that others are thinking but haven’t said
It’s a fine line isn’t it – to speak out, but be constructive. To stay nice and only speak out when it’s useful, but not regret unsaid things.
Thanks for responding to my comment on the other post and tipping me off to this one. I think what you have to address first and foremost, as you are doing in this post, is your feelings about discussion, because a campaign like this about standing in other people’s shoes, means also recognising that your feelings and sometimes discomfort about discussion, aren’t going to be shared. Those incidences you’ve listed, yeah they’re annoying but they’re drops in the ocean.
If you look beyond the mums aspect, you’ll see that this issue is present in discussions amongst women, and then is also present in discussions amongst bloggers in general. There is a distortion caused by social media – some can feel compelled to shock and attention seek when they’re writing in 140 characters or have no sense of tone, context and boundaries when reading and replying. Blogging by it’s very nature let’s us believe that our opinions are important and necessary to impart. I’m almost 8 years blogging – I’ve never once left a rude or nasty comment on someone’s blog, even if I thought they were a twat. Experience has taught me that only certain types of people behave in this way.
I do feel it’s very difficult to regulate discussion, or should I say ‘moderate’ what amounts to a huge discussion (blogging) with lots of sub discussions (bloggers). There’s also a lack of control in determining who is involved – some people don’t see themselves in an authentic light. They’d champion your cause and twist the knife and engage in the very un-sisterly behaviour that you’re attempting to knock on the head.
It’s like trying to rebrand women, and in particular mothers and the discussions amongst them. A noble cause but an exhausting one at that! You’re a kindhearted, generous, respectful person – of course it bothers you when people don’t behave in this way. But they do. Thankfully they don’t represent the majority!
I wonder what the psychology is behind the trolls and twits; I might have to research that. Yesterday white van man shouted at some people next to me in London; whats up with that? It’s like the moving version of a tweet!
My suspicion in someone wanting to share their unrequested or unwanted criticism publicly is that they on one hand have a huge sense of their self-worth, which is balanced out on the other hand by a big lack of self-esteem.
Yep, the concept of the campaign itself becoming a tool for bullying is a very real potential problem, and the biggest reason for potentially not doing it or finding an alternative means. I need to go back to the drawing board and keep my eye on the bigger perspective which is improving the strength of women in society and helping to change the way that we are viewed.
Thanks for continuing the discussion, I agree that I might be trying to help a bit too much, and need to regroup and rethink – but I’ll be back ;o)