I wrote an editorial that appeared in the paper yesterday, and people who read the Register online have the opportunity to leave anonymous comments in a forum designed to encourage conversation. I appreciate and support the need for such a forum, but I was taken aback by the fact that someone who commented after reading the piece really doesn’t like my work and decided to share that fact publicly.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t expect everyone to like my work. In fact, I sometimes don’t like my work. But I was also raised with regard for people’s feelings and taken to lunch at Younker’s Tea Room by a grandmother who insisted I wear gloves, so I’m always a bit surprised when someone chooses to behave rudely, especially in public.
As a writer, when something big happens in my life, I usually choose to, well, write about it. It helps me process the event and sleep better at night – and if my experiences can end up helping someone else, so much the better. I don’t expect valentines in return, and I’m perfectly OK with the fact that some people choose not to read my work. I’m also grateful – seriously – for people who offer constructive criticism. “I’m tired of reading about your dad” is a fair statement; “Your sentences are too long” is another. Those are comments that can help me do better.
But my hater said this:
“You should be embarassed (sic) about your ignorance about hospice and the services it provides. You seem to have made quite a career of being ignorant and then seeing the light.”
He or she is right about the fact that I should be embarrassed about my ignorance regarding hospice, and I had said as much in my editorial. But the second part: wow. Unless this person knows me, how can he or she know anything about my career, or the issues about which I’ve been ignorant and have then “seen the light”?
If the hater has been following me long enough to notice a pattern in my work, then – thanks, Hater, I guess. Chances are, as my husband pointed out, this person probably derives some sort of satisfaction from leaving anonymous comments on public forums. But here’s the thing: I looked the person up on the Register’s website, and he or she usually leaves comments that are in agreement with my views on numerous social and political issues. So, chances are I’d get along with this person in real life, and that makes this worse.
I was involved in a mini-workshop at my office last year that involved answering a series of questions, the answers to which were used to determine our strengths in the workplace. The result was that I’m a relationship-builder; I relate to people on an emotional level. I care about their lives. I want them to be healthy and happy. I know the names of their children and pets. And I tend to share quite a bit with the people in my life.
Thus, I’m not at all thick-skinned; in fact, I can be somewhat of a wuss. I don’t take it to the extreme: I don’t expect all, or even most, people to like me. But I expect them to treat me fairly, and I sure don’t expect them to be mean, especially in public.
Some well-known newspaper writers generate pages and pages of comments every day, and not all of them are positive. Many are personally directed, and I can see how they would hurt. I notice these writers in the skywalks around my office, and they don’t look upset. They obviously know how to handle this kind of thing just fine, and I need to suck it up and learn from them.
At the same time, though, Hater, if you happen to be reading this, help a girl out. If you think I can do better, tell me how. And if you don’t have anything constructive to say, as my grandmother would have instructed you, please don't say anything at all. Because really, for all of us, the world is difficult enough to navigate without being tripped up by someone who hurts feelings just for the heck of it.