Bloggy Drama: Or, Wait! That’s Not What I Meant!

mark-25527_150I haven’t been able to shake a recent incident that relates to blogging, so I thought I’d write about it and see if anyone can help me find some new insights.

In a nutshell:

Within the last couple of weeks, I received an email from a blogger who I’d never encountered before (and whose blog I wasn’t familiar with). She was writing to say that she was thinking of starting a regular feature with the same name as something that I do, and wanted to know my thoughts. In fact, she asked if it would be okay with me.

I responded, and thanked her for contacting me. Since she’d asked (I said), I told her that I’d prefer if she didn’t do the exact same thing as I did, and said that since I head-37512_150did have this feature up and running, I’d love to have her join in. I mentioned my preferences, and added something that others have told me when I’ve reached out for an opinion: It’s your blog, so in the end you should do what works best for you.

I also — and perhaps here’s where I went wrong — mentioned that I have a book blog meme directory page. My impression was that she was interested in starting up a meme, and so I basically said, hey, if you’re interested, check this out — there are a lot of bloggers doing some pretty cool stuff, in case you want to see what’s already out there.

I closed with thanks — again — for contacting me.

And that was it. Do you see a problem yet? In case there’s any doubt, let me just say that I was sincere in saying that I thought it was nice of her to contact me — and since she’d asked my opinion, I didn’t see anything wrong with giving one. My intentions were all good, I swear.

And then…

I got an email back, and it was fairly awful. I was told that my email was condescending, that she’d been blogging for a lot longer than I had, that she was not impressed at all, that I didn’t seem to have as many followers as (it was implied) she does, and that she’d heard of all of the memes in my directory except mine. Furthermore, she told me, she hadn’t really needed to contact me to begin with and now she wishes she hadn’t.

smiley-150651_150I felt terrible. And completely misunderstood. And kind of attacked. And at the same time a teensy bit thankful that I’d made it almost to a year and a half as a blogger before getting an email that made me feel this lousy.

So, I wrote back. I told her that perhaps my intentions hadn’t been conveyed in my email — maybe my tone hadn’t carried through — and that I was sorry to have caused offense. I assured her that I did not feel condescending nor had I intended to sound that way, and also expressed confusion over what I had said that would be interpreted that way. I stated, again, that I respect her (and everybody’s) right to do whatever they want with their own blogs. I wrapped up by saying I wished her well and to please consider my email a peace offering.

… which she accepted, because I got a nicer email back which made me feel better, and left me feeling that the conflict had been resolved and the issue put to bed.

So why is it still eating away at me?

I recognize that perhaps I need a thicker skin. I take criticism personally. And I hate the idea of causing offense, particularly when absolutely none was intended. smiley-150662_150

I ran the string of emails by a trusted friend, who’s one of my go-to people when I need some honest critiquing. She didn’t see anything wrong with my original email, although she did point out that perhaps by suggesting the other blogger check out the meme directory, she might have taken it as me saying that she was a newbie or didn’t know what she was doing.

Okay, fair enough. I will say that I get contacted by people with questions about the directory several times a week. Sometimes the questions will be along the lines of “I’m thinking of starting a meme! How do I get listed?” and I’ll suggest that they look to see what’s already being done and how the listings appear, so they can try to come up with a fresh angle or a slightly different focus. And when I do refer people to the directory, I usually hear “thanks!” in reply.

But, okay, for someone who’s been blogging for a few years, maybe that came across as condescending.

Other than that, I guess I just don’t know exactly where I went wrong. It’s ironic, in a way, since in my work life, I often coach younger or less experienced workers on email etiquette, and we frequently discuss how tone doesn’t always come across in emails as intended. So short of using a smiley emoticon at the end of every sentence, I don’t know how I could have said what I said and made it clearer that I meant it all in a friendly spirit.

I’m probably belaboring the point and getting carried away… See what I mean? I take things personally and then have a hard time letting go.

head-37513_150But I think the reason this bothers me so much is that I place a huge value on kindness and respect. (Ask my kids — it’s kind of a mantra for me). If someone wants to say something mean to me, I guess I can just absorb it and move on. But it really upsets me to think that I came across as disrespectful or unkind to someone without realizing it.

So… where did I go wrong? Should I just have replied to the original email by saying “thanks” and “no worries, it’s all good”? I suppose I could have, but I was asked for my opinion, which is why I gave it. Was giving the referral to the meme directory the wrong thing to do? All of the above? None of the above?

To be clear, I’m not faulting the other person involved at all. The whole reason I’m writing this post in the first place — rather than working on an overdue book review! — is to better understand my role in all of this.

I’d love to know what you all think. Have you ever been in a situation as a blogger where an email or a comment of yours has been misconstrued? What would you have done in my situation? Do you think I should have taken a different approach? Do you think I’m worrying too much about it all? Feel free to tell me I’m being oversensitive and obsessive!

Thanks for listening! I promise that I’ve moved on… but I’d love to hear some comments.

19 thoughts on “Bloggy Drama: Or, Wait! That’s Not What I Meant!

  1. Try to let it go. I’ve had a few instances where people (bloggers) have taken what I said the wrong way and it turns out to be a simple misunderstanding. Maybe she had a messaged a few bloggers and others had responded negatively which had her ruffled up or maybe she is very sensitive or maybe something was worded wrong. What is the most important is that in the end it feels resolved. Try not to fret about it. ❤

    • Thank you! Of course you’re right about what’s important — it came out alright in the end and I felt that we both walked away without hard feelings. I guess it’s just really hard to feel misunderstood, especially knowing that that misunderstanding makes the other person feel like they’ve been treated poorly. And true, maybe something I wrote was worded wrong. But — moving on! 🙂

  2. I don’t believe adding a note about the directory was condescending! It may be possible to interpret it that way (clearly I haven’t seen the original wording of your email), but looking at the directory could very legitimately help anyone thinking of starting a meme see what ideas and meme names are already in use. I’ve been blogging about two years, and though I’ve run across a number of memes just by browsing blogs, I do think having a one-stop page to find memes has a lot of uses.

    I’d probably be a bit startled, too, if I received a similar email. (I don’t ever want to sound rude unintentionally!) And I think it’s great that you’re using this as a learning experience to improve your tone in online communication, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You seem have to resolved the situation with the other blogger, so all sounds good!

    • Thanks for your nice comments! Yes, it did get all resolved — and I do tend to worry at issues long past when it’s necessary — but something about this one just really kept nagging at me. You’re right, I suppose this is a learning experience, and now I just need to figure out the lessons learned! 🙂

  3. I honestly don’t feel like you said anything wrong. I sort of think maybe the other person was just being touchy and irritated because you said no to her request. I would try to let it go. I’m sure it was more about her than you. I hope the rest of your day is good despite this. (:

    • Yes, it’s on an upswing! You may be right, it may have been more about what was going on with the other person than about what I actually said, but it’s never fun to be on the receiving end. Deep breaths, letting go… 🙂 Thank you!

  4. I think that blogger is just a little insecure (and that’s totally fine) or just having a bad day (thus affecting her perception), so that’s probably why she saw your referral as condescending. You were just trying to help, and it’s nice that you sent her a reply to clear stuff up.

    I’m glad you are watching your tone. I have some friends who sound more curt online than they do in real life, because of the way they phrase things. Communication is about sending messages, however the way you send can only go so far – the way people receive things can be the problem too. You’ve done your part, and you sound like a kind person. 🙂

    Ellen @ Glamorous Book Lounge

    • Thanks, Ellen! I’m no saint 🙂 but I do try to pick kindness over meanness and appreciate when others do the same! I suppose once we make an effort (successful or not) to communicate with good intentions, we have to rely on the other person to receive it in the intended spirit (if that makes any sense… feeling a bit garbled today). I really appreciate your comments! Very kind indeed. 🙂

  5. definitely let it go. I don’t think you did anything wrong. Sometimes people take things the wrong way especially in emails and other times, people who are expecting negativity interpret everything negatively, and give it back in return

    • True, and I suppose I’ve had my days of responding negatively to something that probably wasn’t meant that way, just because I was in the midst of a negative kind of day. Trying to let it go — and I guess this whole post could be considered “therapy by blogging”. Thank you for your nice words! I appreciate it.

  6. I agree with the above comments, it doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. It does appear that the other person may have been a little quick to take offense. Good grief. You handled it very nicely though, not all of us would have responded that well to that kind of snark. 🙂 As for the original request, I’m not sure I would even ask the question- if the feature is already being done then it just seems like common sense to use a different name or change it up so its not the exact same as yours.

    • Thanks, Greg! I appreciate your nice words. (I swear, I didn’t write this post just to fish for positive feedback…) If a “real life” friend had dumped a bunch of snark on me, I probably would have responded in kind and we’d all laugh about it. Email is a tricky medium, especially with people who only know you in print and don’t “get” personal traits, vocal inflections, etc. I guess this is a good reminder for me to do a quick re-scan before hitting send to make sure what I said will translate well. That said, there’s only so much we can control, and I have to grow a thicker skin! Thanks again! 🙂

  7. I saw your tweets about this topic during the week and could taste your confusion. I do not think you did anything wrong even though I cannot be sure without the original emails. But to break the situation down… a person asks you if she can run the same meme you are running and apart from you is wrong. It does not matter what way you turn it. Knowing how you react on an average base I am sure you have been polite about it.
    I can imagine though it keeps eating at you. You had every right to turn her request down but still you feel attacked by her reaction. Telling you she is bigger an older than your blog can make you feel so small but in the end it does not change the fact that you had the meme running before she thought of it. The situation will probably come up every now and than when you wonder if you are making the right decisions but I do not think you did anything wrong and just ran into someone who got disappointed with your reaction and reacted on that.

    • Thanks, Ciska! I don’t actually have a problem with the original request, actually. Given the thousands of book bloggers out there, there’s always a lot of duplication, so I did feel it was nice of her to ask in the first place. It just confused the heck out of me when the conversation went so completely off the rails.Live and learn, I guess. I really appreciate the feedback and encouragement! 🙂

  8. I totally agree with Lisa – someone’s being touchy because you said no. I don’t feel like you did a wrong thing and you should definitely let it go; it’s the other person’s fault to taking it the way they did, and even though I know it makes you feel bad, just think: you did nothing wrong. Hope it helps. 🙂
    I have the same issues: I worry after something like this happens, even if it’s resolved. I can be mean too, and not regret it either, but that rarely ever happens. Mostly, I just try to help everyone and anyone, be nice and polite. But not everyone plays that way and there’s nothing you can do but ignore them.

    It happened to me someone took something off my blog (design-wise) that I made myself, without asking and despite me having a disclaimer and content protection thingy and all. And it was a blog I visited before and planned to in the future as well, so I noticed, and the person was probably aware of it, but I felt like it needed to be clear that the person did a bad thing. I wrote an email, saying that person took the thing(s) and never asked, how I have a disclaimer and all. And told the person if s/he asked, I’d probably allow it or make them a personalized item. The person apologized and changed the things, but it made me feel so bad I offered help: I can make them the items if they wish, make them like mine, similar, different, however they want. And I never heard back. I felt bad, but now I’m over it. Some people just fail to see you’re trying to help. Their loss.
    So don’t feel bad, just let it slide, and learn from this: people can be touchy and have a bad day, but it’s not your problem or your fault. 😉

    • Thanks, Ula, and thanks for sharing your own experience! It sounds like you were really gracious in a situation where you didn’t necessarily have to be!

      Especially for people newer to the blogging world, people can make mistakes, especially on things like illustrations, blog designs, etc — so I’m glad you pointed out to the person what they’d done and why it was a problem Still, you’d think you’d get a response back to your offer of help — you certainly didn’t have to do that!

      I’m trying to let go quicker of things that make me feel bad. Even as a smaller blogger, once I’m putting my thoughts and posts out there, it opens me up to feedback for good and for bad, and I have to get better at not letting the negative get me down.

      I appreciate your support and your thoughtful comments! It’s always helpful to hear how someone else has dealt with a similar situation. 🙂

  9. IIt feels like I’ve seen a lot of this around the bookish community of late, whether it be by other bloggers or authors alike. People take something the wrong way and blow up without clarification or thinking it through. And while I do think it was thoughtful of the blogger to initially contact you in the first place and though it can be a bit difficult to interpret emails accurately, I do think the blogger-in-question overreacted here. Maybe you hurt his/her pride (unintentionally, of course) which could account for that kind of a response, I dunno. What I do know is that these days it’s so easy to jump the gun and blow up at another person when we’re behind the safety of our computer screens and it’s a damn shame. I think you’re are totally right in how you handled the situation and I probably would’ve been flustered too. At the end of the day it boils down to respect. We all have to respect one another even if our opinions are different than someone else’s. This is supposed to be fun. We’re supposed to feel comfortable to talk to eachother and facilitiate discussion, even if we share opposing opinions. What I’d like to know is when did people start getting so touchy about everything?

    • “This is supposed to be fun” — you hit the nail on the head! Every time I start stressing out about something blog-related, I try to take a deep breath and remind myself of exactly that. “when did people start getting so touchy about everything?” — I don’t know, maybe it’s this climate of always sharing everything via social media. We’re all so primed to like or comment or respond in some way to pretty much everything, maybe it’s become to easy to vent or go off on someone without having to stop and think. I really appreciate your comments. It’s been really helpful for me to hear from others, not so much to validate what I did or didn’t do as to know that others find issues as well with respect and taking offense, etc. Thank you, Nikki, for your thoughtful comments!

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