When private words become public

When private words become public


I don’t really know what this has to do with compromise, but it’s on my heart so here goes.

There are some types of compromise in this world that are the right thing to do. There are others that are not.

Recently, I read a blog post that had some points I agreed with, but the title, for lack of a better word, painted all people of a certain ethnicity into one particular stereotype.

I hemmed and hawed for a few days about this. I said something about it on Twitter, and someone I respect and admire reminded me that civil discourse matters.

When the individual had posted their blog to one channel, everyone had agreed with the individual’s viewpoint. My decision to take a civil approach was to send a private message.

The response back was snide, dismissive, accusatory and belittling.

I replied back with a civil but brief reply. I thought the situation was over. The individual definitely did not have to agree with me. It was their blog after all!

I revisited their profile a few days later because I was still interested in their work (which is in the diversity field). Lo and behold they had posted my initial message (without identifying me). All they said besides posting my message was “No.”

Here’s the thing. I said what I said. I didn’t plan for it to be made public, but I don’t write things without knowing in the back of my mind they *could* be made public.

I responded to each person (and ALL of the comments were negative toward my message) to the degree possible (except the truly obnoxious ones — there’s no response adequate in that situation). I gave my email address publicly to engage in a dialogue that would hopefully be more constructive than adversarial.

***end of five minutes***

Ultimately, the person who originally posted my message left a lengthy comment and said they were “not going to spend any more emotional labor” on me.

Here’s the thing. If my words are shared in a way that threatens to compromise my integrity, the most human thing I know to do is to account for those words.

Unfortunately, the lesson I learned was that not everyone is willing to do that. And no matter how much life experience you have, that can still be a tough relationship truth to accept.

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) 

When private words become public

10 thoughts on “When private words become public

  1. I’m sorry this happened to you, especially when you handled the situation well (privately). Unfortunately, some do not understand “civil” discourse. Bless you, and thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Karen. Thanks for your empathy. I guess arguably I shouldn’t have even raised the question in the first place. But I’ve been blogging for 10+ years and have NEVER held it against anyone who disagreed with me — it has almost always been possible to have a decent discussion. I would rather my thoughts be challenged a little bit, honestly, even though it stings sometimes.

  2. Unfortunately, civil discourse, is often a dream especially online’s social media. It’s different real life face-to-face conversations. Even then, there is no guarantee. I think you handled the situation well. I’m glad you wrote from your heart. I’ve been doing that a lot lately for some odd reason. Sometimes, just by airing things publicly helps deal with emotions and thoughts privately. I hope that made sense.

    ~Your FMF neighbor

    • Yes! Exactly. It’s a dream that doesn’t align with reality, unfortunately. There was definitely a lesson learned there.

  3. I think you handled the situation with grace, dignity and control. We cannot dictate what the other person will do. Only what we will do!

    • True. I feel pretty naive about the situation, but it’s a very 2020 social media story for sure.

    • Prior to all this, I never would have said “LinkedIn is my happy place,” because I really feel Twitter is my strength. But I did view LinkedIn as “safe” in a “we’re all professionals here” kind of way (and I definitely see the logic in that thought!) and now I don’t so much. Lesson learned for sure.

  4. I’, certain that you handled it well. You were courteous and yet defended yourself. Though I don’t know the particular situation, knowing you, Paula, I am sure you handled it with dignity. There are angry folks in this world. Sometimes they have to be left alone with their anger.

    • Ha thanks! I think you’re more certain than I am, but the part I feel 100% confident about is that I consistently offered to talk things through. I am reminded of something a very wise therapist told me once: the things people protest the most are the things they’re most insecure about. So if the other individual got some weird personal power boost off of posting my private comments publicly and then refusing to talk calmly about it, I guess that was a sign of some kind.

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