Monday, April 1, 2013

I Don't Want To Be Boo Radley


A few weeks ago, I talked about how blogging has opened my eyes to the little bubble in which I live - there are so many women out there whose blogs have given me glimpses into lives I can't begin to understand. I think you'll all agree, dear readers, that I'm generally not afraid of sharing my mind on my own patch of the internet, but sometimes I do wonder what the point is of speaking out if most of my readers and commenters come from backgrounds and belief systems similar to my own.  Of course I'm not looking for an argument or for controversy, but sometimes I feel like I'm preaching to the choir.

You read my blog by choice, and I'm deeply honored by that.  I love that so many of you jumped in with your comments on my I Believe post with explanations or your own faith and your own struggles, and I was delighted especially when Georgia identified with an organized religion.  Honestly, though, I was sort of hoping that someone - anyone - would have left a comment saying, as a blogger who I'll leave anonymous here emailed me back in February, "not all truth is relative... there are eternal laws that govern humans whether we recognize them or not [and] true and lasting happiness comes only from God."  It's possible that no one responded to my posts (or to any of the amazing comments that you left) with anything like that because they were scared; they didn't feel comfortable enough to enunciate their beliefs or they didn't feel it was a safe space to share disagreements.  But I'm not sure that's the case.  I suspect that no one commented like that because, no matter what we say, many bloggers don't actually want a respectful debate because it's easier to willfully misunderstand each other than to find common ground.


Kristen, who blogs at milo and molly, wrote a post recently on speaking out where she asked, "Do you comment if you don't agree with the post?"  And before the last week or so, I would have said yes.  I almost always do reply to blog posts that present a different view than the one I hold because I think it's healthy to discuss our differences and to hear other opinions, especially if we're tempted to stay inside our bubbles - blogging can and should be a way to broaden our horizons, and that only happens when we open ourselves to alternate mindsets.  But blogging can also be incredibly insular.  When we preach to the choir and all we hear in response is "amen," I think blogging becomes dangerous; we become more entrenched in our own beliefs with no regard for the validity of others'.

So how do you pop the bubble in which is a blogger is hiding?  How do you encourage respectful debate when others don't want to engage?  Last week, I reached the end of my patience with another blogger, the same one I quoted above.  She often writes from a moral and intellectual place that is completely foreign to me, and I read her blog frequently for quite some time because I wanted to understand where she was coming from.  Often, I left honest comments stating an alternate (and sometimes opposing) position on meaningful issues that she shared.  But last week, after I drafted a response to a post she wrote that, actually, made me slightly angry, I realized that there was no point in publishing my comment because her post wasn't meant to inspire a conversation.  Beyond that, even if I had tried to take up a dialogue in response to her post, I would have received, at best, blank politeness, something along the lines of, "well, that's your opinion and this is mine."  (By the way, Kristen wrote a post about this sort of blogging, too!)  And so, with the help of some wonderful friends both online and off, I finally accepted the fact that responding with all off my righteous indignation, no matter how respectfully shared, was a waste of energy.

That worries me, to be honest, because I hope that blogging will be broadening for all of us.  I want to hear from others who disagree with me and I want to feel free to disagree with others; after all, we learn and grow by questioning and by being questioned.  But by not commenting on this blogger's post last week - and, in fact, by finally unfollowing her altogether - I have stepped back into my own bubble.  That's the last thing I want, but I don't know what else do to.  It takes two to tango, and I feel like there aren't enough partners out there.

This isn't one of my essay-like posts, where I analyze everything and then come to a conclusion.  (It's also not one of those posts where I don't mix my metaphors horribly - sorry about that!)  I have no conclusion, dear readers.  I really don't know what the answer is to this.  Do you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts - because, while my bubble is awfully comfortable and safe, I don't want to be Boo Radley.


37 comments:

  1. Hi Betsy, thanks for sharing this. I have a little bit of a different perspective. For me, the blog world is not a place where I come to engage in controversy or respectful debate, and I think if a blog post makes you angry then you should walk away. I think you did the right thing there. There's already so much debate and controversy and disagreement in our real lives that I think for so many of us, blogging is where we come to get away from that. To find like-minded people, because sometimes they're hard to find in real life (I've found so many more kindred spirits through blogging than I've ever found in my real life....and that's a good and encouraging thing). To write in a way that brings us joy and inspiration, and hopefully to bring joy and inspiration to others. To be gracious and tactful, to express ourselves honestly but with grace and class.


    I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting your blog to be sort of a "forum" of discussion and ideas...and I think you do a good job making people of opposing opinions feel welcome! But I also think that a lot of people may not want to engage in that way, they would rather read a controversial post they don't agree and quietly click out, rather than post a comment that makes their heart race (no matter how respectful). And I think a lot of times, that's actually taking the high road. There are all kinds of people with all kinds of beliefs, and I don't know that engaging in back-and-forths helps us to understand each other better. Perhaps just absorbing the other person's post, and not commenting, is a better way to do that.


    I hope this makes sense....it's a hard thing to describe and put into words. I don't mean to say anything negative about how YOU want to run your blog, because that's totally up to you and I think your blog is really interesting! Just a possible explanation as to why, maybe, you aren't necessarily getting the kind of "opposition" (for lack of a better word) in your comments that you'd like.


    Anyway, this comment is long enough! Have a good day :)

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  2. I mostly follow blogs that share at least some of my core beliefs. The other blogs I follow aren't in any way controversial--I follow a few beauty and/or fashion blogs, for example.

    One blogger who is great at inspiring conversation (although sometimes she receives some mean comments that oppose her) is Bonnie at Life of Bon. http://www.thelifeofbon.com/ She talks about handling difficult situations while teaching and asks her readers how we would have handled it. She blogs about being a Mormon and how that shapes her life. I do think the people who comment on her blog have shown there is a way to disagree respectfully, even passionately, and a way to be mean.

    The only time I've really argued with a blogger was when a writer at the Vagenda (which is multi-authored) posted that being a Christian feminist was impossible. Basically the writer said you could be one or the other, but not both. I respectfully disagreed and explained why. The writer said I was wrong. I followed up with more explanation and biblical citations; the writer said I was wrong. Other voices were chiming in, including someone working on her Ph.D. in religious texts or something--the writer continued to insist we were all wrong. So I gave up. The writer's original post seemed open to discussion, but the writer completely shut down any disagreement by basically calling us all wrong and stupid.

    Facebook, however, is where I truly debate. I post controversial articles to facebook all the time, ones that my blog readers & twitter followers generally support, but not all my friends IRL do. My feminist friends all chime in with agreement, but my other friends often disagree or ask questions for clarification. I have had to state that I will now delete all rape apology or misogyny from my wall, which is unfortunate. Most people are able to disagree civilly, but sadly, my brothers are not always able to do so.

    Sorry for the mini-blog post...

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  3. I disagree with every single thing you said in this post. No actually I`m lying... But if I did, I would say something. It's funny because sometimes people just take what is written and run & run with it, and over interpret it and take it so personally (like with this http://www.dontquotetheraven.com/2013/02/my-husband-wants-hot-wife.html post by Raven) and then in other posts, no one starts any sort of discussion. Anyway, if I disagreed with you, I would nicely state that, and why, but I might not do that on *every* other blog I read. For instance I wouldn`t do it if I felt it would be insulting someone intentionally, or if that person didn`t seem open to discussion. There is one blog post in particular (not yours) that I was offended by & wanted to nicely ask her some questions, but I felt like it would have just created conflict so in the end I didn`t, I suppose because I didn`t know what that particular bloggers reactions for have been.



    Jess
    Some Snapshots Blog

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  4. you know this is the ideal first comment, right? :P


    but I have to admit with shame, that I'd actually never considered this. I guess I just assumed that everyone who wrote openly about potentially controversial topics were, at least in theory, opening the door to a broader conversation - but then that assumption is just as dangerous as anything else, isn't it, because it means that I'm forcing others into a discussion that they're perhaps not ready to have. I DO love that we can find like-minded people on the internet, and it sounds like I need to realize that that can (and maybe should) be enough? At the very least, I need to respect that that's enough for some, and that's not better or worse than what I'm looking for online! thank you, friend :)

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  5. I keep seeing Life on Bon around - I think I need to get on reading her! but you raise another very good point - there are so many forums around, and it's not appropriate to throw everything out there on all of them. I don't think I'd realized it before, but I'm much more incendiary on Twitter. Facebook - I almost never post to Facebook, but I do comment a lot on friends' posts, but then again most of my friends on Facebook share my opinions on hot-button topics! I think the trick might be to read between the lines to figure out when bloggers are open to debate and when they just want to enunciate their own thoughts out loud on their own space.


    thank you! and thank you for your post yesterday - I will comment on that tonight :)

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  6. okay, so the message that I'm getting (very nicely!) from these comments is that maybe it's selfish of me to want everyone to want to debate - which I hadn't considered before but which does make sense. for instance, just keeping Raven* as our example, I'm not tempted to reply to the posts she writes that I 100% disagree with (like http://www.dontquotetheraven.com/2012/01/why-my-kids-do-not-get-vaccines.html) but I am tempted to reply to the posts that I 75% disagree with (like the one you linked to above) which means that I use commenting and the resulting conversation as a way to flesh out what I think - but I guess you can look at that as me using the other blogger, in a way, which she might not be okay with. does that make sense? hm...


    *I almost never read Don't Quote The Raven.

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  7. I do think there are bloggers (like Motley Mama) who encourage respectful conversation, and there are bloggers who don't, either by a false, cheery "oh, thanks for commenting, but I don't think so!" or by getting belligerent (and I'm not leaving examples of those...). And I think both of those cause more dissenters to do so anonymously, which makes it seems more cowardly and argumentative. There's something about leaving your name that makes both you write a little more carefully and others realize you're not just being a troll (and ugh, the idea that ALL who disagree are trolls... that's just ignorant).
    I think you do encourage respectful conversation, but I also think it takes time. Not everyone wants to engage in that, especially not on every subject, so it not only takes time for people who are willing to open their mouths to find your space but it takes time for people to realize that you welcome healthy conversation. I think you do, so if it's a path you want to pursue just stick with it.
    I do agree with Kate below, though, that sometimes just putting the bug in someone's head leads to their own internal conversation, and it might not take place in a forum you ever see. I've read many posts on which I want to comment, but I need to let my thoughts marinate a bit before they resemble clearly drawn ideas, so I do. And sometimes I don't go back and comment, but it doesn't mean a post didn't wrinkle my brain a bit.
    I admit, I didn't say anything when a blogger I was following posted something I found highly offensive, I just unfollowed. I didn't comment because many others were voicing the same reaction I had, and she didn't seem to care- in fact, she offered an "I'm sorry you were offended" the next day (I saw someone else tweet about it) and to me, that cemented why I no longer wanted her in my blog-community. But I'd still be more likely to email if I wanted to say something direct and not something conversational, anyway.
    But I say, keep it up! You and I share a lot of the same views and I still learn things from you and your thoughts make me ponder my specific beliefs- so I like it, despite being in the choir!

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  8. So I read this post and then didn't comment. And then I came back again and didn't comment. But I'm still thinking about it. So, here I am: commenting. Please forgive the lack of organization to my thought process. I think this really goes alongside your 'truthiness' posting (which I still think about frequently) -- the idea that people don't like to disagree. But I also think somewhere in not disagreeing is this idea of respect. The idea that, your opinion doesn't intrude on my space or hurt me, so it's okay for me to let you sit with it without trying to broaden your horizons or make you think of something different. But, I also think this speaks to why people read blogs. Your truthiness post often keeps me coming back to this blog- it really resonated with me and you were able to articulate things I was thinking about in a way I couldn't have otherwise-- so in that, it expanded my own thought processes and ability to discuss with others. But also, I read blogs to learn about things I'm interested in (right now, how to blog) and also for a break. I love mood board posts, it's fun for me to quickly gaze and think "oh that's cute" and let my mind rest. All this to say, I'm not sure that not commenting or not disagreeing really means that people aren't broadening their ideas. Sometimes they need to simmer for awhile. And sometimes you read things that leave you with a reaction for a long time-- like your truthiness post or perhaps the post you realized angered you.


    Now I feel that I'm just babbling. So what I think I wanted to say is: often times what we read is thought provoking even if it doesn't cause a conversation in that instance. And that isn't a small thing. Sometimes we don't learn things and discuss them in the same spaces or with the same people, but that that doesn't mean it didn't make an impact.

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  9. oh no - the last thing I wanted to do was to pressure anyone into commenting! but I'm glad you did, because you're right and you're right in ways I totally hadn't considered. THIS: "I'm not sure that not commenting or not disagreeing really means that people aren't broadening their ideas. Sometimes they need to simmer for awhile." Clearly I need to open my own mind to accept that not everyone digests new ideas in the same way that I do - ironic, given what I'm advocating for, but something I must learn! because it's true that sometimes not disagreeing (or at least not vocalizing the disagreement) is the most respectful thing we can do. so thank you.

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  10. I do, and I do hope that people recognize it, but I need to recognize that not everyone wants that on their own blogs - and that's okay. And also that just because I don't see the marinating doesn't mean it's not happening! Man, I am SO much more in my own bubble than I realize. But see? You guys are pulling me out! I love this.

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  11. I think it's a fine line to walk, because not all bloggers are interested in broadening their horizons, to be honest. I love it, but I know which of my regular reads is hoping for a conversation and which merely wanted a place to share/vent and provide a safe space for those who agree and/or finally feel like they "belong" somewhere in the blogosphere. Does that make sense? I definitely pick and choose which blogs I comment on, especially when it comes to sharing a different view. It's not cowardice or apathy. It's just picking my battles.

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  12. it DOES make sense. and picking my battles is something I struggle with in EVERY area of my life, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's an issue in my online interactions, too. but I think I needed you guys to help me see it :) thank you, lovely!

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  13. Oh! I wasn't pressured into commenting at all. I hope it didn't read that way. I moreso meant that I kept coming back to re-read because I was still thinking and processing. And then I realized I had a thought worth sharing (or so I hoped).

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  14. Hmm this is really a thought provoking post for me. I think when I'm honest with myself, I tend to just not comment on blog posts with really different views from me. I guess because I have the bad habit of getting easily offended, saying something and then feeling guilty about things I've said later (whether I should feel guilty or not). Not the best characteristics of have lol. But I think the best way we can open a dialogue is by sharing on our own blogs our own opinions. Sometimes I think comments CAN come off confrontational and too personal and public at the same time. I don't know, finding the balance is tricky but personally I can tell you, it's a line I often choose not to walk. Especially for me, whose blog title is virtually impossible to hide my identity, Evani isn't entirely a common name...

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  15. yeah, it is tricky when you're balancing which parts of yourself to share where online, like Belle Vierge says below. and I definitely get that we all sometimes need to censor ourselves in certain places, and that doesn't mean that we're not standing up for our beliefs. I once had an amazing email exchange with another blogger who had written a post I disagreed with and I replied saying so (respectfully, I hope!) below the post but then I deleted my comment because I realized that her blog wasn't the place for me to air my feelings about the issue. I emailed her to apologize and explain the schizophrenia and it ended up leading to the most interesting conversation! so clearly there's a time and a place for debate, and sometimes that means keeping it private as hard as that might be for me to do :P

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  16. I feel like if I read something I don't agree with, and the person seems SO set in their opinion, that they likely won't change their mind because some one they don't know believes the opposite, and in the time i have to read/blog/comment it just isn't worth it. And sometimes, often with you, the way you say stuff is so right on with how I feel that I don't think I can do your post justice by commenting! Keep posting what and how you do, you have a good thing going :)

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  17. Georgia ChristakisApril 1, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    This is really interesting. I wish I had more time to respond to this, but a lot of it boils down to psychology- that blogger you disagree with is no more likely to agree with you or even throw out an "I see your point" than Bill O'Reilly is likely to let an opposing pundit win an argument on his show. Getting into discussions and debates can be productive, but I find more often than not the two sides just become more entrenched in their own beliefs. I saw it happen (amazingly) in a small group at my med school recently, when I tried to convince a classmate till I was blue in the face that we should have prescribed imaginary patient John Smith a stronger pain medicine. In spite of very clear evidence that the poor guy needed stronger meds, my classmate was convinced he was lying to get prescription meds to sell. It's a personality thing, and personality is something that is very, very hard to alter. Even I will admit that while I found your beliefs interesting, I am not about to change any of my opinions on faith based on yours, or anyone else's for that matter. faith is something that I do not compromise on very much :)

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  18. You're welcome, glad it resonated :)


    You've started a good discussion today!

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  19. absolutely about the psychology thing! and, as I think over all these comments, I'm learning a phenomenal amount about my own :) especially speaking to your last point... I didn't want to change anyone's mind about faith in that post, but I did want to hear from people who disagreed. I think maybe it has more to do with challenging myself to think differently than anyone else, but the key is only doing that with/against people who are engaging in the challenge willingly. does that make sense?

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  20. Another great post Betsy. I know that some have voiced similar thoughts to mine but I'll say it anyways.

    I admire people (like yourself) who encourage discussion on their blogs and I often find the conversation in the comments enlightening. I always sort of tread lightly when I disagree with a post because I feel like I'm a guest and the post isn't necessarily there for me to air my grievances but to see someone else's perspective. Sometimes I'll share a different view but an all out disagreement comment is rare for me. I value differing opinions from my own but occasionally, it just swings way too far from my beliefs and I'll unfollow - particularly when fellow commenters attack others who state something different from the blog author. I'm all for debates and I'm not one to back down but I won't participate in anything that starts to get nasty - even when it doesn't directly involve me. Unfortunately, it seems as if there are fewer spaces for good, respectful conversation than there are for attacks.

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  21. I've been mulling my response to this post all day. I started reading your blog because I was like "yes. finally. discussion, debate, my jam!" and I've really been struggling with finding ways to respond to blogs with which I don't agree. I, like you, have had my little bubble totally shattered by all of these other worlds that I knew nothing about before entering blogging. I struggle with responding to posts that I don't agree with because sometimes, I feel like the bloggers feel attacked by my inquiries and that's truly not my goal. Often, I don't comment simply because I don't want bloggers to feel attacked by my questions and responses. The few times I have branched to ask questions, I've just had my inquiries ignored wholly so I guess that didn't really encourage continued discussion!


    I'm definitely working on a way to encourage better discussion on my own blog - there are just so many important things worth talking about and worth discussing that it's not fair to keep quiet, I think. I don't know what the real answer is to finding people of opposing opinions and encouraging discussion there. I think, as with all blogging, it has something to do with establishing a good relationship first and then seeing how bigger, more real discussions can go from there.

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  22. that's a great way to put it - we're guests on other people's blogs unless they specifically say otherwise. and I totally agree that, often, I'm dissuaded from responding the way I want to not because of the tone of the blogger's post but because of the tenor of the commenters! they can totally color the conversation in a negative way that the blogger didn't intend. I need to remember that - thank you :)

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  23. The discussion on this post is fabulous! I'm so glad that you wrote about this topic, Betsy (and thank you for including my posts!), and I'm so amazed by all the awesome comments out there, many of which put forth reasons that I would never have even thought of. And that's really why I love to read blogs- I forget that I am in my own little world and I have no idea what other people's lives are like, so it gives me a little insight into how other people think and also helps broaden my ideas about whatever the topic is. The comments here are really great and are giving me a lot to think about.

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  24. haha you win Best Compliment today :) thank you, Andrea!

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  25. YAY I AM YOUR JAM! which sounds weird, but I'm glad - thank you :)


    but that's an excellent point - it's about the relationships. you can hang a sign out that says "YOU CAN BE HONEST HERE" but people won't trust it until they know you and that takes time. I think it's also takes a community to build that kind of trust online, which speaks to what I said in response to Jay's comment - I don't trust a blog to be a safe place if the commenters are vicious. the whole thing probably grows exponentially, you know?

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  26. it IS! I feel so lucky to have these readers - thank you all! and thank YOU, Kristen, for helping me define this post through yours :)

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  27. Georgia ChristakisApril 1, 2013 at 7:22 PM

    yea, I hear you :) I enjoy learning about and exploring opposing viewpoints, but I had never thought of an internet blog as a medium for doing so; I found your blog by chance when I was trying to figure out how to move back to Europe, haha. That being said, I am very glad I did. I enjoy your posts; they're very thought-provoking.

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  28. Great post! Really liked your civil marriage post too! Thanks for visiting my blog :) I'm now following via GFC!
    xx Allie
    http://www.a-songtopassthetime.blogspot.com

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  29. You know, I know this isn't even what you were trying to get at with this post, but it made me realize that I don't really take time when I'm reading blogs to decide if I agree or not. I've been leaving such generalized comments and not really thinking about how I feel or taking time to put my real thoughts into words. In short, I've been a bit lazy when it comes to commenting. If I disagree, I often get angry and discuss it with friends in private (like you!) or keep it to myself. But what's the point in that? I read some of the other comments and they are right: some people don't want to be challenged. I'm not shy in the fact that I am very liberal on my blog, but haven't had people disagree with me on my most political of posts, even though I welcome the debate. This is such a great and thought-provoking post!

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  30. Well, I think, it's okay to choose who to follow and whose posts to read and comment on. There are some people in real life who are too opinionated, too stubborn or too narrow-minded for me. I usually don't like them and I don't want to waste my time trying to convince them that my truth is the right one nor I want to spend my precious minutes listening to something I completely disagree. So if I bump into them, I politely nod or smile and that's it. I don't force myself into being their friend/conversation partner. Online world is even easier: bloggers can coexist without having to be friends/followers.
    Also, leaving a comment disagreeing with the post we know we'll probably get that "bland politeness". Sure, but at least we'll be heard. We can't expect everyone to agree with us, we can't expect people to change their minds every time we have something to say against their views. We comment, they politely accept our opinion and stay with theirs but at least now they know there are people who think differently :)

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  31. when I went through and purged the list of blogs I followed, I took off all the ones that didn't encourage involved commenting - I had too many where it was too easy to be a lazy commenter, and that ends up taking more time than thinking about a good post and responding from the heart! Everyone has their own way, but this has been working for me recently :)

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  32. you are so right - it's just hard when there's so much choice out there! I need to get better about picking my battles, as Lindsay suggests below, and about focusing my energy on the people and places that WANT the engagement. something to work on! thank you :)

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  33. I really appreciate the ideas that Kate has presented here. Betsy, I like that you're not afraid to post your views on various issues that might be deemed controversial because of the varying opinions associated with those topics, and I like that you genuinely want that diversity of opinion in your comments. I agree that it is so very important to remember that our viewpoints are not the only ones that exist or are valid, and by asking questions or commenting in an interactive way, we open up the opportunity to understand each other a bit better. The phrase "gentle curiosity" comes to mind, maybe because of my background in counseling. I like to hear from others about what contributes to their foundations and why that is important to them, even if it is different from what forms my own foundation. However, this sort of exchange only works if the other person is open to conversation and shares the intent to be curious and learn about others. If a blogger isn't interested in that or dismisses differing opinions or questions, then that's probably a sign that we have different goals. And that's okay! We're all here for different reasons, and blogging means different things to different people. We can't force others to share our goals, and we can't make others view other bloggers with curiosity if that's not what they want. I think what is so great about the discussions on your blog, Betsy, is that we *do* share that curiosity and openness to learning about others' experiences-- but this comes from a person who shares your enjoyment of diversity in opinion. :)

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  34. I absolutely love the discussion here and wish I had something new and insightful to contribute, but I really have to throw my hat in with Kate's first comment. You're trying to present an inspiring view of your world, writing to bring that same joy you have in the moment to others, presenting your best you. And I have to reflect back to one of your previous posts I really liked, about going through an online friend breakup when someone doesn't like that best you. I think we're conscious of that and that makes it a lot easier to click to the next blog than to start a potentially hurtful argument. I've also found that folks are great at leaving helpful suggestions or pointers, which is a really good compromise - it's taking "my way is different from yours" and turning it into, "hey, did you think about trying this?"

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  35. I've emailed Kate to tell her she has a fan club :) but YES you're right - all of these comments are really making me look at how respect means different things to different people. to me it includes engaging in intellectual debate, but it's okay that it doesn't mean that for everyone. thank you thank you!

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I love reading your thoughts and suggestions! Please do leave a comment so we can get to know each other better.