on being too bland

sunset clouds

I was in a meeting the other day with someone close to me. This person is generally one of my great supporters in life, but the sort of relationship we have means he can be honest with me and doesn’t always feel the need to sugar the pill.

I was making a suggestion to the various people in this meeting about some changes that I felt needed to be made. Some people agreed, some disagreed. Because it was important that we found some sort of consensus, I started pondering (out loud) how I could change my suggestion (I guess, perhaps, how to ‘water it down’) to make it something we could all agree on.

And this person stopped me. He said (frustratedly) “You’re doing that thing again!”
“What thing?” I asked. “That thing you do when you make a really powerful argument and I’m all like, “Yeah! Great! I’m with you – let’s do that!” and then you go: “On the other hand…” and you put over the alternative argument for the other side and I just think “Oh… well, I don’t really care anymore now, you’ve lost me…”

Yes, it seems I’m just too reasonable. Too willing to see the other side. I need to take a stand and stick to it, otherwise, well, who cares? Right?

Well no… I think there’s great strength in being reasonable and being able to see things from different people’s point of view. I want to be reasonable and I aim to be (and, believe me, I’m certainly not always!) I try to be someone who listens and doesn’t just ride roughshod over other people’s views. I certainly know that others have different perspectives and that I’m not always right.

So I disagree, but… he has a point (see – here I go again) – I know where he’s coming from. I don’t like to court controversy. I don’t like to get on the wrong side of people. I like to try and find a middle ground where everyone is happy. And that, I guess, can make me seem a bit wishy-washy sometimes.  Because there’s great strength in having an opinion and speaking with conviction. Of knowing you’re right and standing your ground. Sometimes nothing else will do – imagine if Shakespeare’s Henry V had done his great, rousing “Upon St Crispin’s Day!” speech and just as his men were about to charge into battle he said “But on the other hand, these French, they’ve had a hard time too… I mean, from their point of view, we’re a pretty nasty lot and they’re just following orders…”

We would have lost the battle of Agincourt for sure.

So conviction has its place just as reasonableness does. I dare say there’s even a way to act with both. (“Please pass me the cake… no, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t prefer an apple despite the health benefits. Chocolate has health benefits too – I read it in New Scientist last week. Cake. Please. Thank you.” Did that do it?)

But this idea of standing for something rather than trying to tread the middle ground and of ‘you’ve lost me’ as a response to diplomacy did hit home because it’s something I’ve been pondering for a while in terms of my blog. See, I’m very careful with what I say here. I censor myself all the time:

Can’t say that – it might offend someone.

Can’t write that – it could be misinterpreted.

Keep quiet about that, it’s private.

Better stay away from that – not my story to tell.

Think about what your kids would say…

How would you feel if all your family read that?

Whoa there – that’s a total no, no!

And on and on till I’m left with… blandness. I steer away from any point of contention in my life, I mute my opinions, polish the rough edges off my experiences and think (worry) about how others might perceive what I write to an extent which frankly, takes away a lot of the interest too. Middle-of-the-road does not a compelling blog make. If I want more readers I probably need to put a bit more grit out there, be more willing to be controversial and a bit less concerned with seeming reasonable.

And yet, putting more out there doesn’t feel safe. It’s not like just being more open with people I know – this is a public space so potentially anyone could read it. And the scope for misunderstandings is so much huger than in normal life. And disagreements – well, in the real world someone might disagree with you and not even say so, but the anonymity of the internet allows some people to respond in a way they never would in person. I’ve seen enough nasty comments on online articles and read enough about the horrible experiences of fellow bloggers to know that being more honest and open and opinionated could have some very nasty side effects.

So, there are reasons to be more open on my blog and there are reasons not to be – I can see both sides (you were warned). But my gut says no. I can try and say to myself ‘you should go for it!’ but I don’t really believe myself. No – I need to have the courage of my convictions. This is where to draw the line. This is how open I can be.

Just this.

***

Before I disappear in a puff of introspection I’d love to know your thoughts. Are you comfortable sharing lots online? Do you worry about what others think of you or your opinions?Do you like to find middle ground or do you stand by your guns no matter what?

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And then the fun began...

33 thoughts on “on being too bland

  1. Mummy Tries

    Lovely Maddy you are anything but bland, limmericks anyone?? But I understand what you’re saying. I’m so open on my blog because I can see how much it helps others… Also I honestly don’t care what people think of me. If I got trolled I’d just ignore the comments.

    You could do some fictional (heavily fact based) sharing as a middle ground? Just an idea xxx

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Reneé. Your honesty on your blog (and in life in general imagine) is one of your great strengths. I can really see how it helps people and can understand that it’s a huge motivator. I wish I could care a little less what people thought of me… I’m getting better at it, honest. x

      Reply
  2. Rebecca Ann Smith

    Thanks for sharing this Maddy, lots to relate to! I’m usually very cautious about sharing my more ‘controversial’ opinions, however deeply and sincerely held. I agree there’s a place for being reasonable, building a consensus, seeing the other point of view – that’s what makes you a nice person, and if more people were like that the world would probably be a better place… But I would like to be braver too.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Glad you can relate, Becky and you’re right about the important of reasonableness. We can share our more controversial opinions over lunch next weekend! xx

      Reply
  3. Zoe

    Just for the record, I think your writing and this blog is wonderful!
    I think we all censor ourselves to some extent and I know exactly what you mean about sharing harsh opinions. I do steer clear from anything that could offend or be misinterpreted on my blog but after reading this I’m wondering if I should also be a little braver. Great post x

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks for the positive comments about my blog Zoe, I really appreciate it. I suspect it’s only in comparison to other bloggers that we feel restrained… my non blogging friends are amazed by how much I share online (they may well think I’m crazy but they’re polite enough not to say so!) xxx

      Reply
  4. Sadie Hanson

    I’m with you on this one….. It is important to see things on all sides, and I wonder if there is room for taking a firm stand and seeing/respecting everyone’s views at the same time? I guess that’s what good leadership is about…. as long as everyone in the room has felt heard/respected then no one is going to hold it against you when you have to take a firm decision…. as for being ‘open’ on your blog, I think that’s a matter of subjectivity. Being ‘open’ means different things to different people. At the end of the day it’s your blog, you only need to write about what you want to write about, and you should only ever write about what feels comfortable for you…. and on that point everyone has a different level of boundary etc…. X

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Yep, I totally agree with you on all of that. Diplomacy is a strength and yes, everyone’s boundaries are different and I think it’s more important to respect your own than try to push them too far. xxx

      Reply
  5. Rachael

    Hi Maddy,

    Firstly, your blog is NOT bland! :)

    I think there is something to be said for seeing all sides of an argument – it’s where empathy comes from and, far from it being the case that you don’t stick to your own convictions, it can actually be a good place to persuade others from – if you can show yo understand their point of view, maybe they will consider yours, and shift a little… I could say so much more on this! Drop me an email if you’d like to chat more on it :)

    As for what you share on your blog… That’s a very personal decision. I do write a lot of stuff myself – about parenting, the way I work and more and sometimes I allow myself to be vulnerable… But I don’t write stuff that would make close friends or family members vulnerable because they haven’t made that choice for themselves (although some might say I make my son vulnerable but I do try to be careful what I say about him)… We all have our own internal ‘rules’ for what is and isn’t up for public consumption and that’s ok. I love everything you share here!

    Sorry, massively long reply! x

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Rachael! I LOVE a long comment! You’re right about empathy of course and I do like being able to see different people’s point of view – makes me feel more… um… connected? But when I don’t see someone else’s POV that’s when I can get really opinionated and that’s the sort of thing I don’t share on here. Let’s chat more when we meet! xx

      Reply
  6. Sara | mumturnedmom

    I think we all have our own limits, I know I self sensor a fair bit, I’m always mindful that the kids will read it one day and I never want them to be upset by anything I’ve written. If that means I’m a bit bland and too positive for some, so be it. And, your blog is not bland! It is written with humour and love and it’s wonderful x

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Oh that’s such a lovely thing to say Sara – thank you! And your blog isn’t bland either of course – it’s beautiful and thoughtful and it makes me smile. There are plenty of controversial blogs out there that we/others can read too if that’s what we fancy. I think it’s best we stay true to ourselves. xx

      Reply
  7. Emily Organ

    I identify with this, it’s all about avoiding confrontation isn’t it? And wanting to be liked by people and wanting to have an opinion while at the same time showing that you can understand all sides of the argument and generally trying to smooth the waters all the time and hope no one dislikes you because your opinion was too strong for them. I don’t think it’s blandness at all, it’s sensitivity and strong awareness of yourself and others. People who like to drive a juggernaut through everything might be entertaining for a short while but then they pee everyone off with their self-centredness. I think you can be who you like on your blog although I remember hating it when my opinions kicked off something and I just wanted to be friends with everyone and for them to like me. So I blandness (if that’s what it is) feels more comfortable!

    Reply
  8. Chrissie@muddledmanuscript

    I do that thing too where I swing wildly between YEAH THIS IS TOTALLY WHAT I THINK AND IT’S DIFFERENT TO WHAT YOU THINK SO SUCK IT and Oh, yeah, OK, I see what you mean now…
    Sigh.
    Not bland.
    There’s a rabbit in the headlights moment with putting things online and opening yourself up, which is exactly where I am right now. I’m a responsible adult now at work, but work people can see what I write online. I have opened my heart more than once on my blog and laid myself bare in more ways than one. Sometimes on purpose and sometimes because I was hurting or I needed to say something. So far, I’ve had my blog copy and pasted back to me in a chat conversation (mortifying) but n one else has even batted an eyelid. I don’t post opinion pieces, although I have MANY written about feminism and its role (I’m a “feminist icon” at work. Basically, they roll me out when they’re showing young women what they can do with their talent etc etc. I’m an attention whore so I love it) but I can’t post them because they contradict what feminism stands for. I’ve stopped writing public poetry in case certain eyes drift over it and change their opinion of me (I’m talking about people who have already seen me blowing snot bubbles into my tea while mascara runs down my face. Silly to worry about some shitty poetry online, right?)
    Anyway… This was almost a blog post on your post – sorry. Yes to being able to see both sides of an argument. No to blandness. xxx

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      We need you back in the bloggosphere matey, we really do! Get back on the horse, post the great poetry and the knee-trembling fiction excerpts, and I’d love to read those feminist pieces! I miiiiiiiissss you! (and thanks for the great comment) xx

      Reply
  9. Aimee

    I totally hear you and feel this. I think it’s why I prefer writing books! I hate upsetting people, and making myself look like a fool etc. URGH.

    For what it’s worth though, I have never thought of you as bland.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Aimee, yes writing fiction does feel safer than blogging sometimes… although it is a whole other way of wearing your heart outside your body i think too!

      Reply
  10. Louise

    Great, thought-provoking post Maddy and I agree with other comments that your writing is anything other than bland. There are a lot of positives in being able to see both sides and balance out an argument and that is a skill in itself. There are times when it is better to stand firm by our convictions and have courage to express them though. I know what you mean about being hesitant to do so sometimes because it can open up a can of worms too. My feeling is that being able to see the other side makes you more empathetic – you can write powerfully and engage with people without riding roughshod over their views and certainly hearing both sides of a debate makes me think more fully about it rather than just provoking a knee-jerk reaction depending on which side of the debate I fall on.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      I agree with you Louise and empathy is so important in relationships. I think we learn far more when we listen to other’s opinions rather than just assuming we’re right. Thanks for the support too. xx

      Reply
  11. Alice @ The Filling Glass

    Bland, I don’t think you are. Compromise is highly necessary for humans to actually function, and basically wars, fights, divorces and conflict in general is down to people not being able to do this. Compromise involves being able to see another’s point of view, to empathise, and if it is a good point of view to be won round by a valid argument but otherwise not. Just because you are able to do these things doesn’t make you bland. I too am careful and considerate about what I write but even if I do this it doesn’t mean its watered down, it is still a valid opinion or exploration of my feelings, its just not a reflex. Keep doing what you are, whatever works for you is good. xx

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Alice. I do water myself down a bit on this blog – there are areas I just plain avoid too. But it is still me and my thoughts and feelings and valid as you say. xx

      Reply
  12. Susie Fiddes

    Hi Maddy. I can relate. I think your diplomacy means that you are an intelligent thinker. One thing my blog has taught me is that by writing my rash thoughts down, I can often find that in actual fact there is a shade of grey involved and that I’m the one being unreasonable. Even if I don’t change my mind, it helps me with perspective – which I think is an important skill for writers. Perhaps you could experiment for a while on a separate, anonymous blog to test your inner voice? I have certainly toyed with this idea!! Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      An anonymous blog is an interesting idea! Oh, the feminist rants I could launch into! But then, even without my name to it, I’d still know it was me so I’d have to deal with comments on an emotional level. It feels safer to be honest and open with those I know rather than on the big www. I’m always interested in shades of grey though. Thanks for commenting Susie. xx

      Reply
  13. Morgan Prince

    I have never thought of you as bland! I totally agree about checking yourself when writing, I do that too. I think you should be comfortable with what you’re sharing on your blog, if you’re not then it’s not you. Blogging is all about being yourself and sharing YOU, If you shared something you’re not comfortable with then it kind of defeats the point. AND that would probably come across in the writing too. I’m glad you’ve decided to stick with it. Stay true to you. xxx #DiffLinky

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Morgan and you’re totally right of course – I can only be as open as I can be without losing the essential ‘me’ness of it.

      Reply
  14. Nicola Young

    You can’t say you’re bland when you wrote such an amazing post with so much feeling. I’m sure it had plenty of people nodding along in agreement and understanding. There is an element of holding back due to fear of controversy though. If you’re not ‘that’ person, then you don’t need to feel you have to do that. I once wrote a post about a woman who handed me her baby in Sainsbury’s cafe and asked if I could watch her whilst she took her toddler to the toilet. My point was that this woman trusted me enough to ask for my help, which is fine because I am a trustworthy person, but would I do the same? I wasn’t sure, as we don’t live in that society anymore. Anyway, I wasn’t criticising this woman, just debating the point, but I had such a nasty response from one person, it made me feel sick. Negative comments are awful and I wouldn’t like to deal with them on a regular basis, just because of stirring things up with my opinions.

    Reply
  15. Suzanne

    Im with you! I definitely water down my opinions for fear of what others might think and in many ways, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. On the whole, I’m very opinionated but it’s not always received that well so I’ve learnt to be a little bit careful about how I word it and I think that’s ok. I’m definitely very careful about what I share online and how I comment on Facebook and other places. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back! Same with all words I guess – it pays to be a bit wishy washy at times.

    Reply
  16. John Adams

    I can think of an awful lot of bland blogs. I wouldn’t say yours is particularly opinionated but that’s not bland. I quite often write opinion and take the occasional bit of abuse, usually on Twitter, but that just comes with the territory. Even so, I do self-censor as my aim is always to politely challenge, not aggressively disagree! #thetruthabout

    Reply
  17. Sam

    I love your analogy for Henry V – that made me chuckle! I guess it’s a case of personalities though isn’t it? We’re not all leaders and orators and peddlars of heavily biased opinion. I think there is a place for diplomacy and discretion and tact as well. I don’t necessarily think that a headstrong ‘my way or the highway’ type attitude is the best thing in a workplace either – your tactful people management sounds pretty good to me even if it bored your friend! I know what you mean about not wanting your blog to be bland though. I will never envy anyone who has had a hard time in life but sometimes it does seem that hard times and bad experiences in a person’s past can lead to the most raw, powerful prose and that is something that, I’m assuming, you and I can never achieve by talking about the day our cat died etc. I am being very presumptuous here, forgive me! And thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout X

    Reply
  18. susankmann

    I do this at times, I second guess myself, question myself and don’t always post what I want. I am always honest and open on everything I do say. I think your writing and your blog are far from bland. x

    Reply

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