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.
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?