July 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm #34366
I know this is unusual, but I’d like to post some unsolicited advice in this forum. I suppose I don’t have any really good reason other than my peace of mind, but I’ll throw it out anyway.
I’ve noticed sometimes that there are some pretty offensive and aggressive comments made in the name of “tough love” on this site. I think this is unnecessary and, quite frankly, pathetic. It is important to recognize that a person, more like you than not, is on the other end of everything you read. Everything doesn’t need to be rainbows and lollipops, but you should try to remember that you are always dealing with a real person. I’ve seen many comments along the lines of “well, knowing you I know that…” or “If I had known it was you…”; but what difference does it make? Why does someone only deserve compassion and respect when they are familiar to you? Every single letter writer and commenter is a real person.
You certainly don’t owe the letter writers, the other commenters, or anyone else anything. However, the way you treat people says more about you than your words say about them. Why do you need to owe someone a debt to treat them well? What about you puts you in a place that makes it acceptable to treat people poorly? You should feel bad when you hurt others. It should eat at you a little bit. You should be a bothered and disappointed by it afterward. There is no reason to attack letter writers or other commenters in an utterly unhelpful manner. What are you gaining? What are they gaining? What purpose have you served? Usually you’re primarily showing your inability to understand things outside of your personal experience, which means you’re just making yourself look a little stupid.
The nice thing about writing a response rather than speaking it off the cuff is that you get more time to consider what you will say. You get time to put things in clear terms, to consider the implications of what you are saying, to understand the opposing side of an argument. Why would you throw away that opportunity by blurting out knee jerk responses? I guess I am just trying to say that you should really put time into thinking before you post, and don’t fall for the trap of considering the posts to be “not real” just because you can’t see the person’s face. I know it is standard internet practice to be more brutal because you can’t see people, but if you’re going to post on an advice site shouldn’t you be more helpful and considerate than most people? You’re dealing with people when they are vulnerable and at least a bit defeated; isn’t that why they’re asking you for advice?
Perhaps it would be best to ask ourselves a few questions before we address a letter writer or other commenter. Things like:
What is the letter writer asking? Is that the right question?
What do I think the letter writer or commenter needs to hear/know? Why do I think that? How is that helpful to the letter writer or commenter? Why do I think that?
How can I best convey my thoughts? What kind of language makes them most likely to be listened to?
Please try to remember that you are commenting on and talking to real people. Those people can be hurt, offended, or angered just like you can. It doesn’t hurt to try to fully understand something before you open your mouth; and you don’t lose anything by showing respect and compassion when you deal with people, no matter the venue. Tough love is necessary sometimes, but make sure it’s tough love (i.e. helpful) and not just an insult thrown out to make you feel powerful.July 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm #34367
Thanks for posting this.July 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm #34368
Yes, I completely agree.July 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm #34369
I do have to agree with you to a certain extent, as I have been around these forums for a while now and also was a LW once upon a time. People (no certain group, as it changes depending on the subject of the letter) on here sometimes go wildly off track with their advice/bashing. It was simply amazing for me, as an LW, to see the conclusions people reached through my letter and then they debased my character thanks to those completely unfounded conclusions. I often find that we try too hard to read between the lines and can end up saying things that are very hurtful to LWs who feel like they are in a tough spot, which is why I have mostly stopped giving direct advice and mostly stick to philosophic conversation. However, anyone who comes on here should read through a few comment threads and see if this crowd can provide them with a response that might be helpful. Internet commenters have every right to say whatever the hell they want in a free, public thread. So a thick skin is a requirement when you come onto this, or really any, site. There is always helpful advice here scattered through the unhelpful stuff, so it’s a matter of whether you’re willing to take the bad with the good when you write to Wendy.July 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm #34370
I like this. Sometimes I’ll have a knee-jerk internal response, but because I’m kind of an anal perfectionist when I write, my comments are usually thought-out. And you’re definitely right that taking time often produces a more compassionate response Sometimes “tough love” is necessary, but I also don’t like when people spout that off as an afterthought to a mean-spirited comment.July 23, 2012 at 4:57 pm #34371
So, Biglight, which LW were you? Haha. I kid. Your points are well taken.July 23, 2012 at 4:58 pm #34372
Let’s just make a guide-line to always respect other posters…and reserve tough love for the really indignant LWs.July 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm #34373
This isn’t a post about what people have the right to do. It’s about what people SHOULD do. It’s about how you (not you specifically, but the general you) look when you treat people poorly. It’s about what kind of person you are being when you treat someone poorly. It’s not about what people HAVE to do, that’s what makes it advice (although admittedly advice that nobody really asked for). The point is only that people should be thinking and should be compassionate.
You are right about what people can expect when posting on the internet, and what they can do before they send in a letter, but that’s not what this is about. The “thickness of the skin” on the letter writer has nothing to do with how you treat people. It’s an unrelated trait that can help the letter writer be less affected by the negative posts.
I completely agree with you that people are often trying to read too far between the lines when they see a letter. I understand the need to extrapolate a little when information is missing, but I find that the extrapolation often assumes the worst or goes too far (or both).July 23, 2012 at 5:13 pm #34374
@ Addie Pray
I actually was honestly never a letter writer and have only ever posted a few comments. I just feel really bad for people sometimes, or I find myself extremely frustrated by the way people act toward each other (or the thick headedness and lack of ability to reason, but that’s a whole different animal). I have an incredibly empathetic fiance, maybe she’s rubbed off on me too much and made me soft.
And yet it’s like a train wreck, I can’t stop looking. I even read DW when it was on The Frisky. Maybe I’m an addict.July 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm #34375
I totally agree, and I think its more and more important that we all reiterate this.
I hate the phrase ‘tough love’. Its mostly an excuse for being a total jerk, and the ‘love’ is usually lost in the desire to say one’s piece.
I read this site all the time (I would call myself an addict also!) and I love the comments, and the commenters! Even the ones I dont agree with, I love hearing about peoples perspectives and how we all read things differently. But I do hate LW-bashers. Its kicking people while they are down, and whether we think they are dumb for getting themselves into whatever position, kicking someone while they are down is dishonourable and cruel.
Thats why certain loud and obnoxious commenters piss me off. Not because of what they say. But the hyperbole and wilful ignorance of other possible ways to live lives frustrated the hell out of me.July 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm #34377
It seems like the people that dish out the tough love have the hardest time taking it themselves.
I totally agree, @Biglight. I think commenting on advice columns is a lot like waiting tables. Every one should be a waiter at some point in their lives just to understand what kind of hell they go through. Same with advice giving! Write a letter and then see how people jump to conclusions. Attacks will just make them feel defeated. It takes something like 10 positive compliments to make up for 1 negative remark. It puts things into perspective.July 23, 2012 at 7:06 pm #34396
i find it ironic that people say this on a website that is all about tough love…July 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm #34399
It’s great that Katie gave me an opportunity to simplify and expound on what I was saying a little bit. The basic philosophy that I’m pushing here is that you allow people to earn your vitriol rather than forcing them to earn your kindness. So I’m not saying that everyone should put up with unlimited crap and always respond in the most kind, compassionate manner possible. What I’m saying is that it will be beneficial to both you and the people around you to start with that kind, compassionate manner as the default; then let someone’s actions determine if you shouldn’t continue to give them that consideration.
In our working example here, Katie managed to post a comment that was both snarky and stupid. I’m not suggesting that it would be wrong of me to respond in kind to the rudeness, I’m saying that up until this point it would have been unreasonable and wrong for me to treat Katie poorly.
Still though, it’s probably best to make sure that I actually understand Katie. Maybe it wasn’t a stupid comment so much as I didn’t understand it. So Katie, what you are telling me is that you find it ironic that someone would discuss the line between tough love and unconstructive attacks on a site that is “all about tough love”, correct? That’s funny, because I would find that to be a particularly pertinent topic on such a site. In fact, it’s so completely un-ironic that I can only assume that you misunderstand at least one of the two parts here. Do you not understand what tough love is? Or do you not understand what my post said? It certainly is a bit of an embarrassing spot to make a comment that can basically be rephrased as “I don’t understand what everyone else is talking about”, but it can happen. That’s the problem with snark though, you really look like a fool if you botch it. I certainly wouldn’t say Katie is stupid, it IS just one little comment, but she made a dumb mistake and it was made worse by the fact that she wanted to add a little unnecessary jab in there.
Tough love IS supposed to be compassionate; that’s why it needs to serve a purpose (be helpful in some way) to justify using it. When “tough love” isn’t also helpful it’s just an attack. That’s why it’s important to ask oneself a few questions first, and to be kind and compassionate, when giving tough love. That’s why I said I was talking about comments made “in the name of ‘tough love’”, not comments that were tough love. The goal of tough love is ultimately to help, not to pile on. Wendy is very good at this (can’t think of a time off-hand that her tough love wasn’t ultimately constructive), the comments often miss the mark a bit.July 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm #34401
that was an honest observation, i promise i wasnt trying to be snarky…July 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm #34402
I find it ironic that everyone is being so ironic. It’s like ten thousand spoooooooons when all you need is a kniiiiiife. It’s meeting the man of my dreams – and then meeting his beauuuuutiful wife. And isn’t it ironic? Doncha think?
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