Shit Feedback on Medium: How Calling Someone Out Reveals a Great Deal About You
This evening I got a notification from a reader which was effectively a public beat down:
Oh…Julia E Hubbel … All was fine until that phrase… This exposed, most probably unintentionally, that as much as “She” was a ‘Diversity Nazi’, you are a closeted bigot. Who the fuck even use the term “pregnant out of eadlock”? You clearly wanted to assassinate her character here… NOT cool. Still I enjoyed your writing… Biased as shit, but fine read.
It was an interesting take.
As I had written this rather long piece both from a hospital bed here in Indonesia and was, to say the least, in a bit of pain, to say that I was a little distracted would be an understatement. I’d edited several sentences out of the offending paragraph which had included the term “out of wedlock” with all the intention of taking that phrase out with it, but clearly hadn’t done so. I closed my computer right about the time I had to go in for a procedure and forgot about it.
It is my habit to edit, edit and re-edit, and challenge my choice of words. It’s hugely useful to have folks call me out, and in every way I take those comments seriously. When, in fact, they are not offered in the spirit of doing harm, especially in front of all our Medium peeps.
As for the piece about “Diversity Nazi,” I have no problem having someone either challenge me on the term or ask if I might want to clarify my meaning. There was context around this term, and I didn’t do a good job of explaining it. There was also considerable context around her getting pregnant but it wasn’t relevant, which is why I had edited it out. Not completely but shit, you and I sometimes miss other things too.
Here’s the piece: respectful people do this privately. They offer you and me the opportunity to clean up our crap, look at our words through different eyes and ask if we couldn’t write it a better way. That’s both hugely useful and, in all ways, a graceful way to think “oh geez, better write that piece over.” No harm no foul. When I reviewed the paragraph, this person is right- it didn’t read the way I intended.
But that’s not the point. You hardly need to resort to very public shaming to invite someone to take a look at their piece.
If we choose not to respond, or edit, that says something else entirely. For my part I treasure those PRIVATE comments because it allows for the possibility that I didn’t intend what the phrase said. As it was, I went back and changed the paragraph, because that part of the feedback was spot on.
Where we can fall down, as this writer did, is publicly sling shite at someone. They might as well put it in all caps. The comments are as judgmental as I am being accused of, which doesn’t seem to be obvious to the writer. But hey, I have no idea. Any more than this writer has any clue whatsoever to my state of mind, the world I live in, my history, what I care about, my beliefs or anything else. And that is the whole point. There’s not a whole lot of honor in it, and this doesn’t invite any kind of gracious exchange. It’s always available, but grace is earned, but not if you publicly slice someone apart.
This kind of ugly callout, for my part, is pretty revealing. Rather than respect the possibility that there’s vast room for improvement, and that the writer is perfectly willing to read, hear and make changes, this writer instead called me a “closeted bigot.”
If you know anything about diversity whatsoever, we all are in one way or another. It’s the human condition. But as this person apparently means it, it’s a wee bit off the mark.
That’s pretty interesting given the way I grew up. Half my family was Black, and as a result I have spent a fair bit of my adult life in diversity work. Calling me a closeted bigot would bring some pretty good guffaws from that side of my family indeed.
The writer is welcome to their opinion. Where you and I shine on Medium.com is when we assume good intentions, and give folks an opportunity to rise. I have difficulty when someone assumes what I think, feel or believe based on an article I wrote ( or a word, or a single sentence), and did my best to edit, given my circumstances. By the same token, I don’t know theirs. Perhaps this person just received a call telling them that their mother was diagnosed with Stage Four breast cancer and needed a whipping boy. They — as do you, as do I — have permission to make a misstep once in a while. That’s where professional courtesy comes in. That quiet psst, hey, did you really mean to say this? which is offered with the intent to be of service is precisely why I wrote this.
This is the whole point. We cannot know. To offer kind comments, feedback with the intention to add value is one thing. To do damage, sling insults, and make broad assumptions is quite another. That implies that you have an axe to grind, and perhaps, it doesn’t matter if you hurt people when you do it. We only have your visible behavior by which to measure it.
The article in question is much better. It is a genuine shame that the feedback couldn’t have been more gracious. Having been in the diversity community for many long years, and in fact been given a national award for that heartfelt lifetime work, this “closeted bigot” is rather sad that this particular writer could not have found a way to walk the talk.