Your opinion and the relevance of things

A few weeks back a person who I hadn’t talked to on the phone for some time called me and we were chatting away. While talking, he got another call and excused himself for a moment to check who it was. He then came back on the line to say so-and-so was on the line and he’ll call me back.

He did call back and we had a conversation but at the point, the conversation was strained. The reason why is that no matter how important the other person was to my friend, I, also, am an important person — to someone somwhere. If the other caller was someone who my friend hadn’t heard from, or the issue was critical, the story would have been different. But it was just one of many calls the two exchange during the day.

Later that night, in an email to my friend, I wrote basically the following (names and stuff edited):

You’re a terrific person and my friend. but when you call me and we’re talking and another person calls through, even the person you love, the decent thing to do would be continue your conversation with me and tell the other person you’ll call them back. Love does not give anyone the right to make another person feel second-best.

Exposing ourselves daily on these ‘boards’ as we do, sometimes we think that this gives each of us the right to tell our ‘weblogging friends’ where they’re going wrong, and what they need to do to go right. But you know, none of what happens here gives anyone this right.

We ask for opinions, and we should accept these gratefully, regardless of the opinion. But sometimes we just talk, just talk, and what we say is nothing more than what we’re thinking or even feeling at the moment. It’s then we have to rely on something that’s so old it seems as if can never be fashionable again. But as with so many other things on the Internet, the old can be made new again, and this applies to courtesy as much as to anything else.

I heard from another friend last night who had been ‘publicly de-linked’ from another weblogger’s blogroll because of what she had been writing. I’m not linking to either of them, not because I’m denying them “link juice”, but because in some ways the ‘public de-link’ isn’t really the issue, courtesy is. (Apologies to them both and if they want me to link to their posts, I will.)

None of us is perfect, and only the most shallow person can write in such a way as to please all people at all times (or should we say, not displease all people at least some of the time). Courtesy dictates that if a person isn’t writing about a subject you’re currently interested in, you move to another weblog until they do, or you don’t ever come back. But you don’t chastise them because they’re writing on topics that don’t interest you. It’s not weblogging etiquette or something silly like that. It’s courtesy.

Now, if we express strong opinion, we’ll get strong opinion back. And if we write about controversy, expect comments. That should be accepted. My last few postings were nothing if not expressions of strong opinions, and I should be willing to accept as good as I get. None of us writes in isolation.

Expressing disagreement is not a discourtesy. Only when the argument becomes condescending or personal has the act gone from opinion to discourtesy. When you respond to another’s post, do you say “You’re wrong because of…”, or do you say things such as “I’m disappointed in you” or “I didn’t expect this coming from you”. There is difference. The former allows me my opinion, the latter does not.

You see, I am not here to please you, or to seek your goodwill. I thank you for your respect, appreciation and liking; but only as a gift freely given, not a payment for services rendered.

Am I rambling? I think I am, so I need to bring this back around full circle.

Before you think I’m again on my high moral horse, looking down on all you sinners, think again. I screwed the pooch twice this last week — once in Jonathon Delacour’s comments and once associated with Halley’s Alpha Male posting.

In Jonathon’s comments, I was just plain rude. I let the topic of copyright irritate me, I felt he took the high ground, and reacted thoughtlessly as a result.

As for Halley’s postings, I didn’t want to write about them, so instead I found myself going to different weblogs, dropping noises of disagreement about the posting in the comments of those webloggers who liked what Halley wrote for purely personal reasons. Disagreement isn’t necessarily a ‘bad thing’, but when I got to the second instance of leaving a comment I should have held back and wrote the posting I ended up writing, rather than chastise the other webloggers — Tom Shugart and Jeneane Sessum — for writing what was a personal expression of appreciation.

Scenario:

“This was nicely written and I appreciate the sentiment.”

“What’s to appreciate. She said this and this and this and this.”

“Stop appreciating it!”

I know when to give opinion and when to shut up.

I think this is, indirectly, my way of apologizing to Jonathon and Tom and Jeneane for my discourtesy in their comments. And I’d like to say I won’t do it again, but I’m sure I will, because I’m human, and I make mistakes, and I screw up. And I am counting on their understanding of this fact to offset my discourtesy.

As understanding as I should have been with my friend.

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