Naomi Dunford’s IttyBiz blog is one of my favorites to read. She’s bold, brazen and brash, and she says it like it is. She’s real. She also gets me thinking a great deal about my own approach to blogging.
Case in point: her post “Are you Cocky or Do You Have Balls”. Well, that’s where my thoughts all started, anyways.
According to Naomi’s definition of a business approach, I’m cocky, and I have balls (I checked.) Good; that’s good. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What surprised me was the reaction from readers outlined in Naomi’s follow-up post, Entrepreneurship: What To Do When You’re Scared Sh*tless. Apparently, she’d offended a ton of people with her “Cocky” post.
Did she care? Of course. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have posted something about the situation. Did she change her approach to please the masses (or a select few of the masses)? Not at all. Naomi proudly stated that she is who she is; love her or leave her – and her life will continue very nicely, thank you.
I admired that attitude. I admired it because for the past couple of years, I’ve been struggling with my own online personality. I’m perfectly comfortable with who I am, what I stand for, and my values and beliefs. I’m proud of myself.
But I have clients. Do I temper my personality to achieve a certain image that doesn’t really fit me but that allows my professional business image to shine? Is there a way to be myself and to reflect a good business image? How do I please myself, please the readers, and please my clients? What are the limits? How far should I go?
In short, what should and shouldn’t I say?
It’s a problem. Really, it is. Here I was: blissfully Canadian, open and open-minded, honest, direct, tolerant, and respectful of other people’s beliefs and values. Here was the virtual world: close-minded, intolerant, opinionated, quick to judge and quick to label. I welcomed people; I was force-fed narrow views and told what I should and shouldn’t believe.
In the name of business, I shut my mouth. I ignored the extremist religious spam emails. I bit my tongue over people who told me homosexuals should be condemned and treated with psychotherapy. I grit my teeth over comments about how more guns, military and war was the answer.
I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t want to jeopardize our business. I didn’t want to risk offending clients, readers, or people in general.
The result was that over time, I became bitter, angry and resentful. I’d lived 36 years in my culture; in two years, I grew to feel chained and restricted, chafing at having to listen to other people’s opinions while my own had to be hushed up.
Yes, I’m getting to the point. Sorry – I’ve been holding this in for a while.
After reading Naomi’s posts, I did a lot of thinking, and finally I sat down and asked Harry a question. “What’s your comfort level regarding letting readers know my views?”
Harry’s American. For over 40 years, he’s lived with extremist opinions, close-minded views and outspoken people. He deals with it. It’s all he’s ever known. Living where he does, he’s learned to be cautious.
Living where I do, I never had to learn to be cautious. I grew up in a place where being open about opinions is perfectly acceptable and where tolerance of the opinions of others reigns high. I’m irritated that the freedom to be open and respected has been taken away by the virtual world.
“I just take my cues from you,” he answered. “I think twice before posting anything, though. I don’t like getting into debates. We’re running a business blog.”
I don’t want to get into debates either. I don’t want to wave my flag or shout my beliefs or shake my finger at other people because they live differently than I do. But I thought of Naomi – she doesn’t do that either. She’s just… herself.
We talked some more. Harry said he usually observed the other person before deciding what he could and couldn’t say. I pointed out that in blogging, you’re revealing yourself without a clue of who might read your material. Stalemate.
“The way I see it,” Harry added helpfully, “is to think about what would be appropriate to discuss in an office.”
“Do you mean an office as in a closed-door office with a desk and two chairs facing each other, or an office as in a building that houses 100 people who are all co-workers?”
“As in, how much do I want my co-workers to know,” he shrugged.
I wouldn’t have an issue sharing personal views with co-workers on occasion. I wouldn’t run screaming up and down the hall that I think gay marriage is cool, of course. But if someone said, “My brother just married his boyfriend,” I’d shrug and say, “That’s cool. Tell them congrats for me.”
People have strong feelings about many issues. I understand that, and I can’t change that. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and if it doesn’t agree with mine, that’s okay.
I won’t shove my opinions in people’s faces or wave a red flag at a bull. Some people are like that, but that’s just not me and that’s not what I think is professional.
But if my personal views slip out in a relevant manner from time to time, so be it. I’ll stop stressing over who I may or may not offend. If someone won’t work with me because my opinions are different from his or hers, that’s okay too.
My personal views have nothing to do with my ability to do a good job and be a professional at the same time. This is me; love me or leave me.