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"That's a load of BS" and Other Forms of Commentary from the Public.

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From Lt. Barclay, keyboard dog
Lt. Barclay, keyboard dog by dtweney

I've been writing a newspaper column for about four years now and feedback has been   rare. Now that I'm writing in a medium that facilitates feedback, I'm receiving far more feedback and I love it -- most of the time. I've also noticed it can be classified into categories. So this is what I've found so far.  

First the obvious; some commentary is not intended to enlighten. It's offered by people who seem to want to be disagreeable. So I'm learning to accept and ignore it, with some agita, I might add.

Then there's the feedback that comes from those whose need to demonstrate superior knowledge supersedes their need to enlighten. These are a bit more tolerable because I often learn something. I tell myself that this will make me a better thinker and writer. That helps me keep my ego under control even though it's obvious that the intention of this kind of feedback is to make the commentator look good at the author's expense.

Of course, I can't ignore the worst type of commentary, the ad hominem attacks directed at the author instead of the ideas. These should be the easiest to deflect but somehow I feel a need to fire back. It's useless I know. But it sure makes me feel better.

Then there's the type that pettifogs the issues by focusing on a word or phrase that has little to do with the main point of the piece. I can only assume that this feedback is not intended to do much more than what it does; pettifog the issues.

Very close to pettifogging is the type of comment that seems directed at something not even in the article. I think people who do this, read the headline and maybe the first paragraph, respond defensively and need to reject what they think the author meant. Obviously, it would be so much more productive if they read the entire article.

Closely related is the reader who reads but doesn't seem to comprehend what's written. I feel a bit more compassion for this commentator because there's a whole lot I don't comprehend, both on the Internet and in other mediums.

Fortunately, there is also the kind of feedback that enlightens, informs, clarifies, challenges, and improves what the author writes. And for that I am deeply grateful. I've had little formal training in writing since high school. I'm happy to receive as much assistance as I can get, so I welcome the exchange that comes from this kind of commentator.

In summary, I know the relative anonymity of the Internet produces a disinhibition effect that encourages people to write things they might not if they had to see the author on a day to day basis. But even so, there are a few things one might consider when offering commentary, especially if they want to influence the author and other readers.

First, the author is a human being with all the limitations, weaknesses, failings and flaws and of any other person. So maybe give him or her the benefit of the doubt and don't be so quick to lash out. Second read the entire article before you comment. Third, comment away but try to couch it in intelligent and positive terms. It's okay to agree to disagree but it's not very effective to be disagreeable when you do it. In particular, if you want to have an influence on the author, don't attack him or her personally.

I find writing and receiving responses to be particularly revealing since I've been initiated into the world of the late Jacque Derrida. This French philosopher's work explored the concept of deconstruction. In his words, "there is nothing outside the text."  

If I understand him correctly, when we remove the sediments of meanings in our texts and get down to the original "stuff" we will meet with aporia, "a confusion in establishing the truth of a proposition." In other words, it's all meanings piled on meanings piled on meanings.

And when I think that we can deconstruct the meanings of every word we use, and there are several billion people attributing their own meanings to the unimaginable number of texts in the world, I can't imagine how anyone can take an absolute position on anything, me included. (A note to self: You've done it before. Don't do it again.)

So there you have it. My little treatise on giving and receiving feedback gracefully. So, respond away dear reader. Respond away. I look forward to your feedback.

Robert De Filippis

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Author, columnist and blogger with a long career in business management, management consulting and executive coaching. I am a certified ontological coach. I've studied clinical therapeutic practices in Gestalt psychology and am a Certified Birkman (more...)

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feedback to an author is wonderful sometimes!... by Robert De Filippis on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 12:20:44 PM
I can advise to use- Absence of Malice. If there i... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 1:26:40 PM
click herehey, this is my 7001s comment!... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 2:41:13 PM
Bob:The Internet allows you to stand on a soapbox,... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 2:23:03 PM
I don't think I was that surprised. It's more like... by Robert De Filippis on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 5:03:57 PM
read comments. ... by molly cruz on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 5:46:57 PM
sometimes not.  My comments, and others with ... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 6:10:12 PM
For the record, I have read many of your comments ... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 5:40:11 PM
who's counting?... by molly cruz on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 10:56:58 AM
I tried to get in to hear one of Derrida's last le... by Paul Kibble on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 7:31:26 PM
and literary types are much friendlier to metaphor... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 12:33:55 AM
As the English critic Michael Wood wrote, " He doe... by Paul Kibble on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 7:34:30 PM
anything that essentially invalidates the reality ... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 12:47:13 AM
Guilty as charged. If not worse. I wish I could ta... by Ad Du on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 10:40:23 PM
You are hardly a negative commenter, as I recall. ... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 12:51:45 AM
And you were one of them, sir. I have a fairl... by Ad Du on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 8:55:33 AM
without judging the writer's motivation or charact... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 10:27:21 AM
Often when I comment that something is bad, in com... by Simon Leigh on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 1:05:31 PM
Bravo! Exactly. There seems to be a desire to put ... by Robert De Filippis on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 5:05:01 PM
Yes!  You may enjoy reading my encounter with... by Cynthia Piano on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 9:03:32 AM
I want to read it. How do I find it?... by Robert De Filippis on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 10:37:21 AM
I know, sometimes I can't find it either...Yet it ... by Cynthia Piano on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 7:32:49 AM
I  am speaking for myself only.  I don't... by anna kakol on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 11:22:46 PM
You have found your voice, and your courage in exp... by Cynthia Piano on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 7:43:53 AM
Thank your for your response. If your article had ... by Robert De Filippis on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 8:56:32 AM