Tuesday, May 6, 2008

31 Day Comment Challenge - Day 5

The 5th day of the Comment Challenge involves commenting on a post that you disagree with. This activity aims to get you to think about how you manage conflict and posts that challenge your thinking. It took me a while to find a post to reply to but I ended up returning to a post that I have mentioned before.

Talking to a New Zealand politician
Stephen Franks is an opposition politician who clearly is anti midwife but the trouble is, you never know with politicians just how much is personal opinion and what is being regurgitated for political gain.

What happened as a result of you disagreeing with the blogger? How did they respond? How did you respond?
I have just submitted the comment so will report back later about the response.

I was very polite, possibly more polite than I would be usually because I was speaking to a national figure. I was very conscious that I did not want to get into an argument, especially if I did not have any hard evidence to back me up. This is not because there isn't evidence but because I did not have it to hand. I did not have time to go and look for evidence so I really just spent my comment asking clarifying questions. If you are going to get into an 'argument' I think it is vital that you have credible evidence to back you up. I was also very conscious that I was representing the midwifery profession so did not want to say anything that would bring the profession into dispute.

What do you usually do if you find a post with which you disagree? Do you comment publicly? Email the blogger? Or do you just move on?
My response to a post that I disagree with very much depends on how important the post is to me, and whether I have the time or emotional energy to engage with the blogger. I have to decide if there is a 'reward' in it for me ie I can make a useful contribution to the debate. I may also comment if I am really, really passionate about getting my view across, even when I know I have the minority view. Sometimes I know a comment is going to make no difference to the views of the blogger or readers, so I will pass on without commenting because I do not want to feed ill informed rantings.

However, I am mindful of my position as an educator with a growing online profile, so I try to be careful about how I contribute to a discussion and what I say. I do consider myself to be a role model to students both as midwife and blogger, so I try to make sure that I always comment in a positive, constructive way.

If you comment, typically how do you engage the blogger? Do you ask questions to better understand his/her position? Do you make statements to explain your position? Do you track comments so that you can return to continue the conversation?
The answer very much depends on what mood I am in at the time. If I am feeling grumpy I may just state my opinion and leave without looking back. But if I want to make a constructive contribution to the conversation and see how my comments are received, then I will ask questions that encourage further debate and track the comment.

If you're a blogger, how do you feel if people post comments where they disagree with you? How do you handle these?
I enjoy receiving comments that disagree with my postings because they are likely to fuel more discussion. I have only had two 'negative' comments. Both these comments I have used to explore my own online behavior and I have used them as learning opportunities. I always endeavor to be polite in my answer. I do not moderate this blog because I want people to feel free to comment how they wish. But I would delete anything that was very unnecessarily offensive - as yet I have not had to do so.

Image: 'When we turn our backs on each other...' tanakawho



ZenTiger said...

He didn't seem "clearly" anti-midwife to me, but time will tell.

A response to your question would be nice. It was phrased well.

My wife and I decided on home births for our children, and relied on a mid-wife who was wonderful. This was in Australia (about 10 years ago), where Doctors seem to be increasingly treating birth as a medical procedure (c-sections up from 8% to 23% over the last 5 years at the closest hospital).

In Australia, it seemed as if the medical establishment was at war with midwives, and they were vilified in the press. It was truly shocking. At the time, it seemed NZ had excellent partnerships between doctors and midwives. Since returning to NZ it seems like this has been lost.

Not good.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Zentiger, thank you so much for popping by. Great to hear from a chap who had home births. It's not often I hear a man's point of view on this blog so am really pleased you said 'hello'.

I came from the UK where I was used to working with doctors in a very collaborative way. Here in NZ I have had diverse experiences, some of which have been extremely negative. Suffice to say, I believe it is vital that midwives and doctors respect each other for the skills and experience they both bring to the maternity system.

The maternity service in NZ continues to an excellent service and leads the world. I am very proud to be a NZ midwife and incidentally would like to point out that NZ has the biggest proportion of speakers at the ICM conference in June in Glasgow. This only goes to show a. the commitment of NZ midwives and b. the interest the rest of the world has in NZ midwifery.

Claire Thompson said...

Hi Sarah, I really enjoyed reading your thoughtful reflections on this challenge. I liked the following quote:
However, I am mindful of my position as an educator with a growing online profile, so I try to be careful about how I contribute to a discussion and what I say. I do consider myself to be a role model to students both as midwife and blogger, so I try to make sure that I always comment in a positive, constructive way.

I think when coming across a blog post that I disagree with I have to step back and take a few deep breaths, or even come back to it in a day, so that I don't write a comment that I will later regret.

Sarah Stewart said...

Great advice, Claire.

I have to say that this has been a very interesting exercise. It has shown me how easy it is for words to be misconstrued. I have said that Stephen 'clearly' dislikes midwives but both he and Zentiger have said that is not the case. To me, he does, but am I being too precious and defensive?

The other lesson has been about clarity of what I write. Once Stephen clarified his comments I had a much better view of what he was saying. I still didn't agree with him but I could see where he was coming from. I was also able to make a decision about whether to engage further with the discussion and I have decided not to go any further with it - I am not going to get any thing out of continuing the debate.

So, thanks to Stephen for making me think about 'words' and how they are perceived in a blog.

Kevin said...

Hi all
Claire talks about stepping back, reflecting and then writing when you come across a post with which you disagree, and I think that is great advice.
The momentary pause can allow some clarity of thought and also allow us to consider the voice of our writing (and how it will be perceived by the other person/people engaged in the conversation)

Sarah Stewart said...

I totally agree Kevin. I tend to be a reactive blogger and I find it very hard to wait a while and let things 'sit' - I just want to get on and write. But when I look back on some of my posts I cringe a little because I see that I have reacted in a certain way that may have been prevented if I had taken time to stop and think.