Giving. It’s important. We feel fortunate and we want to give to those we love, of course, but also to those less fortunate than us.
We especially think about it in November and December, right?
Food Drives. Salvation Army Kettles around every corner. Toys for Tots. Giving trees at your local library and church. Double the tip for the wait-staff. End of the year charity events. Cookies for the mailman.
What about now? January. February. And the next 8 months of year.
I’ve been looking to be more giving with what I have to give. I’m trying to give what I don’t NEED to hoard for myself, to other people who could USE and ENJOY what I have - in terms of physical stuff, encouragement, time, energy and more. Sometimes this means giving my energy to send mail to a friend to add some cheer to their day. Other times, it may mean buying a coffee for a stranger, donating clothes I no longer wear, or books I’m not going to read again.
Here are a few other small ideas you can add to your life to get with the giving 12 months a year.
4 Ideas to help get in the habit of giving all year long:
1. Hotel Freebies. Hotel stays have been pretty common in my life the past few years. Work trips, Blogging Trips, and long vacations to various cities all over the country. How often have you stayed at a hotel and added the toiletries left in the bathroom for your use to your suitcase to return home with you? Here’s an idea I got from an old boss I had in Texas. He traveled A LOT for work, and always came back with a bag full of shampoo, conditioner, soap and the like. Occasionally, he even asked the front desk for extras. When returning home, he would add all the supplies to a box, and every few months donate the supplies to a local battered woman’s shelter. Toiletries are almost always on the top of shelter’s need lists!
2. Buy One Give One: Tolietries. After learning how much of a need there was for such simple luxuries as shampoo and soap, I made a pledge. Every time I pick up a bottle of shampoo or body wash for myself, I add an extra bottle to the cart to donate to the shelter as well.
tip: I’m not necessarily particular about which brands I use for certain products. If I see a decent buy-one-get-one coupon or sale, I almost always choose that item to purchase.
3. Replace your own WANT, with someone else’s NEED. This year, I really want to try to do something similar with non-perishable grocery items. When I take a trip to the grocery market, I exchange one “impulse buy” item from my cart with groceries for the local food pantry for the same cost as the impulse buy.
For example – when walking down the aisle, I add two tubs of hummus to my cart because they are on sale for 2/$5. Do I really need two tubs of premade hummus? No. So I return one, and spend $2.50 on some food pantry items instead.
4. TIME. Don’t forget to look PAST money and, well, stuff, when it comes to giving. You have other valuable resources you can give to those in need. One major one? YOUR TIME. The best thing about giving your time is that there are SO MANY organizations and activities that need help, you are sure to find something you really enjoy doing if you just take a moment to look.
When I lived in Texas, I joined a volunteer program at a nearby retirement community in which I visited residents who didn’t have family local on their birthdays and special holidays. [I always made a card, and usually brought a cupcake or two ]
If you love furry friends , spend an hour or two helping out at your local animal shelter. [highly suggested if your job/apartment/lifestyle doesn't support committing to a pet of your own!]
That is just the very tip of the ice burg, my friends. A great place to start when wanting to volunteer your time is Volunteer Match! It’s a great website where you can search for volunteer opportunities by location and keyword. [that’s how I got hooked up at the retirement community, by the by!]
At the 2011 Healthy Living Summit in Philadelphia, I was lucky enough to participate in a panel presentation titled “Rising Above Negativity” with the lovely Brittany, Julie, and Courtney. Our panel was basically a discussion on the darker side of blogging. From the Summit website descriptions: “Negative comments, mean-spirited emails, snarky tweets and media backlash. Even in a community filled with positive messages and supportive readers, a negative comment can deeply affect any blogger. This panel will discuss how to handle these types of issues and ways to rise above the negativity.”
Throughout our preparation for HLS, we realized we each had a lot to say about the topic at hand, and that there were so many different subtopics we could have discussed during our brief time together on stage. I’m quite certain we could host an entire four day Summit on these topics alone, as a matter of fact.
Honestly, throughout the last year and a half, I have definitely discovered I am fascinated by blogger relations, and all that goes along with the ups and downs of pressing publish. One might imagine, being so darn rambly, that I have so much to say about the topics we barely grazed the surface of last weekend in Philadelphia. I’ve always questioned if I wanted to be one who “blogs about blogging” and there have been several times I’ve wanted to discuss certain topics on THS, but passed the buck elsewhere because I wasn’t sure that’s the kind of place I’d want to upkeep here.
Then, of course, I realized that THS has always been a place of honesty where I basically just ramble on about anything that interests me. And so blogging relations we will discuss. At least for now. Or approximately 47 days, until I get distracted by something new and shiny and you start having to read about dinosaurs. Or crossword puzzles. Or making things out of tissue paper.
So, let’s start with some discussion on a few of the most popular questions we were asked in our Rising Above Negativity survey, and see where it rolls from there, shall we?
Please note that these answers are my own, and I am not speaking for Julie, Courtney, or Brittany in my responses.
Where is negativity present?
Our community is awesome for many reasons, and especially because it is filled with so much support, encouragement and positivity. People’s lives are being changed daily and that is so inspiring; so much so, that more and more people are being inspired to start healthy living blogs. [HLB receives several applications for members DAILY, and I know there are still thousands of blogs out there who aren’t members.]
With so much positivity in our little niche, when the negativity arrives, it often seems extra harsh. It appears in several ways. Hundreds of us have been forced to face the question, “how do I respond to this comment that hurts my heart?” We’ve seen attacks on other blogs, in print media, on Facebook Status comments, in 140-characters or less on Twitter, and even social media accounts and websites dedicated to attacking bloggers.
Who does negativity affect?
NO ONE is immune, no matter what the size of your blog readership, the amount of posts you’ve published, or the years you’ve spent online. Especially when considering that just because you yourself may have never faced negativity, you’ve probably witnessed it in one form or another, which means it has affected you to some degree.
It was interesting to find in our survey that A LOT of the bloggers who said they hadn’t received a negative comment on their blog, followed it up by saying that they were “too young” of a blogger, or had “too small a readership” to receive negative comments, “yet.”
The truth is, anyone can be a victim of this negativity. Of course, probability suggests that if the example 1 out of every 500 comments in negative, then those bloggers who receive more comments, will, in turn, receive more negative comments, more often.
I’ve heard a lot of discussion in the past few years about “big blog/blogger” vs “little blog/blogger.” [terms that make a lot of people shudder, it would seem.] A lot of this discussion focuses on the value of all blogs, and how comparing ourselves is a dangerous habit in which to fall prey. We need to be careful to not drive the wedge in our community in this way ourselves. I’m guilty of it, too. I remember saying, when I got my first sassy email from a reader, “well –I must be doing something right. I must have made it now.”
Of course, I can’t help but ask myself some more questions, in regards to this: While the probability example above does support this, does it help the community by making these divisions? Are we being too sensitive by allowing offense to the idea of “big blogger”? Is making comparison in popularity dangerous, honest, or even necessary?
What constitutes a negative comment?
Often times when this discussion is formed in our community, I have noticed that people will lash out about the need for and in defense of constructive criticism. I am in no way against constructive criticism, and I truly believe there is a time and a place for it – but there is also a way to give constructive criticism with gentleness. Perhaps the most constructive of criticism also includes some kindness.
I think often times we can use the idea of “constructive criticism” as an excuse to be harsher than necessary. It is entirely possible to be both constructive and do so without rudeness, harshness, or snark. I’ve seen constructive criticism done well in comment sections, but I’ve also seen the term “constructive criticism” being slapped around to cover up for comments which could be classified by some as attacking.
Constructive criticism is not an excuse for meanness.
How do you handle a truly negative comment?
Obviously, there are several options. Ignore, Delete, Respond, Let your readers handle it, etc. Perhaps the real question is, When is the right time for each of these options?
The truth is, you need to decide what is right for you. There is no “right” way for everyone, because everyone is unique, and every situation is unique. Because of this, how I may respond to a harsh email from a reader, Courtney, Julie and Brittany may each respond to completely differently.
Also – you may not respond the same way to every “negative” comment you receive. I have learned that personally I respond to different situations with different actions.
That being said, if I could give two tiny pieces of advice when it comes to dealing with negativity it would be this: A) You don’t have to respond to EVERY negative/harsh/angry email/comment/tweet. B) Don’t respond immediately after the discovery of the words. Instead – step away from it for a while. I would even give yourself a time limit. “I will not respond to this comment for 3 hours.”
I think it’s important to find at least one blend who you trust and respect to go to when you receive negativity. For me, these friends are more than just people I run to when I receive an attacking email or a harsh comment. I also go to these people when I want to BE negative, but know that I’ll regret it. For example – when my feelings are hurt and I want to send a passive-aggressive tweet or get defensive – I may send Savvy Julie an email. Sometimes for fun, I make the email 140-characters or less. This person will become invaluable to you in terms of staying positive, polite, and fair.
Just the other day, a blend sent me an email about a response she was writing to someone who had hurt her. I told her my perspective, offered her encouragement, and then helped her craft her response to this person. I asked her to write out the bare bones of what she wanted to say, even if it seemed really mean, and I would “fluff” it. In this case, fluffing means that I took her words, and fluffed them up. I had an outside perspective, and wasn’t hurt DIRECTLY, so I could add kindness to her response and edit down any harshness she may have added from her own offense.
Also, as mentioned, I’m kind of rambly, so I can turn a 12 word answer into a four paragraph essay, but that’s neither here nor there.
When is it appropriate to respond publicly [in a comment or post], and when should I respond privately [as in an email?]
Here is how I decide if I want to respond publicly or privately. If I think there is a possibility that other readers may be asking/thinking/assuming the same things as this reader, and it would benefit the whole by explaining my position, stance, or reasoning – then I post it on THS, as a post.
I generally do not respond in blog comments. If I am going to say something that may be taken as defensive or ridiculous, I should go ahead and make sure you can all see it in your feeds. I’m kind of nuts about honesty, and wouldn’t want to explain something to one person that I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to all of the readers on THS. [except maybe my Grandmother. Hi, Gram! ]
How do you balance putting your true self out there (and risk getting more negative comments) with “putting on a happy face” and trying not to stir the pot?
I think you can say what you want to say without stirring the pot. It’s just about how you say it. Use a filter of gentleness and of kindness. There is a piece of advice I received long ago, which I wrote in my journal and refer to often which says “Before you say anything, ask yourself three questions: is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?”
Though, I’m a blogger, so it’s rarely not necessary. [also these things are subjective – you can only do what is best for you.]
Do you risk being offensive to someone in order to be honest?
Nope. A lot of my most popular posts have to deal with my broken engagement. I have always been one to edit and re-edit and edit some more in order to protect him and his offenses. Because I want to be kind, yes. But, also, because I don’t want to get sued for libel. Even if I am honest, and clearly state that this is my perspective and my opinion – I don’t want to be attacking and I don’t want to get sued.
Instead – I find other ways to get my story and point across without dragging him through mud, sharing his secrets, or being unkind to his name, his life, and his reputation. Because I can still be honest, without being hurtful. Flipping around that advice from before, I can share what is necessary and what is true by being kind.
How do you feel comfortable expressing your feelings/opinions without fear of negative comments?
This is an endless battle, I am sure – but it starts with security in yourself, your thoughts, and your words. Try only writing what you, yourself, are comfortable enough to stand behind. If I were to say I didn’t like your best friend, you would probably defend him/her to me, trying to get me to see your POV, and you wouldn’t have a second thought about it. Write what you can defend. Write what you can stand behind without question. Write what you feel secure in.
I believe that the greatest desires of humanity are to be accepted and to find others who you relate to. That’s what we are all looking for as we search for friends and partners – someone who we can say, “oh em gee! Me too!!!!” Think of how excited you get when you find someone that likes something, does something, or says something the same as you. We relish in the relating.
In my opinion, often the best posts are posts in which you let your guard down because you want to. When you allow yourself to share something with honesty, you are creating avenues on which to relate. If blogging about a subject that you are sort-of afraid to tap into, secrets you are uncovering or a taboo topic you usually avoid – know that the avenue you are creating for relating are about BIGGER things than favorite television programming and what sports you played in high school. These posts cultivate growth in yourself and in your readers and visitors.
I can’t wait to read your own thoughts and answer to these questions! Let’s discuss!! [please remember that I welcome differing opinions and open discussion! go ahead and get your comment on!]
Thanks to Julie, Laura, Jen and Courtney for the photos in this post.