Why your comments never amount to much – and how to fix them

Maybe you missed the mudslinging fest earlier this week or the follow-up article that talked about good manners.

I didn’t. These recent discussions here got me thinking about the 40-some years I’ve been adjusting my own words. Whether written or spoken, I’ve tried to strike a balance between brutal honesty and political correctness.

Not that I’ve arrived yet, but I press toward that goal with fervor, commitment, and discipline. But what’s the goal?

1. Passion is my transport, not my destination. Too often I let passion take me to the dark side. I abandon decorum and proceed full speed ahead. The result is usually that I injure others needlessly. So I temper my passion with discipline, an ugly word for some. It’s simply too easy to “burn the toast” (i.e., go too far) in making my point.

2. Never automatically dismiss a comment or complaint. Early in my life, I did exactly that. If that person was volatile or abusive – rejected! If I didn’t like or respect them – outta here! What I learned, that became quite effective, was to filter the things I didn’t like and focus on the message. Sometimes the feedback was important to my growth, however poorly stated or hard it was to hear. I have made some profound adjustments by evaluating the merits of feedback sans the delivery. And I’ve developed some great relationships in the process. Of course, in extreme cases, I could — and did — dismiss the statement.

3. Avoid name calling and other labels/phrases that will denigrate someone or put them on the defensive. There are cases when my relationship with the person or group “grants” me the privilege to be more direct. Otherwise, such responses (by me) rarely succeed in advancing a discussion or achieving meaningful change. Better to make my case politely and firmly without the edginess. And I avoid entering into a pointless fight with someone by keeping it professional.

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4. Unless dangerous actions are in play, articulate your case as if arguing before the Supreme Court. These days, I want less to win than I do to be clearly understood. And I can’t do that by shouting, name calling, or “throwing things.” I’ve found that you can be direct without being cruel. Cite meaningful sources, and accept challenges when they come and are valid. Many times this gives a chance to clarify a point you thought was understood in the piece.

5. Consider your audience both compassionately and intellectually. How can I best articulate my thoughts? Are my words needlessly harsh? Have I respected (different than being PC) the other person with my final choice of words? I practice a few things in this area that I like and believe are effective:

“I don’t believe your statement is supportable” vs “You are wrong/stupid.”

“Could you cite some examples to support your position” vs “I call BS.”

“It seems that you believe/like …” vs. “You are/are a …”

And so on. I push myself pretty hard with this principle. In the end, it’s up to the recipient to process my words, but I rest easy with the conviction that I didn’t “react.” I choose my words with the utmost care and consideration of others.

6. “Patience, grasshopper.” I will often pause, re-read, set aside, and come back to a response later. This wisdom has, I believe, saved a lot of pain.

7. Does it, am I, is this, what is, and am I. This is a checklist I use every time (OK, so I fail sometimes, but then I pay the price). It goes like this:

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Does it really need to be said? Wow, how many times I have swallowed my passion and pride and accepted the honest answer: “No.”

Am I the right one to say it? If I conclude (after sufficient pause) that it needs to be said, it is vital to ask if I’m the best delivery person. Relationship to the recipient is critical here, as is my expertise and ability to remain dignified in my response. It’s a hard one to pull off, but I have declined to say something even when relationship exists because our views are so different or I see someone else being a better messenger. If you hate humble pie, this step will be difficult.

Is this the right time to say something? My daughter comes to mind on this. Even if I’m the best messenger, a needed comment may fall flat, be ignored, or even do significant damage if it’s mistimed. I’ve had to bite my tongue and wait for the right opening many times. My wife is terrific at this, and I’ve taken a cue from her invariable success with this. Drives me nuts sometimes, but I draw wisdom from her strength in this area.

What is the likely response? This is a critical checkpoint before proceeding. There’s nothing worse than considering all the prior questions and then kicking yourself for wasting everyone’s time. That said, there are times when something must be said regardless of consequences, because the need to take action far outweighs the consequences of doing nothing.

Am I prepared for unintentional consequences? In every action or response I’ve found it wise to consider that the response may be the opposite of what I hoped for. I steel myself against results I did not anticipate and/or did not want. That way I’m less likely to experience regret.

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My hope is that some of this will make its way into future discussions here.

Are your comments taken seriously on this site?

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  • TonyA_says

    Really? I have a feeling the Wild, Wild, West atmosphere is what gives many people a jolt in the morning. Not to mention that the way the articles are written incite such a reaction from people. How else should one normally respond to an over-entitled demand from a misguided airline passenger (a bitch)? Considering that there is not that much rich content in the stories (some devoid of much facts) then readers run wild with their own speculative scenarios. If you want us to act like nice children, then I suspect most of the children would just play in another playground. That’s entertainment; just like Dr Phil or Jerry Springer.

    If you want a serious discussion, then go over to the forum. Over there you have people asking for help and advice, not just any comment.

  • Come on. You know that I research the stories because you see my drafts. You make it sound as if I’m slapping the most incendiary material up online without so much as a second look. I do have an editor. To the incendiary charge, I plead guilty.

  • Roger DeFoe

    Your stories, by their very nature, are emotionally charged and stir up a spirited debate. But even a lively discussion can be conducted with professionalism.

  • TonyA_says

    Sure Chris I see the drafts. But I never get the LW to answer more questions because I believe there is a lack of facts. I can in the forum and that’s why I think it is a more serious platform.

  • Roger DeFoe

    I agree with you completely about the missing information Tony. But how does that tie into your approach to commenting?

  • TonyA_says

    I think it is obvious there is a revulsion from many posters, not just me, when we hear about over-entitled LWs especially if they get something (compensation) from a travel provider. That’s a normal reaction.

  • Roger DeFoe

    Then say that you consider their compensation to be excessive. Say you disagree with their request. Say you think they have overstated their dilemma, position or treatment. When you use pejoratives with facts missing (as you have just indicated), you do them and yourself a disservice.

    Let me say too, Tony, that I HAVE seen you post in a professional way. You are great at researching flights, hotels, etc. and presenting the facts as they pertain to the matter at hand. When you do that you add to the discussion, and we all benefit from your efforts.

  • TonyA_says

    I disagree Roger. When I believe someone has a phony case I will point it out. It’s only my opinion. I am not looking for customers here. I am just commenting. Now if you believe only a certain line of commenting is acceptable, then that’s easy. There are other sites where I can comment.

  • Roger DeFoe

    I don’t decide what’s acceptable, Tony. I offer tools and thoughts to consider in stating your case. Accept them or not – your choice. And I never intended to engender nor have I engendered guilt in anyone.

  • ShrimpBoy

    If I want to have an impact I post on a site with serious traffic. Not all but most of the OPs here don’t have real problems. They’re whiners who created their own problems described to get a rise out of people.

  • Roger DeFoe

    And by stating your case with a pejorative (“whiners”), how seriously do you think you are perceived, and how effective is your statement (i.e., in effecting change)? Wouldn’t your point be better received if you chose a more professional approach? Granted it is much harder to articulate without the insults and it is less direct.

    I’m not suggested censorship, here, ShrimpBoy, but I know that many will become tone-deaf to insults. My point and purpose here is to share tools I’ve developed and used. Readers may do with them what they wish.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Tony, I agree with just about everything you wrote except for the “bitch” part.

    Watch for my comment on that particular word, next. :)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I have a real problem when the moderators don’t react to words such as “bitches” but do react to viewpoints not held by them. One specific example:

    On the power trip article, one of the comments said: “If they don’t like working there, then they can get the hell out. There are plenty of people that would give their arms and legs to be a flight attendant that would replace these bitches.” Not a peep out of the moderators. And I flagged that comment, too, so there’s no excuse – all the moderators should have been aware of the flagging.

    But, Tony says something very innocuous, making fun of an earlier post of his, and he gets this from a moderator: Everyone, please rein in the sarcasm and hostility. Let’s keep it civil and polite.

    Same moderator smacked down another person (Bill_A) for expressing his opinion on the crying baby article. I guess I know where that moderator stands on the issue. I shouldn’t.

    I agree with being civil and I try my hardest. But don’t freaking chastise me or anyone else for having a strong opinion just because it doesn’t match yours.

  • Roger DeFoe

    Are you suggesting that I am chastising anyone, or the moderator of which you spoke?

  • Jeanne_in_NE


  • Roger DeFoe

    Yep what? Me or the moderator?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Bill, it’s not your place to decide when it is or isn’t necessary for someone to travel with a baby.”

    “Bill, the issue is not whether or not you are entitled to your opinion, but how you express yourself. Regardless of what you do or don’t think, you are not entitled to insult or belittle anyone else in this forum, including moderators. I suggest you reconsider your tone, or you may find yourself unable to participate at all.”

    Why didn’t some of the other comments get an admonishment from that moderator? Some of those comments got to be pretty strong, too. One seems to be an expression of her opinion, but then she comes back in moderator-voice. But both comments are labeled “moderator”. That carries some weight on this site.

    As for your response to Tony, “But I will ask what labels like “over-entitled”, “misguided”, and “bitch” say about you?, I consider that an admonishment as well. I thought Tony was being pretty mild for an Internet forum, except for the “bitch” part, and you see where I shook my finger at him in my response to him.

    *Edited to remove typos and incorrect formatting.

  • Roger DeFoe

    The “admonishment” as you call it came after Bill said “bringing a demon spawn aboard“. By any standard that is unacceptable.

    And me asking Tony a legitimate question (which he did not answer) is NOT admonishment. I wanted him to consider what his use of those terms tells us about him and give me his own assessment.

    As to the comments being labeled Moderator, they are allowed to express their own opinion, which the first post you cited was.

    Edited: The issue here is not about censorship. It’s about how things are said.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    So, “demon spawn” is not acceptable, but calling FAs “bitches” is? Or the other clever post that talked about “gay stews”? “Demon spawn” was an obvious hyperbolic statement, and thrown in with other unpleasant companions on the journey.

    As to Moderators having their own opinion – NO, NO, NO. I don’t know of any definition of Moderator that allows for them to actively promote their own opinion. Moderators who wish to express their own opinions need to sign in under a different, non-moderator account to do so.

  • Roger DeFoe

    I searched that thread and there are no posts with the phrase “gay stews” or even the word “gay”. I see one instance of the word “bitch”, and I would agree with you that it should have been challenged.

    And I would agree with you about Moderators posting opinion under a separate account, but that is Chris’s call.

    But I want to come back to the purpose of my article. I offer my thoughts, experiences, and tools for readers to consider. Accept or reject – their call. And I wlll ask questions for the purpose of encouraging readers to consider the impact and wisdom of their words. I respect their right and responsibility to decide.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    “They are awful. It’s the exception now to find a caring, decent stew. I hate traveling after 20 years in business. And frankly, I’m sick of the flagrantly gay men stews, they seem to have the worst attitudes and I don’t understand why.” – from the FA power trip article. Sure looks like homophobia to me.

    I understand the purpose of your article. I agree with the purpose of your article. I try not to post anything my pastor would disapprove of. But, I think my point about the moderation experience on this site is valid. If the standards outlined in your article are the ones we all need to live by, then please communicate that to the moderators as well. Moderate to those standards. Separate the moderator opinion from the personal opinion.

    Thank you and good night.

  • Roger DeFoe

    FYI, we were talking about the baby article, but for the one post you were targeting the FA power trip one. That’s what threw me off.

    And have a good night. I appreciate your comments ..

  • PsyGuy

    No offense, I realize this is your medium, but on the internet, I don’t take anything seriously.

  • Roger DeFoe

    Interesting point. So what methods or tools, if any, do you use in commenting on this site? Or, stated another way, where are your fences?

  • PsyGuy

    I don’t really have any, I’m pragmatic, I have a problem/resolution type of thought process, style and affective language doesn’t do anything for me, or too me. I distill delivery and message down to content and intention.

  • Roger DeFoe

    So, if I say “another entitled whiner” vs “I think the OPs request is excessive” are the intent and content the same to you?

  • TonyA_says

    I had to stretch to write about (the bitch) because I don’t think I did use that in the cry-baby article; although I often write about people bitching and moaning as in whining …
    Nevertheless, internet talk, sports talk, and cable tv talk is full of b*tch and m*f*. So why should anyone be shocked hearing it in forums?

    IMO it is a crude but effective way to describe a female with an attitude problem. The male version is probably SOB or m*f*.

  • TonyA_says

    Not the same effect to me. Maybe to the tea sipping housewives of Greenwich and New Canaan, yes that will be just fine.

  • Roger DeFoe

    And if you used the first one, I would dismiss your remark. It comes across to me as an insult solely designed to belittle the OP. You and I don’t know the OPs intent, so assigning the characteristics “entitled” and “whiner” lack proof. If you say the second, it tells me that you believe the OP should not receive what he/she is requesting.

  • Roger DeFoe

    It seems to me then, Tony, that your intent is to state the truth as you see it, using the words that you deem acceptable without concern for how others perceive your point. Is that a fair assessment on my part?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Nah, the male version has to do with male anatomy. I am quite conversant with those two particular epithets, especially when driving in rush hour traffic in Omaha or Lincoln.

    Like I said, I try not to post anything that my pastor would disapprove of. I’m sure he’d be shaking his head at my use of “freaking”, earlier. :)

  • TonyA_says

    Of course the OP is always right and believable and it is okay for them to make the FAs look bad so they can get the compensation they “justly” deserve. Sorry I have had enough of your dogma. If you don’t like what I have to say, have me expelled from this site. Good night sir.

  • Roger DeFoe

    I appreciate your comments, Tony.

  • TonyA_says

    My wife and I give up. With 3 boys aged 22 to 16, it does not matter whether their friends are from the most expensive schools here in Connecticut or from Harlem or the Bronx. They all use the nastiest words especially when they are playing online games. Sign of the times.
    Interesting that when I go overseas to Asia, they talk more politely. Not sure why.

  • PsyGuy

    Same as in equal, no but equivalent yes. In the first your attaching a characteristic to the writer, in the second your focusing on the merits of the request itself. One is an attack on the person, the other disagreement with the actions of the person. In my cognitive paradigm, things don’t happen by soulless entities, what people do is an extension of who they are, a manifestation of their being. Many colleagues of mine would characterize this as a separation of self and behavior a “good kid who does a bad thing”, from my perspective behavior does not exist in a vacuum, evil is not self manifesting. We are what we do, whiners whine, and those who conduct themselves in such a manner often, are excessive whiners. The “footprint” they leave behind regardless of the form of expression is a difference without distinction.

  • Roger DeFoe

    Thanks for that. I guess we’re different in this area. Since I don’t know WHY the OP wants what he/she wants, I’m unwilling to label them in any way. And I shut off the message from anyone who does so, as their very short statement lacks foundation. Moreover, it is irrelevant. Either the OP’s request is reasonable or it isn’t and should be based on its merits.

  • Alan Gore

    I like the slugfest posts myself. They are a perfect illustration of the contempt that some travel-industry personnel feel for their customers.

  • bodega3

    Wow Jeanne! I am smiling and applauding you! Just wanted you to know over the up click I am giving you.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Thank you. I believe in fairness. A little too strongly at times, I’ll admit.

  • Carchar

    Does the word “bitch” now refer to both male and female?

  • Too much anger and vitriol on those posts, but unfortunately, that kind of behavior seems to be a small reflection of the larger world at whole. Personally, I try to be just like myself here as I would be in person. I’ll state my opinion, but try to be respectful about it. Not sure if my comments are taken seriously or not, but I would think they are.

    But taken serious does not equal being noticed. The ones that get noticed the most seem to be the “slugfest” type of postings…

  • William_Leeper

    If a consumer is wronged, they have a serious problem regardless of what the problem is, or how big it is. That is one of the reasons I mediate cases, and moderate the comments on the site. I truly believe in what Chris does, and how cases are handled.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Jeanne, I agree with you that bias of the moderators are noticeable. That is why I take a break from commenting on this blog from time to time

  • Actually, the moderators are having a debate about whether the word “bitches” should be allowed. If we deleted the posts in which the word appeared, it would create a hole in the dialog and a lot of it wouldn’t make sense.

    There’s also the fact that this is a debate about a debate. That’s making moderation really difficult.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Tony, I agree with you there are facts missing from some articles. The missing facts are important to me in order to determine my opinion/judgment/position/etc. on the particular case.

    Also, research is missing in some articles. Over the 10 years that I have been reading this blog, I have seen articles written about travel providers where spending 10 to 15 minutes would have shown that the travel provider wasn’t being evil, mean-spirited, lying, etc.

    Without having all of the facts (or more facts) and doing some research, it seems like Chris is believing the OP’s story 100%…that how it comes across to me. There have been several stories where the OP was lying and/or not fully disclosing everything.

    Don’t get me started on OPs that makes their own mistakes and expect others to pay for them.

  • TonyA_says

    I hope CE realizes this. A site that is completely biased towards any kind of consumer is wrong. It should only back honest and decent consumers. And to do that, the consumer must be pass the smell and honesty test.

  • Virtually all of the criticism of this nature comes from my Monday post, “Can This Trip Be Saved?” That’s where I take someone’s story at face value, zero research, and ask readers what they would do if the same complaint landed on their desk.

    The rest of the week, I go to great lengths to research my cases. No, I don’t always succeed — Tony knows I don’t have access to a GDS. But Arizona makes it sound as if I’m fast and loose with the cases, and that’s simply not true.

  • Roger DeFoe

    If the moderators feel that a term or terms (not the entire post) are unacceptable, perhaps they could edit that post and change the term(s) to something like – the original term(s) that were her are in violation of our guidelines – . And then they could reply to the commenter asking them to edit using the guidelines.

    Don’t know if that’s even possible, but it’s less drastic than complete removal. And no, I’m not a fan of censorship, but it does become necessary at times …

  • TonyA_says

    Yes, I agree. I go nuts every Monday :-)
    Thank goodness they are not my customers.
    What shocks me is that there are many people like “them” who think they should be helped by a consumer advocate, and if they don’t get the help they want (or believe they deserve), they might even threaten to turn on the advocate :(

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I wrote

    “…there are facts missing from SOME articles.”

    “…research is missing in SOME articles.”

    …where I am implying that facts are missing in ALL articles and no research is being done?

    I remember you writing compliments to your readers a few years ago (it could have been 4 to 5 years ago) about the quality of our questions in our comments. I can’t recall but you wrote something like “are you guys professional investigative writers for newspapers or magazines.”

    I do realize that you don’t have a staff and tons of resources at your disposal. However, there have been SOME times that a quick Google search or a quick review on the travel provider’s website would have painted a different picture of the OP and/or travel provider.

    How about the single mother from New Jersey and her lease? A reader did a Google search and found out that she had a problem with a rental over damages while her regular car was being fixed for damages or repairs. She could have been unlucky or she could be not the best driver.

    There have been customers that have told me that one of my account managerssales reps sent them an e-mail about a special price, term or etc. I have always told them to forward the original e-mail and we will honor what was in the e-mail. They always send in a cut & paste (which means they are forging the e-mail) of the e-mail instead of forwarding the original e-mail. Then I ask my IT department to search our e-mail servers and there was no e-mail on the date.

    I know that you are limited on space for your articles but I can’t recall you ever putting screen shots of a website of a travel provider where the OP is accusing the website of something.

    I still remember the person who booked non-refundable non-cancellable hotel room at the Marriot SpringHill Suites to watch the shuttle launch. When the shuttle launch was cancelled, the person claimed that the website didn’t disclose that the rate was non-refundable. Less than two minutes at the site would have shown that the OP wasn’t telling the truth.

    Two other times, individuals were claiming that AA and Delta websites were not showing the expiration of their miles. Again, less than 60 seconds would have shown that the OPs wasn’t telling the truth. I think that your opinions of FF programs COULD have influenced you in these cases.

    By the way, there are free tools available to see archived websites so that OPs and readers can’t claim that the travel provider changed their website.

    Like I have written over the years, I think that you spend too much of your goodwill’political’ capital on cases where it was clearly the fault of the OP. If the OP asked the travel provider for an exception and they said ‘No’…case dismissed instead of using the bullying pulpit to shame them into a refund. Most companies will refundetc. even if they are 100% correct to avoid bad PR. Look at the comments about TravelZoo yesterday, it wasn’t their fault but the fault of the RV Resort but there were several readers that blamed TravelZoo.

    I think that there are several cases when the OP did everything right but the travel provider did NOT fulfill. Those are the cases that you should do the heavy lifting.

    I think that you are creating and enabling people to be more self-entitled, self-centered, narcissistic, etc. by allowing them not to take responsibilities for their actions or lack of actions.

  • Bill___A

    I appreciate the fair and balanced comments by Jeanne_in_NE and TonyA_ in particular as well as many of the others commenting.

    The true value of the site is the various comments, good, bad, and indifferent. The stories are merely a theme.

    People have varying opinions and sometimes points are made in a relatively strong fashion.

    I expect that some of this is provoked on purpose, with the intentional frequent use of misleading headlines and polls to which the best or most obvious answer is not an offered option.

    Even the title of this article is not really true…if the comments really didn’t amount to much, why was this column even written?

    The obvious bias of some of the moderators is disappointing.

    I do apologize to anyone I offended but at the same time, stand by the essence of my statements.

    Good day.

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