Restraint of Tongue and Pen

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Yesterday, after talking with a friend, I deleted three different posts for December’s Friday blog slots.


They were angry, mean-spirited, short-sighted and downright negative.

They also represented incomplete thought processes.

When considered in context, they would have hurt me and/or others, and wouldn’t have improved the general conversation. Those posts were probably amplified in tone by general end of year exhaustion and physical pain (arthroscopic knee surgery on December 26, woohoo!).

Is this playing nice?


It’s playing smart.

That meditative pause before you press publish can make or break you. It can save or end relationships.

Think things through, understand the end result, learn from experience, and let little things go.

Sacrificing Interesting for a Measured Tone?

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Image by otherself

Every time I’ve published posts in the form of rants, call-outs or thinly veiled commentary, I’ve regretted it. They’re not representative of the current course I’ve committed to with speech.

So I deleted them.

Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you have to say it.

Sometimes restraint of tongue and pen pays off more than dropping a post to make a point, or be right, or drive traffic.

Does that make me less interesting? That depends on what you want online.

Why publish this particular post? I’ve seen an uptick in criticism for being too nice online recently.

My response: Really? I have a hard time taking “too nice” seriously.

Beyond that, we all choose different paths, and what’s good for you may not be good for me. If you need an edgier critical tone, then God bless you and good luck.

I prefer a more measured approach these days. If I can’t offer an interesting point of view without specifically positioning against a called out person or being nasty, then my writing skills suffer.

The attention-driven drama, the unnecessary time expenditure it creates, and the resulting pain from past events still haunt me. The negatives far outweighed the benefits.

Save it for someone else’s corner of the blogosphere.

What do you think?


  • I prefer the measured approach, too. I know my fondness for it isn’t solely based on my academic background, but the background plays a part. I believe a well-positioned statement uses emotion and shows the author’s point of view, but it’s grounded in facts and is not a wrath-filled piece.

    Personally, I shut down when people rant. i can’t listen to positions based solely on anger or an “I’m better than you” attitude. I will confess to critiquing written rants, though. I like to think about how the argument could have been better stated.

    • Sometimes I read them, kind of like a rubber necker who sees an accident.

      In truth, I usually think less of the writer. Frankly, I see how stupid my bad past posts of this ilk were. I used to justify them as “attacking” ideas or as sensational to attract readers, etc., but there so many better ways to do this than a full frontal offensive that brings down the conversation.

      This higher brow way of blogging is more disciplined. I’ll say this for me, my traffic has doubled since I embraced it. So my past thoughts on the traffic were wrong. What happened was that while I enjoyed spikes, I also turned people away for the in between posts with more measured tone. They only wanted blood and gore, and not much else.

      So goes the New York Post.

  • I think you made a wise move. There are times I rant and other times I rant and keep it to myself. The really mean spirited stuff is just for me to vent, so I don’t share it…unless I’m bashing Bieber or Snooki.

    • Snooki and Kardashians are always good fodder for that, but the reality of pointed jabs — veiled or not — they always come back to aunt me. I’ve paid too dearly to make the same mistake again.

  • I believe restraint, taking the higher road and doing the proverbial “sleep on it” before saying or sending is always the right course. Cheers! Kaarina

    • While a bit of a reinstatement post, I think it’s always a good reminder to myself ;) Thanks for your support, Kaarina.

  • Hi Geoff, It’s funny you write about this particular topic. My posts are always ‘nice’ but lately I’ve been beating myself up a bit to try and be edgier (controversy sells, right?). But you know, it’s just not in me (I’ve struggled with it for a while). I would like to be a more ‘popular’ blogger but I think I need to find a different way to achieve that popularity.

    • I can only tell you from my experience that a few things will happen:

      1) You will polarize your community, creating stronger loyalists and sending almost every moderate out of your community.
      2) Your customers will inquire why you are taking these positions.

      3) If you are a consultant, you will also attract new customers with the same viewpoints as your edgier self, but they will not be larger companies.
      4) Your stronger view will cost a few relationships, while perhaps creating stronger ones with folks that have that same view.

      It’s not all loss, but it does paint you in a corner. I found the negatives outweighed the positives.

  • Your pop almost always regrets popping off. Glad to see evolution at work.

    • Well, at least I know where I got it from, and we’re both better than the prior versions of Livingston.

  • I come back to this same theme a lot, and it seems you do, as well. And I like that. Thanks for this.

    • Yeah, I felt it was important to reinforce it after some recent direct and veiled criticism. I’m not wavering in face of a vocal minority.

  • I’ve always appreciated your fire as much as your cool. Passionate criticism can be a good thing as long as it doesn’t drift into a personal attack (with that line always being dangerously subjective). But you already know how I feel. Hit the thinking, but not thinker because almost everybody deserves respect. And the few who don’t will usually damage themselves so they hardly need the help.

    • LOL, ain’t that the truth. See you later, Glenn Beck.

      We’ll see how I do balancing criticism with civility on Monday (not that I’m bating you or anything, LOL).

  • My choice has been to only post something if I want to be mad, critical, or whatever if I think I can do it without picking out one person/organization to pick on or without making it clear that I’m criticizing one person/organization, but am simply not saying who it is. For example, I had the motivation to post this ( as a result of reading someone’s blog post that exemplified bromarketing, but after sitting on the idea overnight, I felt that I could write it without it being thinly veiled criticism about one person, but rather about a larger problem that I see.

    Who knows if that’s the way that it came across, but of course, that was my intention.

    • Good job, Eric. And I think the deeper thought and analysis adds value to the conversation.

      Generally, I only name media outlets or networks. It’s because that’s what we are in the business of using those media to market. I refuse to name individuals anymore after hurting several colleagues in the past.

      Further, I don’t slam companies because a) it sprays away clients and b) I think it’s a cheap shot for traffic. The only time I will name a company (I think the last one was Komen) is if the brand is so egregious in their behavior that the market generally accepts them as a common place case study of what not to do. But even then, I try not to name brands. I can convey the point in a general way.

  • It think it’s a wise move – and an approach that I’m committed to as well. Mean-spirited and incendiary remarks and posts don’t sit well with me. I’m better than that, and I want to remembered for something other than being a hot-head.

    • At the risk of coming off with macho bravado, I think both you and I appreciate words. I think a good writer should be able to hit his/her points without taking hostages.

      If they’re good enough.

      I think both of us are good enough to achieve that, thus our discussion about that influence post I have set for Monday, and the general issue overall over the past months.

  • I just posted a bit of a rant today but hopefully with an ending that offers some insight to sort out a common problem in my industry.

    Not sure why kind of disparaging commentary you are referring to but I am way too sensitive to directly hurt anyone. Just not in my nature and I always appreciate the cliché “do unto others…. If that makes me weak so be it.

    I think you are doing the right thing for you and that it sits well with you is the important bit.


  • Drama is best left for the theater or weekly TV shows on TNT.

  • Interesting timing on this one, Geoff. Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. That’s the first thing they teach you. :)

    I was polishing up an interview earlier this week when I noticed I’d missed the bit where the guy all but labeled two individuals saboteurs among a population of thieves and whores. Controversy is one thing, but I want the people I interview to look back with pride on the experience – not regret it as the catalyst for a never-ending barrage of personal attacks from angry monkeys.

    A trusted friend got an advance, working copy, for feedback. He suggested I make double sure the interviewee was comfortable in being quoted as making such incendiary comments. Two emails and a phone call later, I got his confirmation. He appreciated my checking in, as it shows my concern for his reputation and spirits, but told me these were things which have needed said for years and thanked me for the opportunity to do so publicly.

    It’s been 7 hours since the story went live. So far, all the feedback has been incredibly positive. Calm before the storm, right? ;)

    • Maybe. Sometimes people just leave quietly and disgusted. LOL!

      I don’t know if I would have published that, but good on you for checking with the guy. Hope the interview goes well!

  • For what it’s worth, some of the nicest people I know in advertising are now sitting on top of the world. The biggest jerks are redefining their careers.

    No, that’s not why I’m redefining my career… oh never mind.

    I find constant negativity, complaining and criticism a bore.

  • When it comes to my blog I make sure that any pointed opinion/rant is backed up with some valuable take-aways and actionable pointers. However, I do “test” on facebook – but ultimately, those things that could hurt my business are kept to me. The delete or trash button is very useful (and so under-utilised online!)

    • It takes foresight and experience I think to know what to publish and what to take offline. Particularly for those of us who are not as socially inclined as others. I generally have evolved with this over time and have struggled mightily. LOL!

  • In an effort to build symbiotic relationships to build and sustain a business, It may be safe to assume that consistent negativity and unbridled abrasiveness could brand you as someone that is difficult to work with. I can’t see this as being a good scenario for any sane person in the business world. I do think that channeled negativity that offers constructive examples of how to improve oneself is appropriate in moderation but a smart person will quickly disassociate themselves with you.

  • A true professional controls their emotions in tense moments, high pressure situations, or when they sit down to write – hehe…

    It’s hard to do when you jump straight out of your chair 8 feet in the air, whistle twisting your entire body to the left with a full force round house kick to the jaw. Problem solved.

    The pen can be a mighty dangerous weapon too, if you happen to be a writer :P

    I have not seen too many professionals in business rise to the top wearing their emotions on their shirt sleeve… emotions always get the best of these in the end.

    The cool ones, the thinkers, the ones who have a greater purpose than to just be heard or be right (that’s for wannabe’s) – they’re usually the ones to watch out for.

    I don’t think I would like to run into in a dark alley; you like you might enjoy tearing heads off :o

    Have a good weekend, Geoff!

    • Hahahahahaha, no, I’m safe in alleys. More worried about getting my head torn off, hope you are doing well, Mark! Cheers!

  • There is a time and place. I haven’t any problem with rants and posts that swing towards the edge, some of them go over it.

    The question I ask is whether they serve a purpose and is the writer willing to accept what comes with publishing them.

    Many of us have been guilty of publishing things that might have been left unsaid, but we don’t always recognize those moments when they happen either.

    It is a somewhat measured way of saying that when I read posts that seem to walk the aforementioned edge I try to figure out how much sarcasm/venom is intended and whether my understanding is in line with the author’s intent.

    But as a writer I never forget that words have power and sometimes good intentions have bad outcomes.

    • Bingo: “Is the writer willing to accept what comes with publishing them.” Believe me when I say this, the more well read you are, the deeper the consequences. I definitely feel that a writer should be conscious of that, and the impact his/her words make (as you say). Thanks for coming by, Jack.

  • “Life is often a contest between our better angels and our demons.”

    If this is the case, how can writers channel negativity and use it for social good, instead of trying to elevate the discourse for personal gain? If we can’t channel it creatively in our work, where does that energy go? Many things are better left unsaid (especially personal attacks). Often writers hit publish to feel the thrill of a backlash – and to harness the power of our inner demons.

    But what if writers do the meditative pause and the thoughts still swirl in our heads? Sometimes these thoughts *do* need a release – not always in public forum.

    Maybe we need to start a private support group: Writers who only use four-letter words? :)

    • I wouldn’t say not blog about it, but I’d say if the meditative pause has been done and you still feel compelled then the blog is right. Roll with it.

      Now are you making fun of the Billy Bob group? You’re a moderator for a reason. Add all the cussers you want!

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