Last night, a friend took me out and showed me around to some of his favorite restaurants and bars in Tel Aviv. He’s been reading my blog up to this point, and he posed an interesting question.
“If you had a negative experience with someone who you know reads your blog, would you write about it?”
I’ve already written pretty openly about some negative reactions I’ve gotten from people (especially in Being Honest Is Scary), but those were all people I was pretty sure would never find or read my blog. And just in case, I anonymized them anyway.
I’ve also written positively about a few people, who I assumed would see it and know it was about them. Nothing wrong with that, but I still avoided using names without permission.
But neither of these situations dealt with his question: how to deal with negative experiences with people who would read about it on my blog? The example we came up with was our night out - what if I was having an absolutely horrible time? He was taking me to places that he loved, but I really hated. And for some reason, I didn’t speak up about it. And maybe the topic of blog post would be be processing why I didn’t speak up if I was having a bad time. No matter how I anonymized it, the timeliness would make it pretty obvious to that person that it was about them.
It was a great values question that really made me think, and I went through a few different answers.
At first, I said I probably would not write about it. This wasn’t meant to be a travel blog that details every experience; this was meant to be more of a blog about things I’m learning and things I’m thinking about. So instead of writing about that night out, I could just write about something else.
But what about the important lesson I learned? Especially if I’m using writing as a way to think about topics and process situations, that’s something worth writing about. So one possible answer was to write about it, but not post it.
But that seemed dishonest to me. I kept working through the question, and I realized that the best answer is that making this decision at the time of writing is too late - the correct time to deal with it is during your night out. If you're having a bad time, you have to speak up.
My friend’s goal for last night was to show me the best of Tel Aviv. But “best” is subjective. His favorite places might be loud bars and clubs, while I might prefer quieter, more intimate places. But without guidance from me, he’ll take us to the places he likes the best. If we go to one or two of these places and I see the pattern, it’s important to speak up.
My friend wouldn't be insulted if I have different tastes, and his goal was for me to have a great experience in Tel Aviv. He’d be just as happy at places that aren’t as much his style if I’m having a great time.
We did note though that there are times when you can’t, or shouldn’t, speak up right away. If you’re in a large group and everyone else is enjoying the experience, for example. Your level of discomfort may not be worth changing what the entire group does.
I think the key to deciding whether or not to speak up is understanding the mutually, implicitly, agreed upon goals of an experience. If the goal is to maximize your happiness or people appear to have conflicting goals, then definitely speak up. If the goal is to maximize someone else’s happiness, don’t speak up. If the goal is to maximize the happiness of the group, do what is best for the group.
This does require a certain level of self awareness. You’ve probably met people who act like everything is about them. They’re just trying to maximize their happiness, and they lack the ability to understand when there are needs that supersede theirs, and when their understanding of the goals are not aligned with everyone else’s understanding of the goals.
Luckily, this was just theoretical. I had great time last night, had some of the best food I’ve had during my entire trip, and went to some places with amazing atmosphere.
My experience in Tel Aviv so far is that either A) it’s an incredibly small town, or B) my friend knows EVERYBODY. We'd walk somewhere and pass a schoolmate of his from 10 years ago. We’d sit at a restaurant, and next to us would be an old colleague. We’d meet a friend of his at a bar, and fifteen people come up to give him a hug and say it was so good to see him. It was a great first night in Tel Aviv.
The picture is of the checkpoint to get out of Bethlehem. You have to walk a pretty long ways through these. This is one of the friendlier ones I've seen so far.