BlogHer ’13: Don’t whine. Find solutions.

In many ways, BlogHer ’13 was what I expected. I never thought (despite the frenzy  on Twitter) that this international blogging conference focused on celebrating the power of voice would feature unicorns and a keynote from She-Ra. I hoped, just a bit, but my rational side rejoiced in calm, reserved expectations. But it seems as though not everyone shared by approach.

As with other conferences I’ve attended (in other fields), I expected a diverse group of people with varied goals attending panels and workshops of varying levels of professionalism and usefulness. I expected to meet a few amazing people, hear a few snippets of mind-blowing advice, roll my eyes several times, and experience my share of frustration. And exhaustion.

More than 5,000 humans with nuanced lives, experiences, and personalities attended BlogHer ’13 for different reasons and with varied goals, and I was able to get lost and to be found in that crowd.

All this I expected.

What I didn’t expect was the complaining.

“That celebrity writer is just an a–hole! Why did they choose him?”

“I can’t believe we have to listen to her! She’s so annoying.”

“This is a joke, right? Who considers vegetables and hummus a meal?”

“Who the hell planned to have these two sessions at the same time? I’m so mad because I want to attend both.”

Unreasonable expectations? Unfettered sense of entitlement? Undeveloped social skills?

[Note: The only complaints I heard were from women. I refuse to generalize to a gender-specific propensity toward complaining or to a statistical assumption about the odds of hearing complaints from a minority group at a large conference. Simple statement: the only people I heard complain about the programming, the food, the sessions, the structure, the convention center, the bathrooms, or the conference planning were women. And a *lot* of them were complaining.]

Ladies: I have a suggestion.

No, it’s not “get over yourselves.” I wish it were, because I lean toward that reaction. This was a very well-planned conference that attempted to meet the needs of a remarkably diverse group of bloggers. So I wish I could say, “get off your entitled high horse and appreciate what you have.”

But that’s not instructive. And it is fundamentally the same as the whining I heard. My demanding that someone share my perspective (in this case “I command you toward awe and gratitude and joy”) is similar in both tone and dismissive self-centrism as someone else’s whine that they didn’t like the heavy marketing presence at BlogHer.

My suggestion, actually, is that they write a letter.

BlogHer focused programming and seminars and workshops and presenters and conversations and awards and keynotes around using our voice. And most of the sessions focused on finding the right audience for that voice so that it’s heard by the right people.

Complaining to fellow conference attendees gets you nothing. It annoys your fellow writer and squanders your power.

If you don’t like something, speak up. If you felt dissatisfied with the proceedings in Chicago, tell the conference planners at BlogHer 1) what you didn’t like, 2) how a situation didn’t meet your expectations, 3) how you would fix it in the future, and 4) how you will help.

Complaining is rarely effective if you don’t show that you’ve analyzed the situation, your expectations, and the possible solutions. Note that in the above solution you have to do some serious work around honestly examining  your reasoning, articulating how a situation fell short, and developing a workable solution.

You do this at work when you write a memo that explains why your old computer hampers productivity, how your computer fits into the company’s larger technology picture, what options you’ve identified for upgrading, which are your recommendations for a technological change, and where the money will come from.

You do this at home, too. When the family is bickering about the same things or getting stuck at the same time of day, you have a meeting to explain what you see, solicit ideas for change, aggregate recommendations for a new approach, create a plan, and garner approval for the new plan.

If you didn’t like something about a conference, you have to speak up. But complaining, especially to fellow attendees, does not change anything. Examining expectations, stating problems, and offering solutions changes everything.

Use your words, people. Because I want to help you but I can’t understand when you’re whining.