How to be Transparent without Being too Personal

woman with umbrella

A guest post by Alex Blackwell of The BridgeMaker

An effective way to gain more readers for your blog, and keep the ones you have coming back, is to give them the opportunity to see the real you. Generally, people will have more affinity with the bloggers they like and trust.

Sharing my experiences and beliefs on an honestly-written lifestyle blog can be a tricky business. There is a persistent voice in my head that warns me not to reveal too much about my personal life but do allow my readers to see the real me; the real Alex, through what I write. So, the goal becomes how to be transparent while not being excessively personal.

My hope is the articles resonate with each reader and they find value in the words. To do that, I need to be vulnerable and transparent. Even though my writing is far from perfect, I’m finding a sweet spot that gives people a chance to look in without overwhelming them with personal details.

The Emily Test

I have one, simple rule: I will never publish a post that I would not want my 11-year-old-daughter, Emily, to read. An important component of The Emily Test is to make certain no one in my immediate family would be embarrassed by what I write. After all, blogging is my passion, not theirs.

Choose your words carefully and take a breath before pressing the Publish button. Your blog is you and the person you want the world to see. Consider how the people in your life will react to the words.

Focus on the behavior, not the person

When I write about someone close to me, I attempt to focus on what is happening to them or comment on their behaviors rather than offering judgments. My goal is to explain how their actions, words, or choices are affecting my life; and then by association, the lives of my readers.

It’s no coincidence I read blogs where the blogger writes about the people in their life, too. One of my favorite writers, Ali Hale of AliVentures.com, does a wonderful job of blending elements of her personal life into her blog. In a recent post, Do You Need to “Better Yourself”? She illustrates this point brilliantly. Her post begins with:

I had a conversation with my sister while I was at my parents’ for Christmas, and I wanted to pick up on something which she said to me and explore it here, because I suspect it’s an issue for a lot of people.

Ali’s tone here is far from critical. Her sister touched her with a thought Ali wanted to explore a little deeper. Do You Need to “Better Yourself”? is a moving post that addresses the topics of self-doubt and personal fulfillment in a compelling way. I took away several things to think about – thanks to Ali’s sister and the conversation they shared.

Ali ends the piece as eloquently as she starts it and provides the essence of the article’s message while honoring her sister’s choices:

If you’re a student, like my sister is, it’s fine just to work towards your degree. You don’t need to feel pressured to join up to every extra-curricular event going, or to keep up with your music, or to start a business or write a novel or run a marathon. Cut yourself some slack….

The Soul of a Relationship

Tina Su of ThinkSimpleNow understands the soul of a relationship. Through her warm and open style, Tina frequently writes about how her relationships enable her to grow as a person.

In Tina’s post, The Ups and Downs of Life, she freely makes known what is working and not working in her marriage at that time. She shares a moment of divine self-realization when she grasped the power of surrendering:

As for the future, I surrender to the higher intelligence of Life and trust with absolute clarity that only the best things are provided for me, that I am always cared for regardless of how things may appear now. I accept the now, by accepting the outer world for what it is, and taking responsibilities of my inner world.

I connected with Tina at that moment even though we have never met. Her transparency was a gift at a time when I needed to be reminded of the grace that flows when we surrender the condition of our relationships to a higher authority.

Learn to feel comfortable in your own skin

Glen Allsopp, of PluginID, demonstrates the effectiveness of self-discovery through his writing. Glen’s post, My Six Week Challenge: Learning about Myself, gives the impression we are eavesdropping on a moment of seemingly painful, but healthy, self-reflection:

I’ve had enough of feeling unfulfilled at the end of each day, so it’s time for a change. If you like the sound of a challenge like this, only start it if you are completely sure it is what you want to do. I know I will struggle with this, but hopefully come out of it in a far better position than before.

By sharing this moment, Glen reminds us to consider our own personal challenges and provides the inspiration to take the journey with him.

Let them see more of you

Here’s the key. Write about what you love if you want your readers to see the real you.

When you do, the world will see what makes you special. They will see what makes you authentic. They will read your words that come from a place of love – and passion. They will be moved by your confidence and they will want to see more of you in what you write next.

Alex Blackwell writes for The BridgeMaker, an honestly-written blog about faith, inspiration and personal change. To receive twice-weekly articles subscribe here.

Photo by mysza831

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13 Responses to “How to be Transparent without Being too Personal”

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  1. zz says:

    Hi Alex, it”s good to see examples of sharing personal experiences in a way that MAY help others. I always agonize over posts that contain an element of my experience with my family – as often you never know how someone else is going to react! I think as long as you can find meaning or a positive lesson from the experience, then it’s worth sharing, despite what others may think.

  2. Maggie Mae says:

    Thanks for this post. Another consideration is whether you’re writing with a voice that’s offering advice versus providing your personal experience as an option to others. My blog is personal. It’s about raising [my] kids with Down syndrome. I am no expert but I have some valuable experience I hope might help others. I work hard to stay in the voice of my experience vs. giving advice. Most folks don’t want to be told what to do, especially when it comes to raising their children.

  3. These are excellent strategies – I have a test similar to “The Emily Test” – I call it the “husband test” since on Mondays I do posts about marriage. I get to that point sometimes where I just have to back off – at that point I’ll remind my readers that hey, I’ve got people whose personal life I don’t want to violate.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Kevin M. says:

    Great post! I have worked hard at being transparent in my blog. These are great tips to keep in mind!

  5. Hulbert says:

    Nice post Alex. It can be hard to write about ourselves or another person without embarrassing us or them. I like how you mentioned about focusing on one’s behavior and not the person, and how we learn something from their behavior.

    Recently, I interviewed my brother about he got caught by the police for drinking under the influence. I made sure that anything he didn’t want me to write about, I didn’t. But I kept his voice in there for personality. I also included what his thoughts were during this nightmare experience.

    Readers want to know that that there is a real person behind the article that they are reading. Being transparent helps them reassure that there is.

  6. Hi Alex,

    You just hit on exactly why I subscribed to your blog the very first time I read it. As a blogger, you are “real,” genuine, and comfortable in humbly sharing yourself with your readers…in service of us all riding this journey of life together. I didn’t need to think twice about whether or not I wanted to stay in touch with you. I love surrounding myself with people like you, who believe that life is good and care about making the journey as enjoyable as possible!

    When I started my blog early last year, I remember my heart pounding before I hit “publish” on my first several posts. Because in doing so, I was stepping up to the plate and sharing “me” with the world. And of course I enjoyed the creative outlet of expression, but the even bigger thrill was knowing that my stories were resonating with others; they could either see themselves in my stories or they could receive inspiration to fuel them forward in their own story.

    It’s a pretty cool honor to be a blogger, huh?

    I have been “writing about what I love” as you suggest. And I’m so humbled to say that the more I do just that, the more my readers say they want more!

    Thanks for sharing “you” with us, and thank you for your affirmation to me that I’m on the right track. :)

    Love to you and your family!
    Michelle

  7. What amazing serendipity. This week I wrote a post that was so very personal I was terrified to publish it (I am an extremely private person.) It was about a particular astrological feature of the birth chart, but I was inwardly guided to write it because a friend of mine almost died and I was barred by her family from coming to the hospital.

    I went through all kinds of conniptions after publishing it, but the response has been incredible. Readers were touched and admired me for sharing so personally and honestly. They were moved to write from the heart about a similar feature in their birth chart and what it has meant in their own lives. So far, there are 120 such sharings in the comment section and more added every day. And together, we’ve learned a great deal that was new about that particular type of feature.

    Though I was glad, in the end, that I’d opened up that way, I was still left puzzled about what parts of my life it is okay to share and what is TMI. Your helpful article has answered many of the questions, and I want to go and read the posts you referenced. Thank you for the clarity. Donna Cunningham of Skywriter

  8. cjwright says:

    I read somewhere that we should never do anything that we would be ashamed to appear on the front page of the New York Times. I think that’s true for sharing our personal lives, too. Some things are personally sacred, and should be treated as such.

  9. Holly Bowne says:

    Insightful post. I guess I struggle a bit with being too transparent. But I do like the idea of “the Emily Test.” I do something similar with my own kids. Because I often write about parenting issues, my two teens come up a lot in my blog and other writing. But I try never to shed them in an unfavorable light. (So far they humor their ol’ mom.)

  10. Alex,
    I love the examples you gave. I often write about personal things but not during the process…only after I’ve figured things out. I’m thinking about changing that. Great post! I love your blog by the way!

  11. Steve says:

    I struggle with this topic – balancing personal issues with business writing, in my case, and mixing the two often. Not wanting to seem too “out there” or “unprofessional”, while knowing that the bland, safe, uninteresting writing I see on so many blogs doesn’t cut it.

    Good article and insights.