One of the questions I am frequently asked is how to handle a negative blog comment. Unfortunately, if you blog long enough, you will eventually receive negative comments. It’s so sad but true :(. And unfortunately negative comments can still hurt no matter how long you’ve been blogging. For example, I recently received an email from a friend who has been blogging longer than I have, receives millions of pageviews each month, and received a few negative comments on an incredibly awesome post. The comments were rude, and even though there were literally HUNDREDS of positive comments appropriately raving about her project those two negative comments stung. In fact, in a sea of positive comments negative comments stand out as unusually stinky!
So before we explore how to handle negative comments, let’s do a little profile review of the most common types of negative comments bloggers receive. And since I’m a girl who needs visuals, I’ve created the following little chart for you!
Online communication is a tricky business ripe with misperceived comments and flagrant miscommunication. With the exception of the Troll, sometimes a perceived negative comment is simply a misguided attempt on the reader’s part to be helpful. Regardless of the motivation behind the comment, these types of comments are often perceived as negative so let’s talk about how to respond to each type. With any comment you have the following choices:
- Do nothing.
1. The Troll: Blatantly mean comments intended to illicit a reaction from you. This type of comment is so blatantly mean and ridiculous that the delete button is typically the best way to handle it…followed by blocking the troll’s IP address if you are able. There is no need to allow this comment to inhabit your blog or your mind. Hit delete and do not ruminate on the words intended to harm. I treat these comments the same way I would a prank caller—-hang up and don’t give them any satisfaction of engagement. But Beth, shouldn’t you stand up for yourself and let them know you’re not going to take their crap? If they are an anonymous stranger to you, then no. Delete and block and don’t waste your words or emotional energy on such nonsense. They WANT attention and engagement. Don’t give it to them. If they are a known reader or fellow blogger, then yes, tell them firmly to stop and then treat them the same as above–delete, block, and move on.
What if you see a troll attacking a friend or blogger whom you love? Shouldn’t you stand up for that friend in a comment? I am quick tempered and feisty. I have a mouth on me, and I frequently stick my foot in it :). I am passionate and incredibly loyal to those I adore. Awhile back, a blogger I greatly admire was being viciously attacked by an anonymous blogger on one of her more personal posts. I did what any good friend would do and came to her aid. That person then turned on me and harassed me on my blog and through email for the next several months. Turns out he (not she like I had been falsely led to believe in the comment) was in no way anonymous and was actually an estranged family member of the blogger. I would have been better off staying out of it. My comment didn’t really “help” my friend, and in retrospect the troll’s attacks would have been better managed with silence and the delete button. If your friend is being trolled, text, DM, or private message her about the attack and lend your support…but think twice before engaging the troll.
2. The Where’s Waldo: Looking at your pictures for a stray sock, misplaced item, or other flaw and pointing it out to you. Why would someone bother to let you know that they noticed something imperfect about your project or picture? Isn’t that rude? Well, let’s give the Where’s Waldo the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was just trying to be helpful. Perhaps she is relieved to know that you are human after all and that your projects, home, children, pictures, life, etc. aren’t always “picture perfect”. Perhaps pointing out the flaw is her way of just teasing and connecting with you. If you receive a Where’s Waldo comment, just assume the intentions behind the comment are pure. Laugh it off and move on.
3. The English Nazi: Corrects your spelling and grammar. It’s disappointing when you work hard on a post only to receive criticism for misspellings and grammatical errors. But just like the Where’s Waldo, it’s safest to assume that the English Nazi is trying to be helpful. But what if he/she is attacking your slang and style of speaking? I like to use words like peeps, fantabulous, awesomesauce, decrapification, etc. This might drive some people crazy, but my blog is just that…mine. I like to have a conversational tone. I like to write informally. If someone asks you to stop using a certain phrase or speaking style, simply respond that you’re sad to hear that _______ is bugging them but that you hope the inspiration you offer will allow them to overlook any English fallacies committed.
4. Debbie Downer/Church Lady: Dishes out negative feelings to a group and sometimes moralizations intended to one-up and shame. There is a well known term in online forums called “thread crapping” where someone enters a conversation and completely derails it by offering a comment that goes against the initial intent of the thread. Debbie Downer/Church Ladies are thread crappers and the sound “wah waaaaaah” should follow their comments. For example, let’s say you do a post about some beautiful handmade jewelry and everyone in the comment thread is excited and enthusiastic about the creations. Then Debbie Downer/Church Lady comes in and replies, “Let’s remember that 1Timothy 2:9 states, ‘women adorn themselves in decent apparel, with modesty and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.’ I think women look better without jewelry.” The comment adds nothing to the conversation and leaves a negative ickinesss in its wake. If you receive a comment like this, your relationship to the reader will determine your response. Perhaps Debbie Downer is having a really bad day and is taking it out on you. If “Debbie” is anonymous, you might just want to delete it and move on. If it’s attached to a name and email, delete the comment and respond to her off the blog if you feel it’s necessary.
5. The All-About-Me: Gets angry when your post doesn’t apply to their specific needs. We are used to being consumers. We like getting our way and we like different blogs for different reasons. If a reader adores your posts about home decor and all of a sudden you switch it up by posting recipe after recipe, that reader might let you know his/her displeasure. Try not to take it personally. If you’re a professional blogger, try and view the All-About-Me from a customer service standpoint. Respond honestly but positively to the reader, “Aw, I’m bummed to hear that you’re not enjoying my series on recipes. Although I love DIY projects, cooking is another passion of mine and this blog is all about creating and sharing my passions with all of you. Rest assured that I’ll have more DIY projects in the future, but I also plan to share recipes from time to time. I respect that food blogging might not be for everyone, but it’s something I love so I hope you’ll respect my choice to blog about it.” Typically, this type of response is all that is needed to quiet an All-About-Me.
6. The One-upper: Gives you unsolicited advice and often shares something they’ve done which is bigger and better. Often times the One-upper masks their comment in language that appears neutral or even partly positive that really is a negative comment in sheep’s clothing…and sometimes (many times?) a One-upper just isn’t thinking before they speak. Give the One-upper the benefit of the doubt, have empathy, and if you need to respond, respond positively. Getting nasty or defensive will most likely lead to hurt feelings and unnecessary drama. Let it go (and vent to a girlfriend if you need to :).)
So here are my final tips on how to respond to a negative comment:
- Are they a troll? Are they blatantly attacking you? If yes, DELETE, block, and move on. If you must reply, reply to the troll in a private message and not on your blog. Be direct and reply ONCE telling them to stop.
- If they are not a troll, are they just being blunt, direct, and honest? Give them the benefit of the doubt (even if it’s undeserved), respond with empathy and love, and try not to take the words personally. This does NOT mean that you never stand up for yourself, or set proper boundaries, but that you do so with grace.
- We are so used to being praised for everything we do as bloggers; however, there IS indeed room in comments for constructive criticism. Typically it is easier to hear from a friend than a stranger. If you are going to give suggestions to a blogger in areas for improvement, evaluate your relationship with the blogger before doing so. Your comment might not be taken in the spirit in which it was meant if the relationship is not well established beforehand.
- And most importantly, do not respond to a negative comment immediately. Take a deep breath, regain your own inner peace, and perhaps talk to some trusted friends about the comment before replying. This will ensure that you aren’t responding impulsively or out of anger. (This is a MUST for me. I admit that I’m sensitive and a total hot-head. My friends and husband help calm me down. :))
I think Mother Teresa gives some of the best advice on responding to negative comments, so I’ll conclude with this:
No go forth and be nice :)!