We all remember the first time we got a comment on our blog. We wrote excellent posts, yet the crickets continued to chirp for days, weeks or even months. Then one day we got our first comment, only to be disappointed when you realized it was your Aunt Sally from Wichita! Finally, after a while we started to receive comments from non family members! This was thrilling until we got that first critical comment. Maybe the recipe flopped, or the coupon didn’t work for them, or they just didn’t like the idea, but nevertheless, they are upset and are letting you know in a not so nice way on your blog.
Last week we discussed how to disagree on the internet. This week let’s talk about how to deal with negative feedback on the web. Even if you have never received a negative comment, if you keep publishing eventually you will. You will never be able to please everyone all the time, so remember to be true to your voice and don’t write to make everyone happy. Eventually someone will disagree with you.
There are several things you can do when you receive negative feedback.
Offense not Defense
Many times we get defensive when we receive negative feedback, but often we receive it because the tone of the article makes it sound like our idea is the only way to do something. Saying things like “I feel, This works for our family, or I’ve found this to be helpful” helps create a positive debate. If you write a post claiming that anyone who gives their child a bottle of formula is a terrible parent you are probably opening up a big ol’ can of worms. Everyone’s situation is different so don’t act like there is absolutely only one way to do something. Often how you say something is more important that what you say. You can still be opinionated without being offensive.
Consider the Source
Is the feedback coming from a friend, long time reader/ follower, occasional commenter, or a total stranger? Since you have different relationships with these people your responses will vary. If a friend leaves you a negative comment on Facebook you can pick up the phone and work it out quickly. If it is a stranger your reaction should be different.
Read the Comment Carefully
Often times when we are upset our ability to read diminishes. 🙂 Read the comment several times to make sure you understand what the person is trying to say before you decide on a response.
Find the Truth
Many times there could be a nugget of truth buried in a mass of junk. Try to weed through the junk and consider if any of the points the commenter is making could be valid. While it is hard to admit you are wrong, it is even harder if the other person is wrong too. Try to avoid the blame game and take responsibility when necessary.
Sometimes a comment is just rude and has no redeeming value at all. Delete these types of comments and don’t think about them again. Some people (in the internet world we call them trolls) lurk around the internet just to insult others. Don’t give them the satisfaction of getting published, delete.
Delete Then Respond
Sometimes people have legitimate concerns, but their comment is so rude publishing it will cause “comment drama” on the site. Respond to the commenter via email addressing the concerns, but don’t publish the comment.
Respond With Kindness
Proverbs 15:1 – A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. I have heard numerous stories of bloggers responding to a harsh word with kindness and having the commenter come back and apologize for their comment or email. While you shouldn’t show kindness just to get a positive response, responding negatively almost guarantees another negative response.
Even if you are 90% right, apologize for the 10%. Occasionally people will comment and take frustrations out on you, even if it has nothing to do with you. While this is not excusable, you are only accountable for your actions, not theirs. So take responsibility if necessary and apologize.
Contact them Privately
Sometimes a direct email is an opportunity for a peaceful resolution. Remember, what is sent via email does not contain any inflection, body language or other non verbal cues. Choose your words carefully to help resolve the issue. I recommend contacting them privately rather than in the comments because responding in the comments can lead to more conflict.
Know Your Rights
A few states have passed cyber-stalking laws, so find out if you have any legal protection. If you are being threatened you can contact the authorities and have them handle it.
Grow Thick Skin
The larger your audience the more likely you are to have negative feedback from readers. Learn to shrug off the stuff that isn’t important. Don’t get offended if every single person doesn’t love your ideas. People are going to disagree with you, and some of them aren’t going to be polite about it. Learn to let it go, and don’t dwell on the negative.
photo by Chris Guillebeau