Handling Critical Comments and Attacks from Blog Readers

In my recent podcast on the characteristics of successful blogging, I touched on the topic a couple of times of putting yourself out there for public comment and critique.

I suggested that having a bit of a thick skin might be useful because from time to time you’ll definitely get ‘feedback’ that may not be as a encouraging, helpful or constructive as it could be – and which at times may even enter into the territory of it being aggressive, attacking and personal.

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While I’ve only experienced this a handful of times in over 10 years the times that it has happened to me have rocked my world a little.

So how should a blogger deal with criticism of their blogging? That’s what this episode is all about!

In Today’s Episode How to Handle Critical and Attacking Comments from Blog Readers

Note: This episode is now live in iTunes here.

  • Embrace it – When you’re critiqued there is potential for growth from the encounter. Feedback of any type is a sign that someone has noticed what you’re doing and reading your blog.
  • Consider the critique – When I get a negative comment, I try to step back and do a bit of analysis of what’s going on. Here are a few questions I consider:
    • Is the comment within the boundaries of what I think is acceptable for my blog?
    • Is there some truth in it? Are there some improvements you can make?
    • Is there a misunderstanding you can clarify?
    • Is this something I’ve heard before? Is there a common theme to the critiques?
    • Is this from someone who I have interacted before? Were they having a bad day or is this ongoing?
    • Was there anything positive? Is there common ground you can focus on?
    • Is this a troll or someone seeking attention?
    • Is the feedback anonymous? Is it a trouble maker or someone you know?
    • What is the intent of the critique?
    • Are there any signals that can give you context for the commenters situation? Sometimes looking at the links to their blog/social, previous comments or things said in the comment can give you an understanding of the agenda of the person.

A lot of this is about trying to get to the heart of what’s going on with the comment. For me a lot of it comes down to trying to understand the intent of the other person and trying to respond to that rather than just the words that they’ve chosen to use.

Sometimes behind the words that come across as a personal attack is something that you can take on board to learn from/improve what you do or the opportunity to help your reader and make a positive connection.

Of course it’s not always easy to do this.

You may need to give yourself a little time/distance (although you may need to act faster if things are blowing up). Step away from the computer!

You might also find it helpful to involve another person. Ask a friend, family member, another blogger for their take. Sometimes someone who is outside the situation can reveal something about the feedback that you’re not seeing.

Respond – With analysis and feedback, you are in a better position to respond. I have taken a few options to respond.

  • Responding to trolls
    • Delete it – I rarely delete negative comments but on occasion if a comment is left by someone who is obviously trolling and doing so in an offensive way I’ll delete it.
    • Ignore it – If the feedback comes on social media and its troll like I usually ignore it.
    • Overly polite kindness – Sometimes I take a kill them with kindness type response. I don’t tend to do this so much these days – it is a little passive aggressive but it can be effective at times.

If there’s even some hint that the person is coming from a non-troll place I will respond with these options:

  • Clarification – Maybe they misunderstood your point, clarify blog post
  • Take responsibility – If you’ve made an error, take responsibility
  • Debate – A robust discussion can benefit both sides
  • Agree to Disagree – If the comment is in a very closed manner, debate won’t work, be constructive but agree to disagree
  • Private responses – If they are intent on a non-constructive heated exchange, try to end it and offer a private conversation
    • Many times these invitations go ignored which to me signals some of the intent of the other person.
    • The times that the person does followup, I’m always willing to engage as they may have some genuine issue that they are looking for resolution around.
    • In most cases, we’re able to come to some resolution but there have been a couple of occasions where we still come to an impasse and you need to disengage.
  • Respond with Genuine Care –  Sometimes, you can tell from the comment/feedback that the other person is operating from pain/hurt. Sometimes emailing them simply to say that you noticed their comment and wanted to see if everything was ok can be the right response.
    • If I’ve had other positive interactions with the person in the past and their comment seems out of character
    • If their blog/social/comment shows that they’re going through something
    • Many times when I do this I find that the person is going through something personally. Many times, they apologise and the fact that you responded with genuine kindness/care strengthens the relationship.
  • Let the Community Respond – Sometimes the community notices and responds.

Lastly – there are many times where the person’s negativity says more about the other person and their situation than it says anything about you or what you’ve written.

“Thank you for your ‘gift’ – but I think you can keep it for yourself.”

Further Resources on How to Handle Critical and Attacking Comments from Blog Readers

How did you go with today’s episode?

I would love to hear your feedback on this particular issue. Please feel free to respond and let me know when you disagree. Let’s have a discussion on this topic.

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