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Responding to Criticism

Posted By Darren Rowse 29th of March 2006 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

From time to time in blogging you come across someone who is writing things about you that you don’t particularly agree with. Sometimes they write about you in a constructively critical way and on other occasions they do so in a fairly destructive manner.

If this hasn’t happened to you yet – it will if you blog long enough.

The question is, ‘what should you do about it?’

I’ve written previously on this topic and written a list of 15 things to do when you’re attacked – but over the last few months I’ve found that one method seems to work more than anything else.

All it really involves is joining the conversation in the place where you’re being critiqued.

Even in the last few days I’ve found a few spots where I’d been written about in less than glowing terms and on each occasion I simply joined the comment thread and attempted to state my point of view in as reasonable and level headed case as I could.

I’m not saying that this works in every case (and it’s not always easy to do in each instance) – but I find that people respond pretty well in most instances if you are willing to hear what they have to say and then respond in a reasonable way yourself. There’s something about a calm response to attack that takes the sting out of things.

In each case where I’ve done this recently I’ve either had apologies or a constructive conversation with those who were critiquing me where I felt we both learnt something and came out of it with a stronger relationship as a result.

update: I’ve added to this post and comments below in a a new post on ignoring criticism as a strategy.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • It disappoints me that many people will engage in hate-filled invectives online when they don’t have the courage or the manners to say the same thing in a face-to-face conversation. I blog because I feel passionately about the topic I write on, as do most bloggers. But sometimes that passion can cloud our thinking. The harder “right” is to remain calm and reply objectively; the easier “wrong” is to start cussing and smearing. Comments should be taken professionally, not personally.

    If we do as you suggest, the dialogue becomes more interesting, which should attract more readers. And, like most bloggers I’d kill for more readers.-)

  • Happened to me just this morning hehehehe

    I answered in a civil manner. But shoul I be more authoritarian, I would have simplu deleted the message. :)

    But they amuse me…. in a strange way.

  • Well I just saw your earlier (15 points) article too, and I couldn’t agree more. I did most of the things you said when they striked me for running MFA website and ANTI MFA service too…

    Joined the discussion, admited it, made public statment regarding it, etc.
    And I saw an opportunity there, to make even greater buzz out of it. :)


  • There are laways people out there that will disagree with anything you blog about; there’s just too many people on this planet for there not to be someone that disagrees with you. I’ve found though that with blogging, the first rule of communication holds true more than disagreement. The first rule of communication is:

    “The natural result of communication is misunderstanding”

    I’ve found that more people misinterpret what I say than disagree with me, and by restating what I’ve written in a slightly different way, the conflict is easily bypassed. With blogs and emails we remove all the normal non-verbal communication that usually takes place in a conversation, and that can lead to all kinds of misinterpretation.


  • Darren,

    I’ve had to deal with this myself (even though I am not a blogger per se). I saw some of those ‘unflattering’ posts and do think that they were quite unfair. I got the distinct feeling that they were trying to be particularly offensive to rile up their readers more than anything else.

    I think the only way you can respond is to come in with a cool head, be willing to poke fun at yourself, recognize legitimite errors, and show others who are reading that you are not easily riled.

  • Haterade

    If you are simply being critiqued, then yes your suggestion works. But if you are being all-out hated on for no logical reason (i.e. personal attacks), then it is best to ignore the comment. Unless of course the hater is much bigger than you, where upon you can smile and bask in the increased traffic.

  • Kim

    I agree with Haterade about ignoring flaming, personal attacks. It’s like my mom used to tell me when my little brother bugged me when we were kids — ignore him and he’ll stop. Or, in the case of blogging, ignore it and it’ll eventually fizzle (and you won’t lose hours of your day to unproductive anger, frustration, and strife). If it’s not all out hate, I agree that joining into the conversation (if you think it’s worth your time and energy) is the best bet. Believe it or not, the online crochet community is plagued by drama. Oh, which leads me to another bit of advice: if you’re upset by whatever’s been said about you or your writing, step away from your computer for a while. Perspective is an invaluable tool.

  • Ah! If I’d only known, the way to get you to comment at my blog is to hate on you a bit. Just kidding, but on a more serious note, I hope it doesn’t become more prevalent than it already is, hating on other bloggers to gain attention to the haters’ blogs. I think it’s true that in some cases, ingnoring them is the best course of action. Giving them the attention they crave only will encourage them.

  • I’ve also (unfortunately) had to deal with this a little. And you’re right – the best way to deal with it is to join the conversation. Most of the time people really don’t remember that there are REAL folks behind these computer screens before they do a hit and run.

  • At what point do you remove a comment? How offensive or potentially insulting to others (not just me) due to bad language and possibly slanderous remarks does it have to be to remove a comment? I realize we shouldn’t censor just because we don’t like what someone says…but the question is there a limit? Also, what is the legal status of my blog? Am I responsible for comments others post if they slander someone?

  • Why shouldn’t I censor if I don’t like what someone says? It’s my blog, my site. I don’t have to put up with it in real life, why should I online?

    Not saying that I do this a lot – I think I’ve had to delete like three comments out of many, but still. If it’s a hurtful, slanderous, or just plain mean without a purpose comment, I delete it.

  • Kim

    I run my site on Drupal, and I’m slowly enabling comments on every page of the site. I started with only a few pages, to see how people would behave, and I put up a policy that destructive comments would be deleted at my discretion. I haven’t had to delete any yet (after about 2 months), and in fact, the comments are proving to be a very valuable addition to the content on the site, as people contribute their own thoughts and experiences. (A note: It seems that when I anticipate negative backlash, I’m usually mistaken. Negativity always blindsides me.)

  • The only comments I delete on a regular basis is spam about viagra, drugs and sex.

    I have installed bad behaviour for wordpress and it grabs 80% of the spam, but some pass through sometimes. How do you deal with spam?

  • Thanks for this blog. I’m totally impressed. Keep on doing it… I’m learning tons.

    Brad Montgomery

  • wow. crazy synchronicity. I was just musing about this on my blog last night and thinking that I’m not quite sure how to deal with people who are just downright mean….

    so far I’ve been trying to use the strategy you’ve suggested here (not that people tend to blog about me meanly on their blogs, it just gets a bit snarky in comment land sometimes!)

    any tips for how to deal with meanies on mailing lists? that’s my other current dilemma.

  • There’s something about a calm response to attack that takes the sting out of things.

    So true! Thanks.

  • I’ve written a new post responding to the suggestions of ‘ignoring the attacks’ here

  • Marqz

    I don’t agree with censorship, unless bad language is involved. People who start censoring people because someone called them stupid endup censoring people for having different opinions. Then it’s not a blog, it’s dictatorship.

  • I just got my first one a couple of weeks back!

    I was so surprised! Cus I never had to deal with anything like that before. My commentor accused my content of being not original and having more ads than content on my site. I actually sat there for a long time staring at the screen wondering what to say.

    And you’re right, I find a level-headed, open tone worked for me, rather than getting defensive and fighting back (I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m not gonna listen nyah nyah).

    One thing that helped loads was something I learnt in coaching, words only form 7% of our communication. There’s so much lost in writing without the added input of tonality & body language that unless the written words are obvious in their meaning, I tend to take a step back and ask myself if the other person really meant what I think he means.

    In the end my commentor turned out a lot friendlier than I imagined, so maybe I was right :)

    (Plug plug: it inspired me to write this post about communication:

    You can check it out if you’re interested :) )

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  • What an interesting read. Thanks for the great post. Keep up the good work:)



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