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“Should I flame jerks who send me hostile email?” – Dave’s Response

Posted By Darren Rowse 2nd of April 2006 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Dave Taylor has a post where he answers the question (as he does) – “Should I flame jerks who send me hostile email?”. He writes:

‘Years ago, I’d just go on the attack and give as good as I got, which of course just spiraled into this terrible scene where I wondered every time there was a knock on the door. Trust me, there have always been weird psychos on the ‘net and it’s awful hard to differentiate between a 15yo boy who pretends he’s in his mid 20’s from the bored 38yo testosterone laden guy who might just get in the car and drive 300 miles, on “low burn” the entire time, to confront you when you least expect it.

>Life’s just too short.

>Nowadays I either just delete hostile messages or actually respond by asking them why they’re communicating in that fashion and whether we couldn’t communicate in a more civil voice so we can try to resolve the situation. Not to get too “crystals and tarot cards” on you, but I do believe that positive intention can do a lot to improve the world.’

He goes on to give an example of an exchange that he had.

All in all I think Dave’s approach is pretty decent and as I track my own blogging experience I’ve probably gone through a similar progression from angrily defending every attack through to something similar to what Dave does.

Of course occasionally it all gets too much and I bite – and usually regret it later. When I do this it’s generally a signal that I need a holiday.

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.
  • Life is just too damb short!

    Ignore, ignore ignore them.

    As long as they are not:
    – paying your bills
    – putting food on your table
    – hacked into your site
    – switched off your life support machine

    Why bother. Take a deep breath and get on with the next job at hand!

    Reduce stress levels and IGNORE the nerds.

  • E Cognito

    Hey! As a registered and due paying nerd, I take umbrage at being lumped in with hostile people! Why, I orda…

  • Whenever I get an email from someone who disagrees with me, I first thank them for writing. Then I respond constructively to any points we agree on. If I need to address a point on which we disagree, I make sure they know I heard and understood them and that I appreciate their point of view, even if I don’t agree.

    Of course, I haven’t gotten any true hate mail. Most people who get upset just want to vent, just want to be heard. I haven’t encountered anyone who was simply out to make me feel lousy. Getting those is one step away from contacting the police, of course.


  • A good example on one of my own blogs a couple days ago. I wrote a mini-review/comment on a new startup communication service that I felt was using the wrong technology for the job. Although I was careful to keep my post civil, it certainly minced no words in conveying the thought that the new company was foisting of a solution in search of a requirement.

    One of the company executives posted a comment .. he could have easily taken the tone of “how dare you disparage us”, “you don’t know our technology”. etc. Instead, he thanked me for writing about his company, dropped a few hints about future projects and invited me to keep watching them … exactly as if I had posted as a fan rather than a skeptic.

    Result? a further exchange between us regarding technical details, a better realization of the issues on both our sides, and more online publicity for his startup.

    Politeness almost _always_ pays … a lesson I need to write on the blackboard 500 times, just like Bart Simpson ;-)

  • Joe

    Often times it is best to ignore things such as this. It goes beyond email, and into any form of communication on the net or even in real life.

    In my travels around the internet I’ve discovered that one of the silliest things you can possibly do is get into an argument. I’ve seen arguments spiral out of control with neither side giving an inch until someone with more authority comes in and stops it. Heck, Ive even seen arguments where one side even had almost irrifutable proof that he was correct, but the other person still wouldnt budge.

    Its silly, and also a waste of time. I agree, life is too short to spend it getting bent out of shape over nonsense.

    I think Tim has a good idea in his first paragraph. If there is a serious problem that does need to be discussed, then do so in a calm rational manner. I wouldnt be surprised if this helps to defuse the anger from the author and then both parties can settle the issue.

    A little common sense goes a long way I guess.

  • LS

    When I can’t stand it and absolutely feel the need to respond somehow, the most satisfying response for me has been:

    “Thanks for your comment/email. It was given all the consideration it deserves.”

    Now let them figure out how you meant it … :-)

  • You’re absolutely right LS!
    Just make them even more angry but helpless because they can’t hurt us!

  • Asking why they won’t reply in a more civilized manner alllllllways pisses them right off. Just don’t do it in public, to keep yourself from looking like an egotistical ass.

  • Outsmart them… Most of the times you just can’t lose.