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How to Handle Critical and Attacking Comments from Blog Readers

How do you deal with criticism?

When you put yourself out there as a blogger, the feedback you get isn’t always as constructive as you’d like. It can even verge on being an aggressive or personal attack.

While I’ve only experienced it a handful of times in my blogging career, it can be difficult to deal with. So what can you do if it happens to you?

Well, you can always look at the bright side. Any feedback you get is proof that someone’s reading your blog and noticing you.

But you should also consider the kind of feedback you’re getting – and who it’s coming from.

Evaluating Negative Feedback

Regardless of where it comes from – email, private messages, social media posts or blog comment – you should always evaluate the negative feedback you get. You need to decide whether:

  • it’s worth paying attention to
  • you need to act on it.

Here are some questions to consider.

  • If it’s a blog comment, is it within the boundaries of what you consider acceptable? You can always delete comments you find abusive or otherwise unacceptable.
  • Is there some truth in the feedback? Have had heard it before? Are there improvements you could make?
  • Is there anything positive in the feedback, or perhaps some common ground you can focus on?
  • Is the feedback from someone you’ve interacted with before? Are they just having a bad day, or has it been ongoing?
  • Is the feedback anonymous? Is it a troublemaker, a troll, or someone looking for attention?
  • What were they trying to achieve? What they’re said previously, their tweet history or other comments they’ve made might give you clues as to what their agenda might be.

For me, it comes down to trying to understand the other person’s intent and responding to that, rather than just to the words they used. There may be an opportunity to help them and make a positive connection.

Of course, that’s not always easy. You may need to step away from the computer for a bit. You may even want to involve a friend, family member or fellow blogger and get their take on the situation.

How to Respond to Negative Feedback

Depending on the type of feedback you received, you can respond in different ways.

Responding to Trolls

If the comment is purely trolling – someone being deliberately provocative and looking for a reaction – your best options are to:

  • Delete it. If it’s an offensive comment on your blog, you always have the option of deleting it.
  • Ignore it. Trolling on social media is usually best ignored.
  • Respond very politely. This can be a little passive-aggressive, but being polite and kind in your response can sometimes be effective.

Responding to Critics

If the comment seems to be coming from someone who’s genuine rather than a troll, you might want to:

  • Clarify. If their negative feedback makes it clear they misunderstood the point you were making, you might want to clarify what you intended.
  • Take responsibility. If you made a mistake, take responsibility for it.
  • Debate. If it’s a difference of opinion, you can stand up for what you think while also listening thoughtfully to the other person’s side.
  • Agree to disagree. Sometimes people aren’t willing to debate. But you can still be polite and agree to disagree.

Should You Respond Publicly?

It might seem logical to respond in the same medium. For instance, if someone criticised you in a blog comment it might seem logical to respond to that comment.

But with negative feedback, it’s often best to move to a more private communication  channel such as email – especially if the exchange is becoming increasingly heated.

Offer to have a private email conversation with them and see if they’re willing to take you up on it. If they are, it often suggests they have a genuine issue (rather than just trolling or trying to get a reaction).

It’s also important, where appropriate, to respond with genuine care for the other person. Perhaps their angry comment or tweet makes it clear they’re coming from a place of pain or hurt. If that’s the case, you could email them to say you noticed their comment and wanted to see if everything is okay.

This can be really effective, particularly if you know the person to some degree and their comment seems out of character or they’re clearly going through something difficult. The person will often apologise for what they said and be grateful you responded with genuine kindness and care.

In some cases, it’s also appropriate to leave your community to respond to the negative feedback. (But keep an eye on this. You don’t want a huge argument breaking out in your comments section.)

Finally, remember that negativity is often much more about the person dealing it out than about you or anything you’ve written.

More of the feedback you get will be positive, so don’t let the fear of negative comments or feedback put you off blogging. Just make sure you’re ready to respond appropriately where possible.

Image credit: Chris Sabor

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