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How to Deal with Negative Blog Comments

Negative Blog CommentsThe first time I ever spoke at a convention, my intent was to get through the ordeal without being pelted with overripe fruit. The fact that attendees would later vote on the speakers was a tidbit I chose to pay as little conscious attention to as possible.

A number of weeks later I was informed that I had been voted favorite speaker of the convention. But it could easily have been otherwise.

Last January I performed as Buttercup in Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. Having spent most of the last 20 years behind the scenes, I was greatly relieved to know that the community theater I was performing in got mostly fact-related newspaper coverage as opposed to serious arts reviews! I was sure I was not ready for a prime time critique.

Blogging is the most public of venues. Forget “worldwide web,” it’s a worldwide stage. And when you decide to blog, the very format of blogging software says that you are not only committing to share you thoughts and ideas with the world, but you’re open to hearing the world share back with you.

If you write interesting and insightful posts, if you make claims — if you have an opinion about anything — someone will have an opposing view. And if you can broaden your circle of readers beyond those reading out of familial obligation (generally a desired goal!) your readers might speak up to challenge you.

Are you ready to handle that with civility?

When a reader takes the time to respond with a countering view, resist the urge to lash out, call names, be sarcastic, or have a tantrum. You don’t have to change your position, but consider what is said with an open mind. If valid points are made, acknowledge those. Entrenching in an unsound position hurts your credibility. Explain your thinking on the things you still disagree with. Above all, don’t assume motive or malicious intent. It serves no positive purpose and can leave you looking unreasonable.

If you don’t want to deal with reader response (it can be time consuming and frustrating!) consider having a static site — where you merely disseminate information — or more traditional media like books or newsletters.

If you decide to blog, remember that blogging is an open forum. It’s a place to gather ideas and interact with others. And that interaction can either support your ideas or counter them. Be ready to appropriately deal with whatever feedback comes your way in a professional manner and you’ll establish a reputation for being approachable and intellectually honest.

Let the blogging begin!

An earlier version of this post first appeared as a guest post on Ms. Ileane Speaks. It is reprinted hear at a client’s request.

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Paul December 30, 2010, 8:01 am

    I’ve seen some real jerky bloggers. The most opinionated are often the least willing to hear other opinions.

    Great post.

  • Cranding December 30, 2010, 8:11 am

    If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. As a 12-year journalist, this just comes with the territory.

  • Lisa Irby December 30, 2010, 2:32 pm

    Great post! Interesting how people get defensive when others make constructive criticism or don’t agree. I always welcome it because it often opens up the floor for a productive discussion. Negative comments come with the territory and as Cranding said, if you can’t stand the heat….

    Thanks for sharing, Alison!
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  • Alison Moore Smith December 30, 2010, 2:48 pm

    Productive discussion, yes. “Negative” can sometimes get you thinking better than glowing ones!

    Thanks for dropping by, Lisa.

  • Shiva January 2, 2011, 1:25 pm

    Nice post. I think it is really important for bloggers to take negative criticism from their commentors as a chance to mend their shortcomings. I think negative comments helps a blogger to understand the topic even more properly since he/she will take time to find out if the negative comment may have some amount of truth in it and he/she will get an opportunity to make himself more better
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  • Alison Moore Smith January 2, 2011, 9:58 pm

    Amen on all counts, Shiva. If we can step back from the ego, we will probably learn something.

  • wudwan January 6, 2011, 2:42 am

    You wrote a very good and needed article.
    I read with interest your article and wait for new articles.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 6, 2011, 1:06 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, wudwan. Hope to see you back again!

  • Matt January 6, 2011, 11:43 pm

    I always welcome it because it often opens up the floor for a productive discussion. Negative comments come with the territory and as Cranding said, if you can’t stand the heat….

  • Alison Moore Smith January 7, 2011, 4:56 pm

    Matt, that’s a great attitude to have. Look for what you can learn and make it valuable. Spot on!

  • David January 22, 2011, 10:48 pm

    This is how you can tell you are doing something right. When you take a stand on a subject that matters, you will always have people that disagree with you. If you get positive feedback on everything you say, that means that you are not talking about anything important enough for anyone to care.
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  • Alison Moore Smith January 23, 2011, 5:17 am

    David, I agree. When it comes to consequential things, there are going to be differences of opinion. The more important the matter, the more diverse. Thanks for bringing up such an important point.

  • Leo February 9, 2011, 7:24 am

    ALWAYS remember that your blog might be read by potential clients / your mum / your kids (some day) – do you really want them to see you lash out at somebody just becuase they have a different opinion?

    Sure I like reading “nice” comments – or comments that go in the same direction than the post I published – but if the counter-ideas are exposed politely they will be even more welcome.
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  • Alison Moore Smith February 9, 2011, 11:53 am

    Leo, spot on.

    Just this morning I was looking at my FaceBook feed. A woman who is in my friends list (but whom I do not know personally), has been advertising her new candle business on FaceBook for the past couple of weeks. Then, this morning — literally minutes after he last wall post advertisement for her first party — she vented about someone who called her home and then hung up. Screeching “MORON.” Not very professional. (Although, most FaceBook stuff kind of evaporates into the ether after a while.)

    I’ve been online since 1986 and I’m darn sure there’s some stuff out there I regret — or at least would reword. But it’s good to keep this in mind in our online interactions.
    Having b

  • Brad Harmon February 19, 2011, 11:45 pm

    Hey, Alison. I’ve been lucky to have been corrected by the best from time-to-time (thank you), but haven’t had to deal with a lot of truly negative comments. I’ve had my share of emails that lambasted me – ironically from self-professed Christians telling me how un-Christian I was. If you don’t get the occasional critic then you might want to reconsider if what you’re writing about is really important. When you do get these negative comments, it’s important to remember that they only get their power from how we react to them.
    Read Brad Harmon’s inCREDible post…When People Don’t Respond to Your BlogMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith February 20, 2011, 8:32 pm

    If you don’t get the occasional critic then you might want to reconsider if what you’re writing about is really important.

    Oh, amen!

  • sv February 21, 2011, 12:53 pm

    i think sometimes the bad review is good, it make you realize that not everyone agree with you, so just take the good side, and keep moving, the show must go on..:D

  • Alison Moore Smith February 21, 2011, 1:36 pm

    Spot on, sv!

  • bbrian017 March 4, 2011, 10:50 am

    I’ve only had a few occasion where I had somewhat rude comments. Since I’ve been online I’ve managed to reduce the amount in which I take personal from comments. You make a good point when you say we have to accept the criticism and look for the positive in it.

    usually there’s always some good out of negative comments you just have to figure out what it is and learn to accept you might not always be right. But again sometimes it’s just a random idiot that thinks he knows everything.
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  • seminyak villas March 7, 2011, 11:40 pm

    some times bad comment are good..its for you spirit..to keep moving…and any how sometime for get band comment you blog traffic can increase cause people are more interesting in bad comment and they will more have attention on it
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  • Alison Moore Smith March 8, 2011, 2:57 am

    So true, seminyak. Some of the best (and longest) discussion threads come after a contrary comment!

  • Nishadha March 9, 2011, 12:28 pm

    Negative comments are a good thing because it shows the reader cares enough to comment. Sometimes they start great conversations and if you are civil about everything then you might end up with a loyal reader.
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  • Alison Moore Smith March 9, 2011, 2:48 pm

    Nishadha, I completely agree. Discussing contrary viewpoints can help both sides, if the discussion stays above board. Thanks for dropping by today. 🙂
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  • india July 25, 2011, 2:28 am

    yeah, why not negative comments…i mean its not like somebody wants a revenge on you..its certainly good thing…as it helps improve your blog from next time on…..:)

  • Tim Ryan August 17, 2011, 12:09 pm

    Freedom of speech protects all of us. However, there are situations that can bring about legal troubles. Untrue and defamatory statements could cause libel cases. Bloggers need to be careful of the facts. One needs to research carefully especially on sensitive topics.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 17, 2011, 1:14 pm

    Tim, this post isn’t about running loose with facts while blogging and it’s not a freedom of speech issue at all. It’s about negative comments.

    As a blog owner, I am not required to post any comment I don’t like. Period. No one has the “right” to use a forum owned by another as a means to disseminate comments that the owner doesn’t want to disseminate.

    Some bloggers give the appearance of having an open discussion forum, but actually censor all opposing views. As long as the opposing views are civil and respectful, I find this to be counterproductive. Opposing views are the way great conversations start and real thinking occurs.

  • Ana September 23, 2011, 12:28 pm

    You just need to make the difference between the comments that are simply rude from those who passionately disagree with you.

    Rude comments are directed towards you personally, and I just delete them, while passionate comments that don’t agree with mine – I just leave.

    I think that it’s not possible or desirable for everybody to agree with me, so I cherish the criticism.

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