I don’t care how good of a writer you are. I don’t care how well you plan your posts. I don’t even care how fair and balanced you think you are. If you have written more than 5 blog posts on any given subject, you have likely pissed someone off at some point…and if you really pissed them off, they let you know it by leaving a negative comment on your blog about how much you suck and don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s the Internet’s version of the flaming bag of dog poop trick.
Now, before you go ahead and give them the verbal smack they likely deserve, let me show you a better way to handle it.
Step 1: Don’t Take It Personally
People can get pretty brave when they are hiding behind a 21″ monitor. Had they been sitting in the same room as you (and a baseball bat), they may have felt a little different about your post. In fact, they may have even liked it! Don’t take it as a personal assault. Perhaps they are having a bad day and they have the guns pointing at you. It could be that they didn’t quite understand the post and took it the wrong way. Or maybe they just weren’t breast fed as a baby and now its all your fault. This isn’t about you. Take a deep breath and relax.
Step 2: Stop Yourself from Deleting It
Your initial response is probably going to be to delete the comment. Don’t. It hurts the integrity of your community. By deleting it you are telling your readers that they are welcome to say whatever they want as long as they agree with you. The only time I would consider deleting a post is if it was obscene or offensive to your readers, in which case I still might leave a comment in response if they did have a point and just did a bad job of getting it out of their head. The important thing is to maintain your credibility as a blogger and haphazardly removing someone’s voice just because you don’t agree with it is not going to do that.
Step 3: See it From Their Perspective
After reading their comment, go back and reread your post and try and see it from their perspective. As Steven Covey suggests in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek first to understand and then be understood”. Being open to the other side of the argument is the best way to approach a disagreement. Who knows, they may have a point!
Step 4: Respond (Appropriately)
Don’t forget that all of your readers are going to see your response so make sure it’s a good one…and appropriate. Who knows how many of your readers feel the same way as the person that left the comment. Respond with nothing but the utmost respect regardless of their tone. “He started it” is not a good reason for bringing a gun to a knife fight here.
Step 5: Give them a Virtual Hug
When someone tells you to go suck it, the last thing they are expecting is a big hug. Who knows why you triggered such an emotional response with your post. Give them a hug by sending them a personal e-mail aside from your response on the website. Thank them for challenging you. Ask them what they thought of your retort. See if they could suggest ways you can improve your blog. You don’t have to mean it if you don’t. It’s more about your reader feeling a little love. If it makes you feel better, they also tend to feel pretty stupid for being such a jackass on your website when you do this.
Step 6: Continue the Conversation
Even though you don’t agree with what was said, see if the conversation has legs. Perhaps you can turn it into a future blog post. Ideas are tough to come by. Chances are, this is not the only person with a chip on his or her shoulder over the issue. A blog post getting more in-depth on their argument could earn you the respect of those readers and perhaps a few new subscribers you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
Step 7: When All Else Fails
Hopefully you will not have to inflict step 7 on anyone, but if they are out of control and hijacking your blog it’s time to give them the smack of their life. You’re going to need a little time for this one because you want to respond in a way that doesn’t make you out to be as big of a jackass as they are. Debunk what they are saying with facts. Come across as intelligent. Throw in a little sarcasm if need be. This should be your last resort though, so use it wisely.
Once you get through all 7 steps, move on. Don’t lose sleep over it and don’t allow it to effect what you are doing. The fact is that you aren’t doing this right unless someone out there hates you. Consider it your job to turn that cranky-pants into a fan. It’s possible.