You and Your Blog Suck: 7 Steps to Responding to Negative Comments

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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.

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  • Laura Amerman

    All due respect to Mr. Covey, he may have been paraphrasing St. Francis: 

    Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is

    hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where

    there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where

    there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where

    there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to

    be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;

    to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is

    in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we

    are born to eternal life.

    Regardless, it’s a beautiful thought, Bravo!!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      That seems like a pretty long title for a chapter. It is pretty close though…has St. Francis considered legal action? I may know a guy…

  • http://www.websitebegin.com Joe Boyle

    I will never understand  why people feel the need to delete negative comments. Does it somehow boost their own ego? It’s like the people I grew up with who would jump on the chance to take credit for the good things they did, but then lock away the bad things. I think our errors are the greatest parts of our lives – they actually mean we tried and [sometimes] will keep trying again.

    I take the approach of the professional, I-understand-your-point-but-here’s-some-facts-to-disprove you. If I’m wholeheartedly wrong, I will admit it and move on. I will change the error and that’s that. The only time you should really take it to heart is if it’s about you, not the content.

    The ultimate reason you should respond to hate comments is to defend your brand. Your brand is one of the only things you really have on the internet. When somebody says bad things about it, it is your duty to protect it like a child. It’s really that simple. Great post.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Joe! I once commented on a very opinionated post about Google Adwords versus the Yellow Pages. The guy must have worked for the Yellow Pages because his argument was that the Yellow Pages were soon to replace Google. I responded very professionally but disagreeing with his opinion. The response I got from him was like a smack upside the head with a 2×4. It was a complete over-reaction that ended with something like “and maybe you should leave and not come back.” Wow. A few other readers jumped in to my defense and ultimately that site (it was a guest blog which is even worse) lost me as a reader and I’m sure several others.

  • http://twitter.com/BonnieFerro On-LineMarketing

    Good suggestions on flipping a negative into a long term positive

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks! It’s not really that hard either…it’s actually a lot easier than fighting. I tend to get a few grouchy folks comment when I blog about Google.

  • JJ Moriasi

    It has been a year since I started blogging. I blog about personal
    issues thus making the blog more of my opinion rather than facts. I
    often receive comments of people who agree and disagree with me. In most
    cases, those who don’t agree with me have done it politely, though some
    go over board. In my latest article I think I rubbed a few feathers and
    triggered a lot of emotions. Two readers turned on each other and
    started an argument on the comments section. How do you deal with that?

    http://uturukini.blogspot.com/

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