In the words of Taylor Swift, “haters gonna hate.”
Whether you’re a blogger, entrepreneur, marketer, or pretty much anyone else, you’ve probably faced negative comments online or in-person.
Workplace gossip has always been the Achilles heel of many businesses. The age of anonymous commenting on blog posts can get really ugly!
Not everyone is going to like you, but some people just REAAALLLLYYY don’t like you or they are just a troll.
It’s okay — it happens, and this post is here to help you deal with it!
The kind of comment I’m talking about is the personal attack or really spiteful debate-starter. Constructive criticism is a different ballpark, so don’t think I would tell you to ignore that kind of feedback. I’m focusing on what’s harmful rather than helpful.
So here we go:
You open your blog post to see… A COMMENT.
Yay! But then, you read it… and it’s hateful!
Disappointment and anger rise up in you, you click the respond button, and then you hear me yell “WAIT!” over your screen.
You pause and listen: “Here are 8 simple steps to help you respond better to negative comments so that you don’t do something you’ll regret later.”
1) Take a breath and remember it’s not personal
I know, it feels super personal, but it’s NOT about YOU, I promise.
That’s the first and most important thing you need to remember when you receive any negative comments online or in person.
Most of the time when we receive negative comments, it’s from someone who doesn’t know us personally; it may even be an anonymous comment on social media.
They won’t know your personality, your story, or how much work you’ve put into your business or blog.
In fact, in my experience, the person commenting on my blog posts actually hadn’t read the whole thing. They were responding to the headline and perceived topic of the article!
Some people just enjoy the process of finding something to criticize or have a personal vendetta against whatever niche you’re in. So again, it’s really not about you.
Don’t let these comments determine your worth! You know who you are and no comment from anyone else is going to change that.
So take a deep breath, calm down, and remember who you are before anything else. Once you do that, you will be able to handle the situation in a way that reflects well of you and your business or blog.
2) Read or listen to the ENTIRE comment
Above all, you want to deal with these comments with a level head, and NOT react defensively.
Ever had those moments where you said things in the heat of the moment and then regretted them? Or, on the flipside, thought of a bunch of stuff you should have said, but didn’t?
That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid by thinking about and taking in what the person really said.
If you’ve received the comment online, take a minute before making any decisions about deleting, reporting, or responding.
If you’re listening to criticism in person, just listen. Let the person get it all out and give both of you a minute to breathe afterward. You will get a chance to respond in a minute, but for now, just allow things to settle down before you say something to make it worse.
It is so easy to jump to conclusions when you want to defend your business or blog.
To avoid that, go back and read what the person said, or ask them to repeat the criticism to make sure that you’re dealing with what the comment actually is, and not just how you felt the first time you saw or heard it.
3) Decide whether or not to delete it (skip if not online)
Here’s the thing, deleting a comment off your blog just because it’s negative isn’t the right move.
Your audience has the right to disagree with you and you have to be okay with allowing them to do so.
Remember this wise quote.
“I disapprove of what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall
I know it’s hard, but if the comment is a person disagreeing with your point, you probably need to keep it there.
Even the most negative comments can start good conversations among audience members.
Once, at my college student newspaper, there was someone who made some really negative comments on an article, and we were trying to decide whether or not we should delete it. But someone else actually commented back and defended us so that we didn’t have to! It started a whole conversation in the comments section that ended up being really interesting and insightful.
Not all negative comments lead to negative outcomes. It might be worth waiting out to see what happens!
That said, your audience does NOT have the right to be obscene, inappropriate, or inflammatory, so there’s always a balance that has to be found between free speech and unacceptable speech (more on this later at step #7).
If it’s a comment that is clearly meant to be offensive rather than just stating an opinion that you disagree with, that’s a completely different story, and deleting the comment could be the right choice.
Here is a flow chart to help you determine which side your situation falls on:
4) Decide whether or not to respond
YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO DEFEND YOURSELF.
You are who you are and you can prove that by going out and being successful and living your life — there is no need to feel like you must respond to every hater in order to protect your honor or prove your worth as a human.
So if you are feeling personally offended by the comment, it’s probably not the time to respond.
HOWEVER, if you are actually interested in what the person has to say, or they’ve done something to convince you that something does need to be said in order to put an end to the ordeal, then there may be a reason to reply.
Cue the second flow chart!
If you got to the bottom and found “YES” was your answer, continue on to the next step. If you received a “NO” you can skip down to step #7!
5) Move to a private area
Most of the time we receive negative comments, it tends to be in the public sphere (i.e. during a meeting or on the public Facebook feed), so the best advice I can give you is to move the discussion to the private sphere as it continues.
If you got called out at a meeting, ask the person if you can talk to them later in their office instead of responding in front of everyone.
If someone replied to your tweet, respond to their message in a private dm, rather than picking a fight or subtweeting them.
We’ve all seen social media drama drawn out in the public sphere — it’s immature and unnecessary, as is yelling at a co-worker in the break room while everyone else is there.
Don’t make it a show — take it to a private area and actually resolve the problem.
6) Have a conversation, not a debate
We’ve all had those “conversations” that really just became “let us now yell about everything that bothers us about each other and pretend it’s doing something helpful.”
Yeah… let’s not do that.
Instead of making it about the other person as a human, try to have an actual conversation about the comment they made.
For example, someone posts a comment on your Instagram that says you used an offensive term for ____ group of people and calls you sexist, racist, etc, a good way to respond might be to ask them what made them feel that way. What term did I use that was offensive? What term should I be using that is more sensitive?
Pull the conversation away from personal labels and toward an actual issue that can be resolved.
HOWEVER, if the individual continues to call you names and refuses to explain why, feel free to end the conversation anytime.
You’re in control and you are allowed to stop responding when you feel uncomfortable.
7) If it continues, consider blocking or reporting the account
If someone makes obscene comments, threats, personal attacks, etc., reporting them is totally within your rights.
It’s not appropriate for anyone to make public comments that contain derogatory terms, foul language, obscene pictures, suggestive remarks, threats, or anything else that crosses a line into that territory.
If they do one of these things, letting an authority know is the best option.
If you’re in a workplace, it may be time to contact the HR office.
If you’re online, every social media outlet should have a way to block and report accounts that participate in this behavior.
Your blog host also allows you to manage comment sections to delete comments or shut down the option to comment all together.
8) Recognize that it may be a sign of something better
If you’re getting negative comments, it’s because people know your business or blog well enough to recognize the name and want to be mean about it.
It also means that your reach has expanded beyond the people you were intentionally reaching out to. People that clearly did not look for your product stumbled upon it.
You’re growing! That’s something to be proud of.
I hope this post was helpful! I believe that you can respond to negativity well and make this world a better place.
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Bethany Peterson is a junior at Wheaton College (IL) studying Interdisciplinary Studies and Journalism with a minor in Spanish. She has worked in blogging for three years first as a staff blogger for 31Women Ministries, and now as an intern with LadyBossBlogger. She serves as Co-Editor in Chief at the Wheaton Record and hopes to go into journalism after graduation.