Haters Gonna Hate: How to Deal With Negative Feedback
You know that feeling:
You’ve worked for hours, pouring your heart and soul into this blog post, and when you finally get it published…
Some jerk leaves a nasty comment.
Negative feedback can truly feel like a punch in the stomach.
It’s not all bad, though.
In fact, what looks like a mean comment might turn out to be a golden opportunity for your brand.
It all depends on your mindset and your reaction.
Negative Feedback is a Side Effect of Being Read
Fact: not everybody who reads your blog is going to like it.
We’re human, and we don’t always agree. In fact, we don’t usually agree.
It’s a huge mistake to water down your content to try to appeal to more people.
Take a stand for something, even if you’re going to be standing against a lot of other something elses.
Fact: the people who don’t like your content and take the time to comment about it are, at least, reading it.
Haters are, as they say, gonna hate, hate, hate…
[And players gonna play play play play play…]
If you didn’t get that reference, go YouTube some Taylor Swift songs.
The more people read your blog, the more people are going to have negative opinions.
The more people have negative opinions, the more you’re going to get negative feedback.
Haters are a side effect of popularity.
It’s hard not to take it personally sometimes, but remember this:
Negative Feedback is Never About YOU
Yes, I know that someone attacking your passions, your opinions, or anything you worked hard on feels a lot like they’re throwing stones at you.
Most of the time, they don’t even know you.
When someone leaves a mean, critical, or hateful comment on your blog or social media page, they’re not responding you.
They’re responding to words on a screen, and the way those words on their computer screen made them feel.
It has nothing to do with you.
In reality, it has very little even to do with your opinions.
Imagine for a moment that you’re wearing a pair of glasses that are smeared with dirt.
When you look out through your dirty glasses, it looks like the world is filthy, when it’s really just your own perspective.
That’s usually what’s happened when people leave negative feedback on your posts.
They’re reading what you’ve written…
But they’re also seeing the dirt on their own glasses.
When you understand that, it’s a little easier not to take it so personally.
So, what do you do when someone leaves troll-ish comments on your stuff?
Respond Appropriately to Negative Feedback
When your feeling are hurt, it’s hard to tell the difference between a mere dissenting opinion and an inappropriate attack.
Eventually, if you’re going to keep blogging and growing your following, you’re going to have to learn to deal with criticism. It’s only going to get more intense as you grow.
This isn’t meant to sound harsh, but I know it might be hard to accept:
If you want to build any kind of business and you can’t handle criticism, bullying, and hate, you should reconsider.
Criticism comes with accomplishment.
Success requires a thick skin, and success at blogging is no exception.
The more you achieve, the more people are going to throw punches at you.
Eventually, they’ll be sneering about your past relationships, fashion choices, and dietary habits just as much as they deride your spelling and grammar, your blogged-about opinions, and your business acumen.
Fortunately, if you’ve built a healthy community on your blog, your followers will frequently stick up for you.
Waiting for someone else to come to your rescue isn’t really a strategy.
Perhaps a more active approach is worthwhile.
Let’s start with negative blog comments, since we have more control over interactions in our blog communities than we do in social media.
Handling Negative Blog Comments
When you get negative feedback in your blog comments, the first step is this:
Determine whether that comment is critical, or if it’s abusive.
Abusive comments are more than just a negative opinion, and they’re not just rude – they’re intended to hurt someone, and those types of comments don’t belong on anyone’s blog.
Depending on the severity and type of abusive comment, you might simply disallow the commenter, block them from commenting in the future, or in a few cases, you might report the commenter to your local authorities.
It’s rare that an abusive comment is a threat, but on the off chance that someone does threaten you or any of your users, you should always report that to the police.
In general, though, most of the negative comments you receive won’t be abusive.
They might be rude or critical, or they might not intend any criticism at all and they just have a negative outlook.
Sometimes, they’re not even negative at all:
If there’s dirt on your glasses, it’s easy to misunderstand or read something other than the way it was intended.
When a reader leaves a negative comment on your blog, here’s what you should do:
- Read it thoroughly.
- Determine whether or not it’s abusive. (Note – if it is abusive, you shouldn’t allow it to remain publicly visible on your site.)
- Give yourself a few hours (or even a couple of days) to get emotionally removed.
- Read it again.
- Apply empathy – determine why that person probably left that comment.
- Respond appropriately to the comment.
Go Through The Process:
Step 1 – read thoroughly:
It’s very easy to get defensive as soon as you read the first line of a critical or negative comment.
It’s also very easy to promptly inform that commenter why they’re wrong based on what you think they’re saying.
Responding too quickly is a mistake.
Before you allow yourself to have an emotional reaction, take a minute to thoroughly read the comment.
Read every word.
Step 2 – check for abuse:
Is the commenter directly insulting, threatening, or defaming you or another person in an unfounded and unfair way?
If another reader were to see that comment, would they feel unsafe?
It’s up to you to determine whether or not a comment is actually abusive, and if it is, you shouldn’t allow that comment to hurt your community.
Step 3 – take a step back:
Never answer a comment when emotions are still high.
When you’re feeling insulted or hurt or defensive, you’ve got dirt on your glasses, so you’re not seeing with a clear perspective.
Maybe you have excellent EQ (emotional intelligence) and you can clear your mind in a few hours, but take as long as you need.
If you have to sleep on it before you’re ready to take a second look with a clearer point of view, then just leave the comment in moderation and/or wait to respond until you’re ready for the next step.
Step 4 – read it again:
You’ve cleared your thoughts.
You’re over the emotional shock of that negative feedback.
Now, with a little bit more emotional removal, read the comment again.
Once you really know what the commenter is saying, it’s time to employ a little empathy.
Step 5 – look at it from the commenter’s perspective:
Here’s the truth:
Empathy is hard.
It’s also something you’re going to have to work on if you want to be a top-notch, successful blogger.
Empathy is simply the ability to see things from another person’s perspective.
So ask yourself this:
Why did the commenter say that?
Were they upset by something in your blog post?
Do they disagree with one of your basic concepts, or have they misunderstood something you said?
Here’s how you know you’ve succeeded in being properly empathetic:
Once you’re seeing things from someone else’s perspective, it’s almost impossible to completely dislike them.
Therefore, if you’re really being empathetic, you won’t be upset anymore.
And with your new perspective you’re ready for:
Step 6 – respond.
You should respond to all of the comments you get on your blog.
Some people only answer complimentary comments and questions.
Some people only answer negative comments, and frequently only to argue.
Some people never answer comments at all.
All of those people are making a mistake.
If people are commenting on your blog, that’s always a good sign. It means they’re reading, engaged, and care enough to type a comment.
That’s huge, and you should appreciate it. Most bloggers struggle to get anyone commenting at all.
Have a conversation with them.
Build that relationship.
Answer every comment you get.
Of course, not every response is appropriate.
The Best Way to Respond to Negative Blog Comments
First of all:
You can’t actually win an argument – if you get somebody to begrudgingly admit that they can’t argue their point any more, did you actually achieve anything?
They still don’t believe you’re right.
Instead, they think you’re wrong AND an a-hole.
When you respond to a negative comment, instead of “informing” the commenter why they’re wrong, a good place to start is to thank them.
They took the time to read your post, consider it, and express their own opinion. Appreciate that.
Consider what they have to say, too. Maybe they’ll draw your attention to a point you didn’t articulate well enough, or bring up something you haven’t thought about.
If you’ve applied empathy and you still think they’re wrong, just thank them for weighing in.
You don’t have to do more than that, but consider asking them to elaborate to help you better understand what they’re expressing.
If there seems to have been a misunderstanding, thank them for bringing it to your attention and offer further explanation of what you meant without trying to explain why you’re right.
Just elaborate and clarify, don’t justify.
You don’t have to persuade anyone to your own way of thinking.
You don’t have to make people agree with anything.
Acknowledging and respecting their opinion is usually all they want you to do.
In many cases, the person who left a critical or negative comment will quickly become a fan and a friend if you treat them like a friend.
A little respect goes a long way.
Of course it’s easier said than done, but put this into practice and you’ll find that your most loyal and valuable fans start out being a critical commenter.
That’s why it’s such a mistake to disallow blog comments altogether, or to only approve comments which are positive and supportive.
When you let people be people, show them respect, and encourage open, honest discussion, you’re building a powerful community, and that community is worth the discomfort of occasional criticism.
Negative Feedback on Social Media
Mean, critical, or negative comments on social media are a little trickier to handle.
Since it’s a type of public forum, you have far less control over what gets said, and to whom it’s expressed.
Just like in your blog comments, though, those negative comments are an opportunity for you to create a loyal, lifetime fan.
Here are a few things to remember:
In anonymous environments, people tend to behave worse than they do when they’re using their actual identities.
That means that places like Tumblr, Imgur, and Whisper will produce a lot more nasty or abusive comments than sites like Facebook and Twitter. When there’s a certain amount of anonymity, people will often be the worst version of themselves.
Having a real-time conversation can also produce more emotionally charged commentary.
Be sure that when you’re responding to negative comments on your social posts, you’re still allowing yourself some time to cool off, and still apply empathy.
It gets easier with time.
Also, remember that a lot more people are watching your conversation play out.
If you show respect, ask people to elaborate on their opinions, and genuinely appreciate that audience participation, you’re going to win over multiple new readers.
If you ignore feedback, you’re likely to lose current and potential readers.
If you react emotionally and get defensive, you’re definitely going to alienate a lot of people.
Follow the same steps to respond to negative social media comments as you would on your blog, but be careful not to get caught up in a public argument.
Your window for responding is a little bit shorter, too – you don’t want to wait more than 12 hours to answer if you can help it, but you also shouldn’t respond immediately.
Waiting at least 2 hours gives both you and the commenter a chance to get emotionally removed.
And, as always, if anyone is threatening or abusive, you should block and report them.
Empathy is hard, but it’s one of the most important skills you’ll ever learn if you want to be successful at anything in life.
Let’s do a thought experiment.
If you’ve never done a mental exercise like this before, you might want to turn off any distractions like music or television, and find a quiet spot to practice.
When you’re ready to focus:
Think back over the last 2 weeks, and remember a time when you were irritated at someone’s behavior.
Maybe somebody cut you off in traffic.
Perhaps the barista got your coffee order wrong.
An argument with your wife would also qualify.
It should be something recent enough that you can still remember most of the details, and thinking of it still makes you feel a little irritated.
Replay that situation in your mind right now.
Remember it vividly. Recall how you felt, how the other person looked, the physical gestures you made – did you clench your teeth or roll your eyes?
Now, try to see the same event from the other person’s perspective.
Odds are that they weren’t intentionally trying to ruin your day.
Maybe they were busy and stressed out and made a mistake, or perhaps there was a breakdown in communication.
Play the same event in your mind from their point of view – how did they feel? How did you look to them?
If you do it right, you won’t be irritated when you think of that event any more.
And if you’re like me and people skills have always been your weakness, work on it. Trust me, it’s worth it.