How to Respond to Negative Comments

Posted on July 21, 2014

We often don’t get a lot of advice about one of the scariest (at least for me) aspects of blogging: the comments.

Anyone who’s had a blog can relate to that squeeze of trepidation when you discover one of your readers has left a nugget of wisdom for all to see.

Don’t get me wrong, I love comments. They help me figure out what works and what doesn’t. Comments give me an idea of which topics could use follow-up posts or whether a particular subject really hit a nerve with readers.

Most importantly, they keep me humble. There’s nothing like a take-no-prisoners reader to pop a bloated writer’s ego.

But comments can also be rude, hurtful and focus on things that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

So how to you go about handling that potty-mouthed troll or the person who completely missed the point?

To publish, or not to publish

We all know that as bloggers, we usually have the ability to screen comments before they appear online. Please don’t interpret this as a way to prevent ANY negative feedback from appearing on your site.

After all, people naturally disagree with each other and if you’re writing good blog posts, then you should be presenting a strong opinion that some people may not necessarily agree with.

Blogging is not the right platform from which to take an indecisive middle ground.

People read your blog to hear your opinions, and if they don’t like a particular opinion, then they have every right to voice their opposing argument in the comments. It makes for a more comprehensive reading experience and it’s a great conversation starter for other readers waiting in the wings.

So when it comes to comments that present a negative or opposing view of your opinion, I say publish them for the sake of debate.

Prove to your readers that you appreciate and facilitate their viewpoints – regardless of how contrary they may be.

Ok, you say, so we should turn the other cheek and publish all comments regardless of whether they’re negative or positive?

Not exactly.

As a rule, if I come across a comment that makes a personal attack on my appearance, gender, ethnicity etc., I delete it.

If a reader completely thrashes my piece because of terrible grammar or because they believe I have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s fine, they’re entitled to their own opinion.

But if a reader wants to tell me that I have no business writing because I’m just a dumb woman, this doesn’t contribute to the conversation and will be deleted.

Should you fight back?

Now that we’ve covered which comments to publish, let’s get into how to respond to published comments.

As a general rule, I would say do not reply to comments unless you have something to add to the discussion or if you are providing clarification about a particular query.

Do not get prickly and feel like you need to defend yourself or your views. Basically, your blog post was one giant soapbox so now it’s your turn to sit back and hear what others have to say.

This can be tough when a reader writes a scathing comment misquoting your article or disputing a fact that is well-accepted and based on documented truths. You may feel the need to respond so that others won’t misinterpret your intentions.

I will admit that this is a bit of a grey area and would advise you to tread with caution. If you must respond, keep it light and to the point. Thank them for commenting and gently clarify your intention. Add a link to an authoritative source if you must and keep information factual.

Most people will be able to see if someone has really missed the point and won’t pay a comment like that much attention. Often you will find other readers will respond in your place or offer additional clarification.

The bottom line

Don’t get fazed by comments.

Nowadays people spend hours trolling sites and the internet has given rise to a feeling of super-powered anonymity that makes people think they can say whatever they want.

Comments can be a great feedback mechanism and should be treated with care. Don’t get lured into an embarrassing and unprofessional comment feud and don’t feel like you have to respond to each one with a carefully crafted counterargument.

Remember that old playground mantra? Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc

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