Late last night I wrote a post on responding to criticism that has had some good discussion. One of the things that a number of those leaving comments suggested is that sometimes when someone attacks you it is better to ignore them.
I’d agree that ignoring can be a good strategy at times – however I always consider some sort of response even on angry posts because:
1. I’m amazed how quickly some people back down when they know you’re actually reading them. I can think of at least 5 occassions when someone was attacking me either on a blog or discussion forum and when I left a comment calmly pointing out my side of things I would get responses like – ‘oh, sorry…. I didn’t think anyone was reading’ – or ‘oh, sorry, I’m having a bad day – I shouldn’t have attacked you’ etc.
Of course this doesn’t always happen – but there’s something about a personal comment that seems to shake some people up and make them realise that despite them writing about someone they’ve never met in a pretty impersonal medium that they need to be accountable for their words.
2. I think it’s important in terms of reputation to give your perspective - what worries me about the ignore it strategy is that the attack remains online indefinately as a permanent record of the other person’s opinion of you.
It’s amazing what comes up when people search for someone’s name in Google and what impact what is written about you can have upon others. People often believe what they read online without questioning it and so if I think it’s worth writing a short, reasonable response that answers the attack to bring some balance and perspective to a post that has the potential to harm your reputation in the years ahead. ‘Ignore it and it will go away’ is actually a somewhat dangerous philosophy online because what’s written in this medium will never go away once it is archived by archive services – even if the blog in question is deleted.
3. I’m amazed by the power of a reasoned response to a frenzied, angry and attacking post when it comes to finding new readers. I know of many ProBlogger readers who actually found and became regular readers of this blog after reading an attack on me and seeing me respond in a reasonable way. The person attacking you might not change their opinion but they have readers who might. Being attacked isn’t nice – but sometimes the way you respond is an opportunity in itself.
Of course you can’t respond to everything that everyone writes about you. For starters it’s difficult to track it all and secondly, even if you could it could track it all, it can become quite a distraction from your core task of blogging to always be doing so. I would argue though that it is important to monitor what others say about you to at least some extent and to be willing to participate in their conversations.