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How to Deal with Negative Comments On Your Blog

Gala-Darling-9In this post Gala Darling from iCiNG tackles the question of how to handle negative emails on your blog.

“How do you deal with hateful comments? For my blog I keep all comments moderated so I get a chance to see what people say on my site. I’m glad I did this because I got a rather rude comment mainly saying I have poor grammar for an English major. Oh and that I’m ‘pretty down on the world’. I tracked the ip address and realized it’s someone from my area! How awkward.”

Negative comments are a funny thing. I’ve noticed that on iCiNG, typically the rude comments come from someone who’s never commented before. This tells you something about them — namely, that they never contribute anything positive & are really only interested in pointing out a flaw or perceived problem. With these people, I say, have no mercy! Delete their comment & if what they’ve said is really nasty, just ban them. You don’t need the strife!

The way I see it, having a blog is like giving birth or doing a new piece of art every day. People don’t realise how much work goes into them — how much we love them, sweat & toil over them, & analyse everything about them. So when someone swings by & tries to take a shot at you, it’s kind of like them urinating all over your new-born, or slashing at your painting. It’s rude & vulgar, & not to be tolerated. They can say what they like, but not on your site. If they want to spew vitriol, they can do it somewhere else. I mean, would you invite someone like that into your house? To my mind, it’s exactly the same thing.

Another thing to keep in mind is not to feed the trolls! When someone comes by & tells you your blog sucks, you suck, your dog sucks & man, has anyone ever told you you suck?, don’t take the bait! Most of the time, these are just bitter people looking for a fight. It’s just like with bullies in school — all they want is a reaction. So don’t give it to them. There is nothing more infuriating than going out of your way to annoy someone & getting no response. They will fume like mad, & might have another go, but then they will go away. The game gets old. & you can do a little celebratory dance in your living room.

I guess what happens is that people’s egos get in the way, so we feel like we have to defend ourselves, or make the troll look stupid, or something like that. How many of you just love to have the last word? Yeah, I see a few bashful hands raised in the back! The thing is, having to have the last word just creates drama. If your life is boring & you love turmoil, then go ahead, be my guest. Have a flame war with a 14 year old kid in Hoboken. Enjoy! But mostly, it’s a waste of time & energy, & detracts from what you’re trying to do with your blog. (Plus, if your name is attached to your site, or you want to turn it into a business some day, it’s about the most unprofessional thing you can do.)

But it’s not all trolls & hormonal teenagers. Sometimes a long-standing reader will take a turn for the worst. Someone who was initially supportive & friendly might start leaving more & more negative comments, or being downright angry at other members of your community. When this happens, it can be tempting to be intolerant; to be negative in return & slam the door — but it’s not always the right thing to do. I have had this happen to me a few times, & after the initial confusion & annoyance, I start to feel more compassionate.

A Good Rule of Thumb

A good rule of thumb is that nasty or negative comments are never about you or what you’ve written, they are always about the person who wrote them. (Even if people disagree with what you’ve said, most of them can do it in a sane & respectful fashion.) So, when one of my regular commenters starts to go down a less happy path, I take notice.

I’ve written a few emails that go like this.

“Hi, cutie!

I hope everything’s okay with you. I noticed that your most recent comments have sounded a bit negative, & I wanted to check that you’re alright. Let me know if you’d ever like to talk, or anything like that.

Big kisses,
Gala.”

Want to know what happens? Every time I do it, I get an email back that includes the following pieces of information.

1) They are amazed I emailed them, & incredibly grateful.
2) They’re sorry for their negative comments & start leaving happier, more positive messages.
3) Their negative comments were a symptom of their mood. They have been feeling absolutely, mind-blowingly miserable — often my email arrives as they’re bawling their eyes out — & don’t know who to talk to or what to do about it.

Making kind, compassionate contact is 100% worth doing. There is always something more going on than you might initially think.

Sending a sweet email where you treat them as your friend, not just an anonymous reader, works absolute wonders — & helps people feel less alone. Might be something to try!

Take-home points:
* Your blog is like your home. Don’t invite anyone angry to tea!
* Realise that comments are always about the person who left them, & not you. Don’t be tempted to take things personally.
* A little care & love goes a long way.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Mike King says:

    Any angry or hate comments I’ve moderated, I have always sent a polite and careful response asking how I could make the site more pleasing to them and 100% of the email addresses I’ve seen have bounced back with no recipient. I hope it stays that way since obviously if someone isn’t even willing to back their comment, then the comment isn’t legitimate.

  2. Everybody is entitled to their opinion.I try to approve every comment on my blog if it is relevant.

  3. Hello Gala,

    I find this post very interesting and I’d like to adapt it in french on my blog. I would put a link toward the original post of your blog.

    Thank you and long live Icing !

    Marco.

  4. yeah.. if they think that you suck is their opinion and everyone have one opinion.

  5. Very good post. I’m not sure about deleting negative comments though. No one likes them but it undermines your blogs credibility if you are too heavy handed with the delete button. In two years there’s only one comment I decided not to post and that was from my cyber stalker. He got bored and went away soon after.

  6. julie says:

    Good post; feel it’s worth remembering – as one IT guru pointed out to me – that however it appears, in reality there are no real ‘authorities’ out there on blogs so in effect bloggers have to enforce their own boundaries with regard to negative comments.

    Also folk who tend to be insensitive in personal contact will come across as even more so on blogs where there are fewer que’s as to how the other person is receiving the information. Plus there is a full spectrum of sensitive to thick skinned bloggers!

    Problogger used the phrase ‘virtually intuitive’
    in knowing how to relate to others on blogs – and not everyone finds this comes naturally. Agree that some people thrive on negative attention and can lose perspective and unwisely displace rage into blogs.

  7. Cathy says:

    Wow, how did you get to be so wise for one so young?
    I haven’t really started my blog yet but I have been gathering info about it. I always wondered what I would do if I got negative comments.Now I know!

  8. Shannon says:

    My feelings have been hurt by a few negative comments left on my blogs, but that’s just because I’m a Pisces and am therefore, by nature, quite hyper-sensitive. I remember the first time I got one, I kept looking at everyone I knew and wondering if it was them. I drove myself absolutely crazy. Now that I’ve been blogging for a few years it doesn’t hit me quite as hard. I just hit the delete button when I moderate my comments.

  9. Hater says:

    Great read Darren.

    Critism can really be a pain, you don’t want to hear it and always disagree with the contents. Good points made.

  10. Ecko says:

    I don’t care about the negative comments on my blog. If I got such a negative, I’ll correct myself (my style of blogging, my language, my description, etc.) and find how they don’t like me. That’s it.

  11. That was one very excellent article – as soon as I saw the title, I knew I was going to like it because I’ve had a couple bouts with negative messages myself.

    It happened out of the blue one day when one of my stories made its way to a small pilot community in another state (I’m a pilot). Suddenly the story spread like wildfire and the negative comments came tumbling in.

    To say I was shocked would be a major understatement! I had never experienced anything of that magnitude before.

    After a few days of thinking it over (whether or not to engage with them), I did everything you mentioned in this article. I deleted every single one of them. In fact, I took it one step further and spammed them out of existence – a harsh reaction, I know, but it was better to let them go and not get bogged down in negative energy.

    I’m happy to say the “scandal’ eventually petered out and it was over.

    Thanks!

    I was shocked to hear nasty comments like “You are a disgrace to aviation,” “You swine!” I mean, WTF?

    Your piece here reminded me that I did the right thing in handling the onrush of negative comments that eventually petered out and I never heard from them again. Thank goodness.

  12. ConsoleHero says:

    Thanks for the article. I really appreciated the idea sending personal messages to your ‘regulars’ if you will. That’s a really nice touch.

    My only problem is that I can’ just leave the negative comments alone or just delete them. I’m not offended by them, I’m just way too sarcastic and working in a comedy club as a youth has warped me :)

    One of my recent favorites was this ditty from a ‘Dan’ ;

    “My only wish is to leave this page and never come back again! Retarded stuff! How could anyone believe it?”

    To which I felt the need to reply;

    “Hey Dan!
    Thanks for your input! Such constructive criticism is very helpful to us as it allows us to further improve our page.
    We will do our best to have less “retarded stuff”, as well as content that people can “believe”.
    Sincerely,
    Tyler”

    See how I kept that positive :P

  13. What a great post, Gala! I had an instance once where a normally friendly commenter, with whom I’d thought I was becoming friends …began to leave negative, critical comments. I had no idea what the deal was – I was a bit shocked, really. Now I know exactly what to do if it should happen again – so thank you!

  14. Snh says:

    This is great post. Yesterday I was thinking on how to deal better with negative comments and what a coincidence, I see your post on that. Thanks!

  15. Chris says:

    I did a jokey video in response to the recent Virgle joke on YouTube. Some of the comments were awful. Rather than delete them I chose to reply with sarcasm. It seemed to do the trick.

    Once you understand that most negative (abusive) comments lack substance then you learn not to worry about them. On the other hand if their point is valid keep it there and post a relevant response. I certainly would not do anything to provoke further worthless comments – like post abusive comments on their site for instance!

    Good article, thanks.

  16. Planet Berry says:

    Never a dull moment with those that want their 15 seconds of fame. Criticism when handled appropriately can benefit everyone. It’s a shame when someone or group goes off just to harm. It happens and we too have the lever to delete. We like to keep everything submitted at Planet Berry live and unedtied but if it harms someone we do take liberty and find the proper disposal grounds.

  17. As poster of a negative comment fairly recently on THIS very blog, I feel suitably chastened!

    There is a fine line though isn’t there.
    If everyone always says nice things to each other, no one gets anywhere. One of my current favourite TV programs is “Doc Martin”; and what I love about the grumpy Doc is his directness, and unwavering tendency to just tell everything like it is. In the world of communication, however, I know that tact is a precious thing.

    In fact my natural tendency IS to be nice to people, so the big shift for me now is realising that posting on a blog is not an anonymous thing to a faceless organisation, but a personal comment to a creative individual.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one Gala. Here’s to ALL of us finding the right balance.

    rL

  18. Jeff McCord says:

    Great article!!!

    I’ve noticed that any time I post a video on YouTube or even a response to a video on YouTube, I always get the 5 to 10 “you’re a f#ggot, queer, I hate f@gs”, etc comments…

    I’m an openly gay man and I’m proud of who I am. But it can be a bit hard, after the 4th or 5th one, to not want to respond in a hateful manner (and I’ve been guilty of that, especially when it’s from some 16 yr old a##hole).

    However, you’re right… the comment is more about the person who wrote it versus the person it’s about. I like that thought.

    So, in summary, I always allow moderated comments on my blogsite, but I never allow them on YouTube. It’s too much.

  19. kraft says:

    I moderate the comments! I don’t loose my time to reply on the negative comment! I simply reject it! Sometimes a person want a reply, a fight (you say)!
    Anyway the life on the english blog it’s much easy! On the romanian blog it’s much worse! I noticed the negative comment come from very young guys and from frustrating people who have problem to understand what they read! When the negative commnent it’s correct no problem, but these type of comments it’s rare!
    Very good article!

  20. Well, sometimes it takes a thick backbone to take some comments. Being that I’ve personally been around the MMO scene for years (have my own massively multiplayer Uber Guild), and that quickly gets you a backbone. A lot of people sling stuff left and right, sometimes it doesn’t seem like they have a target in mind, yet just sling it because “they can”.

    As for my blogs, I usually let flaming happen. Just as long as it’s at least partially constructive.

  21. Nothing wrong with a Flame or two. It is all part of the process of creative communication!

  22. Gillian says:

    I know this post from Gala Darling is about handling those commenters who are REALLY rude in their negative comments, but I’d like to round out the discussion to acknowledge those overly-sensitive bloggers who get edgy at any kind of comment that is less than gushy adulation.

    I no longer try to give any kind of feedback that is less than a rave review. Even courteous and constructive criticism can result in tetchiness from these delicate creatures. I attribute this partly to cultural differences – many Americans seem very gushy, while Australians are much more direct. What I (an Aussie) perceive as respectful and to the point, Americans can perceive as harsh and negative.

    I’m inclined to leave these sensitive bloggers to enjoy the warmth of their cheer squad.

    Nice work Gala…

  23. Mr. D says:

    I can really relate to what you’ve written in this post. Lately, there’s a reader on the blog I write articles for, accusing me of making stuff up. The problem was that, for an article, I used a source which hadn’t done its research thouroughly enough (according to this reader). From that moment on, he was checking everything and started calling other news items lies, which they weren’t. At first, I tried reasoning with him. Now I just ignore him. His tone is starting to mellow out now, but he still only comments on my missteps, rather than giving me both positive and negative feedback.

    The problem is: he’s probably just miserable (as you point out in your article, most of them are), so I shouldn’t have been affected too much by his negativity. But it’s hard to not let it get to you. Although I’m not the owner of the blog, my articles are my personal work.

    Before this happened, we had a trend towards negativity on the weblog. This eventually stopped when the owner of the blog wrote an article, saying that reactions like that were unneccesary and uncalled for. The outcome of that helped, but I must admit that I think it’s too much credit for all the negative people on the blog. So I would rather reccommend your strategy:)

    Keep up the good work!

  24. Niall Devitt says:

    Great post and super advice for a newbie blogger like me. I think that comments that criticise are fine as long as they are constructive, a healthy debate adds to the overall blog value in my opinion but nasty stuff, well that’s not worth even worrying about.

  25. Ivy says:

    Gala is an AMAZING woman, and I wish I read this a couple days ago when I ran into a negative reader. These are such wise words that deal with the negativity in a gentle way. 10 points, Gala! xx

  26. Pentad says:

    Great post. Yes, our blogs feel like our homes! Don’t feed the trolls is a good one. Another point is that everyone has differing opinions. I just try to think of it as they are expressing their freedom of thought.

  27. Marc says:

    That’s the trouble with being a sensitive, feeling creature, those barbs can really sting ya!

  28. Jenn says:

    I actually know who my troll is– even though he uses a face email. I didn’t at first, but by all the evidence it is a former co-worker who was fired and has now taken it upon himself to attack everyone in the company online in one way or another.

    He knows where I live. I reported it to the police but because he has not made a physical threat there is not much they can do. I circulated a photo of him in my neighborhood…. A human resources expert that our company brought in seems to think the culprit is passive aggressive and won’t cross the line, will eventually get bored– or get a job — and move on. As long as we don’t respond.

    It is wearing on a person to get this kind of consistent barrage of negativity. And for a creative person like myself, it makes me feel constrained- like I can’t express myself. When the HR consultant suggested not blogging for a while, I said that’s like telling me not to breathe. I hate that someone else can affect me that way.

    I blocked his IP address from seeing my website. Actually I redirected him to a Job Search page on Yahoo jobs. I couldn’t help poking the tiger a bit.

    Given the choice to do it again, I would still block his IP address but refrain from the redirect. He has moved on, but to my Flickr account and to my friends’ blogs.

    Also, note that blogger doesn’t track the IP address of the commenter. WordPress does. Not sure about other content management tools. I actually switched my blog so that I could better document these comments.

  29. Mike Smith says:

    Hi I like your comments on handling the negitive you come across as a nice person
    Thanks

  30. Jen says:

    My troll is a former friend’s new “best pal.” She’s taken to calling me a c*nt and telling me to get over myself [as well as to stop talking about her - which I have not done]. The whole thing really just puzzles and hurts me because I feel like I’ve lost my friend because of this negative hate monger.

    Anyway, wanted to thank you for this blog/article. You have a great way of speaking and just a nice demeanor. Your kindness comes through in your words and you seem like a SANE and decent person.

    Thought I would spread a little love and try to get through my day of hatred and noxious, loathing words. Thank you!

  31. Jen if you are called a C*nt why not act like a C*nt!

    Make a Fan site for your Troll friend! Troll the Troll. LOL

    Just remember it is a game, and do not become abusive, but use irony!

    I call it Parody site!

    Maybe the Troll will get the hint and move on.

  32. Trish Korman says:

    Best advice I’ve heard. Good thinking Gala.

  33. V says:

    Great! Good advice Gala. Have tried writing the “Sweet” email to a freind of mine. Waiting now to see if I get a good response.

  34. Rash says:

    First of all, the comparison between a pissing on a newborn and writing a negative review on a blog is weak, the thought behind comparisons is that they should be somewhat equal and give perspective.

    Secondly, you have to look at the source of traffic to see where the first-time-commenter comes from. Digg, SU and other social media networks generate a lot of traffic, however this traffic doesn’t last more than 2 or 3 pageviews, therefore a lot of people who comment on your blog aren’t familiar with it, and are commenting from a first-read perspective.

    Item no. 3: This is just my opinion so feel free to disregard it, but saying “have no mercy! Delete their comment” just because it’s a negative comment is bullshit. Why bother having a comment form at all, if it’s just gonna be biased bullshit pandering to the authors fragile ego? Name it a kiss-ass-board and word-filter every word you don’t like to something you do like, that way you truly will have it your way. Oh, and i don’t believe in asking people for their opinion and censuring them just because it doesn’t match the authors.

    I don’t know if this comment is going to be posted, because it can be seen as negative and I am a first-time reader sent from a social networking site and will be viewed upon as an outsider looking to troll, but I thought I might as well write some of this stuff down.

    Oh finally, this has nothing to do about content and is kind of a silly thing really, but putting the comment form above the comments might be a good idea. If an article gets a few dozens comments the form gets buried under a heap of text. Just a usability thought.

  35. Matthew says:

    Wow. I really needed that little lesson. Thank you! I agree with the idea that putting yourself out there is like making art every day 24-7. I get a lot of nice comments, but then there are those ones that come from planet x and really have the potential to mess you up.
    I just Googled “Dealing with negative comments” and here you are to the rescue! p.s. I just send a sweet comment to one of my detractors… dance in the living room to follow!
    Thanks again.
    Matthew

  36. Alex says:

    To Rash;

    As it has been stated, there is a difference between negative comments like yours, and one that simply says “your post is sh~~, you suck” or somewhere along that line. While you are speaking your mind, the latter is just trying to troll.

    I personally would allow negative constructive comments, like yours, but would not hesitate to delete the pointless ones. While I admit that these flaming comments do hurt me, the main reason why I choose to delete them is because I want to discourage trolling. Leaving the comments alone does nothing to stop them from doing what they do.

  37. Rash says:

    Back to Alex;

    First of all, thank you for responding to my comment, I was beginning to think that those five cleverly crafted, well-worded and somewhat lengthy paragraphs were lost on the Internet.

    To the point: I agree with your whole “note the difference between trolling and arguing” theme, however, when it’s left to a person that is emotionally invested and has the power to tilt the playing field by blocking or deleting comments, it’s a bit too easy for it to become biased censuring.

    I’m not saying abandon comment-monitoring all together, I’m all for deleting, let’s say, racist comments without an afterthought, however, I do actually believe that deleting a comment that says “this article was shit, you suck!” is, lacking a better word, wrong. Granted, the “you suck” argument isn’t very articulate and would be defined as trolling, however it does comment on the content and, according to me, should not be deleted.

  38. Alex says:

    To Rash:

    Thanks for replying too. Well, I admit that I can’t be 100% objective in determining whether a post is considered trolling or just a comment, but I feel that ultimately it is still my own page and I guess I have the right to moderate whichever comments that I would want in my page, yes, even if it does impinge on freedom of speech. Just my own opinion :)

    For me, I’ve a blog that no one visits, so no trouble there, but I do post some videos on youtube. I don’t read all comments but if I do get some that I don’t like I may delete them; it’s to my pleasure to decide which will be deleted – but I have only deleted 2 so far, so I guess I”m still rather tolerant. I think comments like “I don’t like it”, or “it’s really bad” are ok, even if they don’t really come under the definition of really constructive negative comments. “That is the most atrocious cr!p i’ve ever seen!” would be pushing the boundaries.

    Some time back I’ve received one that said “you suck, that is really sh~t”. I admitted that I was tempted to delete the comment immediately after seeing that, and upon viewing his other comments in other websites, that go something like “you f#gg##! b****! ****! *****!! **** ** ****! *** *** **** **** *****!!! .. hope you are run over by a bus in traffic.”, I became quite sure he’s a troll, or at best an extremely unpleasant person, so I deleted the comment. Hence, for me, politeness and, more importantly, intent also play a part in whether I should leave a comment or not. But of course, it’s only just my opinion, and I’m mostly wrong. :)

  39. Rash says:

    Can this be happening, civilized discourse on the internet?

    Well, where were we? There really isn’t much left to say, as we seem to agree on the basics of it; “Deleting comments is a touchy subject because it’s hard for the person in power to remain neutral, however to combat trolls some sort of moderation is needed”..

    Interesting notion: while writing this a thought lightbulbed up; I think we might have discovered the conversation that led to that +/- rating system that hides comments based on their rating. That will let the masses decide what is and is not worth a read. It will automagically fight trolls by making it easy for people to burry the comment, and it will still give the author/creator the power to delete a comment, however render that function near obsolete, since it’s more gratifying to see a negative review scorn than forgotten.

  40. Hey Gala ! Just wanted to drop in a “thank you” for this Post. This has helped me right now in a Situation !

  41. Even a reader who is perfectly satisfied with your blog, will sometimes misinterprep, disagree and leave a negative comment and may even leave you for a competitor who offers a more attractive deal. That thought may disturb your sleep, because most bloggers, even good ones, do no more than satisfy their clients.

    Satisfaction isn’t enough. Like sales, a genuinely loyal reader is one who values something about your blog so highly that he or she stops shopping for better deals. If you have any readers/customers like that, the overwhelming likelihood is that the thing they treasure so highly is the relationship.

    ‘Loyalty’ implies a relationship. Who must build it? You, the blogger.

    How can bloggers become so valuable that their readers turn a deaf ear to competitors? I believe there are three roles that every successful blogger must play.

    Orchestrator: This role has to do with leveraging resources and coordinating activities in ways that demonstrate how the blogger’s relationships and his or her company’s resources can provide valuable solutions to the reader. For instance, the blogger might bring in a technical expert to help a reader think through a problem.

    Consultant: Like a doctor diagnosing an illness, the blogger asks questions-that effectively uncover the reader’s most important problems. Then the blogger recommends solutions specifically targeted to those concerns.

    Relationship Builder: The consultant role is essentially reactive. As a relationship builder, the blogger moves beyond “asking where it hurts.” The blogger takes an active interest in helping the reader improve, becoming a trusted and valued partner in the reader’s life or business. In the relationship-builder role, the blogger serves a universal need that does not go away—the reader’s need to keep getting better at what they do.

    Another term for relationship builder is loyalty builder. Relatively few are able to shine in this most advanced role without additional guidance and practice. Those who do become black-belts—masters of loyalty. To their readers and/or their employers, such masters are worth their weight-in-gold.

  42. Robby G says:

    Darren, thanks a lot for emailing me this link. Amazing stuff here. Very good advice. I like how Gala explains that you’ve actually slaved over your blog and it’s like your new born or your house, because I noticed the person that’s been talking shite on my blog doesn’t have a blog of his own and just thinks it’s alright to come and bash mine. Why even read my content if he’s gonna bash it, know what I mean?
    Anywho, I like the whole emailing the person idea. That’s like taking the troll to the side and talking to them in person. They usually back off and see that you’re taking it personal, yet being nice about it….for now.

  43. wanazle says:

    Nasty comments. In my guestbook 10 yrs ago. Comments are kind of feedback. Be it nasty or great comments digest it.