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The Day I Was Flamed At My Blog (And 7 Steps To Handle Flames With Grace)

A Guest Post by Celestine Chua from The Personal Excellence Blog.

It’s been over a year since I started The Personal Excellence Blog. As my blog grew, I received many feedback, many of which are positive. Occasionally I get negative feedback which I do my best to learn from. Flames are a rare occurrence and even then, they are usually short and unsubstantial.

That changed 3 weeks ago, when I received a flame the length of an essay. It was a reply to my latest 5-part article series on moving on from relationships, sharing my story of how I moved on from a heartbreak and how others can do the same too.

The anonymous commenter described my series as “incredibly self-centered and biased”. She had somehow concluded from the articles that I was “ridiculous”, “delusional”, was pursuing personal development with “superficiality”, among other points.

After reading it, I was filled with bewilderment. The comment bordered more as an attack than constructive criticism.

How I Handled the Flame & Why You Shouldn’t Act Like I Did

Even though the comment wasn’t entirely constructive, I approved it as I wanted to be transparent with the different comments my blog was getting. I thought there were interesting points worth sharing. Some readers replied. One reader wrote a comment which I thought was pretty constructive.

To be honest, at this stage I didn’t feel negative or angry at the flamer. Overall, I thought most of her points were irrelevant, some were out of the line, a couple were interesting and worth thinking more deeply about, but nothing that would make me angry.

My sentiments quickly changed when the flamer posted a 2nd comment – this time, a curt reply to one of my readers. I got annoyed. What was that for? It was okay if she wanted to flame me for whatever reasons, but to extend it to a reader who was trying to be constructive?

Ticked off, I replied to the flamer with a reply that started off neutral but ended off quite defensive and pissed. I remember it was 3am when I was writing the reply to the flamer, and I had an interview scheduled for 4:30am (I live in Singapore, whereas the interviewer was 13 hours ahead). It didn’t help that I had a particularly hectic week then. Earlier in the week, I slept only a total of 5 hours over 4 days, preparing for a workshop at my personal excellence school. I was not in my best state of mind. This was where things went wrong.

Repercussions

I thought that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t. The flamer replied with a third comment that was the length of an essay. It was equally aggressive as her first comment, if not more.

On top of that, a lurking reader now joined in the discussion. She questioned my defensiveness in my reply and my approach in handling criticisms. Not only that, she also raised questions separate from the article and the flames. She asked about my intentions behind my endeavor and what I was trying to achieve. She also questioned the validity of my credentials and achievements in my About section.

To be honest with you, I felt quite depressed after reading the comment. Fighting off flames was one, but to have a reader doubt my intentions and credibility was like questioning the very values I stood for. One of my values is authenticity (truth) and I’ve always took pride in being upfront in all my communications. Many things I do at my blog are for my readers and it was upsetting to be questioned about my intentions.

In retrospect, it was more of all the different real life and online events that had culminated together and weighed me down, rather than just the comment itself. As her concerns were more specific to her rather than general reader concerns, I wanted to email her directly. However, she didn’t leave her real email. I thought whether to ignore the comment or reply.

In the end, I thought if this reader has this concern, it’s possible there would be others with similar thoughts. I chose to reply and take the opportunity to remedy the situation.

Remedying the situation

Since the flamer’s follow-up reply had the same hostile tone and aggression, I did not approve it. It was clear she was not here to constructively discuss, so I disengaged from further discussion.

With regards to the reader, I thought over my reply to the flamer and recognized it was indeed defensive. I wrote a long follow-up reply to the reader’s comment, also addressed it to my readers. In my comment,

  • I acknowledged I was harsh with the flamer and apologized to those who may have been taken aback by it. I explained the reason for my defensiveness so others could understand why I acted the way I did.
  • I wrote detailed responses to the reader’s concerns, regarding my intentions behind my endeavor.
  • I provided detailed proof for my credentials and achievements.
  • In the whole reply, I wrote it with heartfelt intentions, with the hope that it would be received in the same manner.

After writing this, I felt lighter, like a burden was lifted off me. While before I was wondering whether to reply or not, after writing it I immediately felt it was the right decision. Explaining the situation earnestly helped to clear the air and any possible concerns lurking in readers’ minds. Later on, I received positive feedback from my readers later for the reply.

From this episode, I’ve learned 7 key steps on how to handle flamers which I want to share with you. These will be critical in your blogging journey, especially if you run a prominent blog or if you plan to really grow your blog :

7 Key Steps To Handle Flamers With Grace

1. Keep your cool

When you receive a flame, you’re probably itching to fire up and give the flamer a good lashing out. While you might not think twice about being defensive elsewhere, the situation is different here since you are the blog owner. People are going to look towards you to conduct yourself appropriately and in a manner consistent with how you normally present yourself at your blog.

Even though your readers and you have not met in person before, many of them form mental images of you and conclude they know you based on what you share. You probably have good reasons to be defensive, but they wouldn’t know since they don’t know the complete picture.

For example, how would you feel if the normally composed Darren lashes out violently to a flamer at Problogger? You’d be thinking “What happened to Darren?! Is this the Darren I know?” This was what happened at my blog. I am normally calm, reflective, positive and upbeat, but in my reply to the flamer, I was angry and defensive. This probably surprised some readers.

Furthermore, defensiveness prevents you from thinking coherently. You might end up saying things or doing things you regret later on, like what happened in my case. Not only that, you will be trapped in the defensive stance as you keep defending yourself from whoever replies. Defensiveness is like a trap that locks you in further every step of the way.

Be the bigger person and keep your cool. Go air your head if you feel you are bogged down by this. Take a walk, do some other work, watch a movie and come back to it later. You need to be clear headed to proceed to the next step.

2. Assess the flame objectively

Whatever the flame is, it didn’t erupt out of nowhere. Take an objective stance as you read the flame. Is there any nugget of truth behind what was written? Any points worth noting? Anything worth looking into?

For every one person who has such concerns, it’s possible there are more out there. The flamer may not have presented himself/herself appropriately, but don’t let that fault the message he/she is trying to convey. Read the flame and cross examine yourself. I did that with the flame I received and took away some learning points. In comparison, if I kept thinking this person was just out to get me, I wouldn’t be able to take away anything.

One tip that helps me maintain objectivity is to get opinions from friends. More heads is always better than one. Since they are your friends, they might be inclined to react in your favor, so let them know that you want to improve and you just want their honest, objective opinions.

Some questions you can ask:

  • Is this person being unreasonable?
  • What do you think is his/her concern?
  • Is there any validity behind the comment?

3. Decide if you want to deal with the flame

It’s up to you to decide how you want to handle this. I’m open to different views and opinions, hence I approved the 1st flame. If you find there are notable points in the flamer’s comment and the flamer isn’t being too out of the line, I recommend to share with your readers. It’s always good to hear an alternate point of view. People prefer blogs over traditional news channels because the former offers a fresh perspective while the latter is usually censored and one sided. You don’t want to turn your blog into a censored information stream.

4. Reply fairly if you decide to approve the flame

As I was writing this guest post, I asked my readers on my Twitter and Facebook to share how they would respond to flames, and had many interesting replies. Some of them are:

Make it clear that everyone’s opinions will be heard, but anger and hate will be disallowed. – Ravi

Your blog is your domain. Treat it like it’s yours. Be polite in your response to the flame, but be stern. Show other commenters that you can keep your cool under pressure, but do not back down from your position. Agree to disagree, and move on to the next comment. If flaming by the same person persists, politely ask him to cease. If not, ban him/her from commenting. They’ve been warned :) – John

Learn from the good, discard the offensive, be respectful to all. – Lionel

If you decide to approve the flame, your readers may respond to it, but ultimately everyone will look towards you to give your stand. The following will help in your reply:

  • Lay down commenting guidelines. Generally: (1) While everyone is encouraged to share his/her opinion, please do so with civility. Anger, hate and attacks towards anyone will not tolerated. (2) Any further behavior like this will not be entertained.
  • Be assertive. You are the blog owner and your readers will look to you for direction on what to do.
  • Don’t fan the flames. Fanning the flames means to react defensively or attack back. Like I mentioned in Step 1, keep your cool. Flamers thrive in negativity and anger, so you are only helping the flames to grow into a fire. As you have seen from my example, my defensiveness resulted in another flame being thrown back. There’s no end to it when you fight fire with fire.
  • Be emotionally generous with the flamer. To be emotionally generous means to be generous with your love and kindness. When I was young, I used to be selfish and judgmental. I was emotionally stingy and honestly it was an ugly persona which I wasn’t proud of. The flamer may have been rude and it’d be the easier way to react to him/her rudely, but it’s more rewarding to react in kindness. One of my favorite quotes is from Peaceful Warrior – ìThe people who are the hardest to love are the ones who need it the most.î. You’ve experienced how nasty it is to be on the receiving end of an assault. Don’t act in the same way towards him/her.
  • Address the flamer’s concerns. Be earnest in addressing the flamer’s concerns. If there are areas where you are wrong, be ready to own up. (next step).

Related articles on responding to criticisms:

5. Be open to possibility that you can be wrong too

We can’t always be right all the time. And you know what? It’s entirely okay. It is through our wrong actions that we learn.

If you have indeed made a mistake, own up. If your readers are truly supportive of you, they will be more than willing to forgive you. Not only that, it will also help you build your credibility. I believe the real reason why your readers regularly read your blog isn’t because you are a know-it-all in your niche. They come to your blog because they see you as a real person who is sincere with valuable thoughts to share. This is the same for my blog readers.

6. If the same behavior continues, disengage and drop the person

If the flamer at your blog does not change his/her tone, draw the line and cut him/her off (appropriately). Your blog is a medium for your readers too, so you have a responsibility to maintain a positive reading experience. They don’t want to be surfing your blog and reading bitter spats that’s just between 2 to 3 people. It’s not their business and you shouldn’t make it their business.

If you want to resolve the flamer’s issues but you don’t think it’s reflective of general reader concerns, take it offline. Ask for him/her to email you, where both of you can talk it out. If he/she doesn’t email you, then it’s probably not worth your time to bother.

7. Learn and improve from this experience

There is always something to learn, something to take away from every experience. I had learned many things from this experience, some of which I had shared with you guys through this article.

For example:

  • I learned defensiveness isn’t a solution and it will only fan the flames. (Step #1) Fanning the flames = Fire that gets out of hand.
  • I also learned it’s okay to be wrong and it’s more important to own up if you are indeed wrong than insist on your stance. (Step #5)
  • While there was no resolution between the flamer and I, I did note down several points from her comments which might reflect blind spots about myself. These are areas I’ll look into further as I continue writing at my blog.

Getting Flames Has Its Positive Sides

This might seem counter-intuitive, but at the end of the day, this experience helped me realize receiving flames has its positive sides.

1. You and your blog have achieved a certain mark

If you are just running a small blog with a readership of 2 a day (of you and your mom/dad), chances are no one is going to flame you. People aren’t going to bother to reading and criticize you with long messages. It’s only when your blog grows to a certain size when flames start coming in. Clearly, flamers regard your blog and you in some manner, and that’s why they make the effort to flame you.

Thus, as your blog grows bigger and bigger, you will receive more flames. As my blog grew in the past year, I have gotten more negative criticisms which I see as a positive sign. That’s because it means (1) my blog is growing and reaching out to more people and (2) these criticisms help me to improve. I’m prepared for more negative criticisms and more flames as I grow my blog. It’s part and parcel of growth.

2. It lets you know the readers who care

If you have readers who care for you, they will step up to defend you. This was what happened for me. After I approved the comment, several readers stepped in to defend me. I didn’t know some of them, so it was definitely very encouraging and heartwarming to witness their support. I also received more encouragement messages via email and private messages, which made me feel there were people out there who really cared for me.

3. Shows you your blind spots

Blind spots are parts of us which we are unaware of. All of us, no matter whether we are a problogger or a new blogger, have our own blind spots. These blind spots prevent us from growing our blog to the next level.

While flames may not be pleasant to receive, they give you a perspective different from the one you have been using. Even the inability to deal with the flames appropriately reveals your blind spots. This recent experience dealing with this flame has helped me uncover more blind spots which will be important in my growth.

4. How you reply can help you win trust among your readers

If you reply the flame in a graceful and constructive manner, it will help you win trust among your readers. This helps to establish stronger credibility. My 1st reply to the flamer wasn’t one I was proud of, but I worked to address it through a follow-up reply, where I explained my situation earnestly to my readers. My readers followed up with supportive messages and it was great to get the affirmation on their support.

Final Words

At the end of the day, everyone will have different opinions. You can account for them as much as possible, but if someone chooses to interpret what you have written in a different manner, it is that person’s choice. You don’t have a choice over whether people want to flame you or not, but you do have a choice over is how you react and what you learn from the situation. The key is to react appropriately and fairly (Steps 1-6) and get the maximum learning out of the situation (Step 7).

Check out my other guest post at Problogger How To Get Featured By The Press (Repeatedly) Even If Your Blog Is New, which shares how you can get your blog featured by in press and media.

Celes writes at The Personal Excellence Blog, where she shares her personal stories and insights on how to live your best life. Some of her top reader favorites are 101 Things To Do Before You Die and Are You Sleepwalking Your Life Away?. Add her on Twitter @celestinechua.

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. I had a similar incident when a reader claimed that my writing basically didn’t appeal to them.

    Basically, I apologized for the inconvenience and asked them what they would like me to write about.

    If at all possible, it is nice to turn the negative complaint into positive help.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. OzSoapbox says:

    Due to the nature of my blog OzSoapbox I get quite a lot of flames directed at myself, mostly from people disagreeing with my opinions.

    I say if you’re writing passionately enough to get people flaming you then you should be able to fire back. Of course if the conversation drops below a constructive standard then by all means send the replies to the trash.

    I permit all flames so long as they contribute something to the discussion, random insult comments without any fabric are simply trashed.

    I don’t particularly like the world flame. Just because someone disagrees with you in a direct manner doesn’t mean they are flaming you. If you can’t handle criticism as a publisher without going into comment moderation nanny mode then maybe something else might be better suited to you.

    Like knitting…

  3. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Celestine,

    This post is very informative. Thanks for sharing it!

    I agree that your domain is your house. Anyone walking into your house needs to respect your home. I learn quite a bit from this.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  4. I don’t allow flaming at my blog. Respectful discussion, yes. Varying viewpoints, yes.

    Rudeness? Forget about it. My site is not a democracy – my site is a home where I’ll happily let you visit and chat with you until you decide to be nasty. I wouldn’t tolerate that in real life, nor will I accept it online.

    I think you handled things quite well. It must have been a very character-building experience….

  5. Jackie Lee says:

    This is an excellent post. I had quite a few takeaways. I haven’t had a huge flamer like that on my blog ~ however, I have gotten some emails ~ not this bad, but enough to make me defensive. I’m really going to take some time to look back over those situations and my reactions and make a plan for how I will handle them in the future. I think part of a defensive response is being caught off guard and not really knowing what to do. If you’ve got a plan in mind ~ it will be easier to stay calm and do the great things you’ve outlined in this post.

  6. thanks so much for sharing your story (and advice) with us. i had a similar situation happen on my blog awhile back, and i prolly didn’t handle it as appropriately as i should have. i wrote a post about something, and someone commented (unrelated to the post), asking how i think it’s OK for me to give advice on writing and getting published when i’m not published yet.

    this comment really pissed me off for a few reasons 1) her comment had nothing to do with the post 2) it wasn’t constructive in anyway and 3) she was commenting on something that was untrue. i don’t write about getting published. i write about helping writers get started writing.

    so long story short, i published the comment as a way of showing my transparency and then i responded. apparently what i wrote was too “defensive sounding” and she came back and started writing that i need to spell check and go back to school to learn grammar, etc.

    that’s when i decided to delete the comment and mark her as a “spammer.” maybe that’s a bit harsh, but i try to create a healthy, positive environment on my blog, and she was doing nothing but adding unnecessary negativity.

    next time that happens, i’ll try some of the tips you recommended here!

  7. Walt says:

    When the blog I work on receives a flame comment waiting in moderation, we (multi-author blog) make sure that the unhappy commenter isn’t getting personal, then approve it. Criticism is expected every now and again, but on occasion some people do cross the line and make the comment more about why they don’t like you as opposed to the content.

    One of the problems we have faced is that there is a very dedicated following that sometimes feels the need to come to our aid when such a comment arrives. While we greatly appreciate the dedication, it can sometimes get a little over-the-top and only make the situation worse. We certainly don’t want people leaving defensive comments that may scare of potential new readers.

    When a situation like that arises, we try to quickly cool things down before they get out of hand (at which case you have a whole new can of worms to deal with).

    Interesting article, thanks

  8. Srinivas Rao says:

    This is very timely as I got some flaming comments about my podcast just yesterday. The criticism was valid and one that I had received in the earlier days of my podcast and it seemed like the person had really only listened to one interview I had done. But, I think every point you’ve made here really resonates with what I was feeling. It’s often easy to take something a flamer says a personal attack. What blows my mind sometimes about flamers is that they don’t make it possible for themselves to be found. Often these people are just angry and seem to be interested in controversy. To your point though, if you’re popular enough that somebody is criticizing you, then you are doing something seriously right. When you remain cool, then you really have the chance to benefit from the experience.

  9. I haven’t had serious flamers yet. Perhaps this could be (like you said) because my blogs haven’t ‘made it’ yet?
    This is a very helpful post. It’s good to think about these things *before* they happen, and you’ve encouraged me to do so.
    I didn’t see the post in question, but I’ve run a ‘how to get over’ column for a long time and so far haven’t had any negative responses. It’s strange that someone wants to rage about a topic so innocent.

  10. Gayle Pescud says:

    It sucks, but what a story and look at that magnificent post. Thank you for writing it.

    I agree with Barbara, above, on this one. I get some thinly veiled ill intended comments and it’s my blog and hard work so trash they go. Funny how they’re anonymous and not with a name. I get worse by email. It surprised me but then I learned at blogs like this that it was common place. This helps us know we’re not alone and that we just have to hold our heads up, smile, take a breath, and sometimes hit delete. It’s ok.

  11. Mitch says:

    One more step, if I may; never, and I mean “NEVER”, approve anonymous comments. If someone doesn’t give me a name I can use and a valid email address, the comment doesn’t go up, or doesn’t stay up if the spam filter didn’t catch it. If people feel they’re big enough to write something like that, they need to be adult enough to own up to who they are.

    As Barbara said, it’s not a democracy; you paid for that, if not with money with sweat equity. Don’t put up with that kind of stuff.

  12. Constructive criticsim is one thing; an attack is quite another.

    I’ve only rejected two comments during the 500+ article run of my web magazine. The commenter resorted to name calling, which isn’t going to fly …

  13. …and of course #8 …just hit the delete key. People can be morons sometimes with the joy of anonymity that the web brings. 100% transparency is never worth losing a night of sleep because another person hates their own life.

    I say move on and skip the people that have nothing constructive to add.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  14. I really enjoyed reading this post. In my 15 year online career, I have been flamed many times and now I am numb to it. You really don’t know where that person’s head is and you might be doing them a favor if you don’t approve their comment. Often these things turn into flame wars which are not productive for any kind of online forum or blog.

  15. Sheri says:

    Wow, this is exactly what I needed to read right now! My quiet little blog exploded recently, and I’ve had nasty comments for the first time. I’ve literally lost sleep over it, because it wasn’t my intent to annoy anyone. Your suggestions are excellent, and I’m so glad I forced myself to not respond to any comments immediately, but took time to think it over.

    I agree that you should address concerns, and I have tried to do that. But I also believe that there will be some commenters who only want to be nasty,and addressing them will only fuel their fire. I don’t want to ban or delete comments, but I don’t see any reason to let the trash talk continue by responding to it.

    I’m still trying to figure out the best way to handle these situations as they come up, so thank you for the great advice.

  16. Very nice post; thanks for being open about your experience and how you would handle it the second time around.

    I agree with Barbara! My blog is a no flame zone. All it will do is spark drama, which is something no one really needs (even if they are attracted to it!)

    Cheers,
    Tia

  17. Raul Sim says:

    Oh man, this blog is becoming a community blog! You’re taking the guest posting thing too seriously! Anyway, good post!

  18. Momma Mindy says:

    As gut wrenching as the whole scenario was, it proved effective. Look what valuable insight you added to your life and to ours. I have learned in dealing with “sandpaper” people, they rub you and rub you until you look better. And, it is always about them, not you. There always is some problem/struggle/trial they have not overcome and it overshadows their life. I loved your encouragement to be emotional generous. Thank you for taking some heat so you can fan our flames.

  19. John says:

    Ha ha, Celes, you posted my advice! Thanks so much for sharing :D

    I’m so happy you beat the flamer. Don’t let anyone stand in your way.

    Oh and thanks for having Celes guest post here, Darren. She deserves it :)

  20. I like Lionel’s words — good to live by in general! Lionel Richie??

    And I think dousing flames withe sugar instead of salt will always put the fire out better!

  21. Sheri says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read right now! My quiet little blog recently got the first of several nasty comments. I didn’t know how to respond, but I did force myself to wait awhile before posting a gut reaction.

    I’m still trying to figure out the best way to deal with this situation. I agree that we should respond to concerns, and I do, but I also think there are some people who just want to be nasty, and responding will only fuel their fire.

    Thank you for the helpful suggestions!

  22. This has been quite common occurrence now a days with people getting more social on the web. I can understand your state of mind when sending out those defensive replies. It’s not always easy to control the initial reaction, especially when accused of something we didn’t do. In such situations, I guess shutting down the computer, getting some rest and then looking at the reply with fresh mind next day is the best way to cool off.

    Thanks for the tips! Keep it up.

  23. Tyler Davis says:

    I think a lot of us would be happy with flamers as long as they used our keywords :) Getting flamers, IMHO means you made it, if people care enough about your blog to flame you that means they view you as a big target. Whereas nice comments means they might be taking pity on you or might be trying to get traffic.

  24. Tim Baran says:

    Terrific post. Appreciate your openness and honesty in sharing – the very definition of authenticity.

    I love the positive spin (correctly so) of recognizing that an increase in criticism means you’re reaching a broader audience. It also means your writing is substantive and challenging.

    I’ll def remember this lesson :-)

  25. Only one real flamer. We went back and forth for some time. In the end he commented something like “you kept sending detailed replies – no one else would have done that.”

    The flamer was sincere in his beliefs. Once he realized I was trying to understand, he started to pay attention to what I was saying in return.

    I’ve found this works in the business environment too. I’ve used the technique, for example, of summarizing the negative arguments back to the group. The advocates of the negative arguments are often surprised by the candor and understanding. Often they are then more willing to listen.

    Works well when there are sincere differences of opinion. Not so much when some folks just need to attack (not as rare as an occurrence as one would wish).

  26. Your 90 days closure on comments is a cool idea… I would love to read a post on a step by step guide on producing an e-book. Not so much the content but how you produce the PDF and how to set it up to take payments for each sale.

    Let me know if you make this post Darren buddy!, tweet me @asittingduck :]

    David Edwards

  27. rebecca says:

    Always a pleasure to read your posts, even if it is about flaming. Unfortunate that you had to go through this, but life lessons for everyone on how to handle the less than professional persons. Thanks for posting.

  28. Jarret says:

    First, I completely disagree with every single point made in this entire post!!!

    Hahah, just kidding. :)

    Seriously, having a flame could be considered a good thing as Tyler mentions. I would take a few flame comments over the typical comment spam that comprises 99.9% of my blog’s comments.

    I know of one blogger that has a regular comment poster who often has a dissenting opinion. It’s actually pretty useful to create discussion.

    I know that the blogger has to be careful since this individual occasionally crosses the line. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword in that regards. Overall, some flame posters can be very useful for stimulating blog discussion if their comments are kept respectful.

  29. It seems there are some folks who nothing would satisfy their needs. I usually recommend to stay away from naysayers and whiners – they could do more harm than good to your blog and peace of mind.

  30. Phillip Gibb says:

    My first thought at being flamed would be: yayy, someone made an intellectual and time investment which is a million times better than being ignored.

  31. john.b says:

    Wow, this is very human. This has been a silent angst in me. I never said, but this was the thing I could never be prepared for, I thought. I never thought either that it could happen to the likes of you. Thank you for this. The fear is still there, but you just showed us how to deal with it.

  32. JayeL says:

    Thanks, Darren, for meeting this issue head on. I think that you have outlined a great strategy. I do not allow anonymous posters to comment on my blog, because I feel that if they are willing to own their opinions, it has more value to everyone. I also do not reply to comments when I am angry, tired or hungry. If I got a flame, I would wait until the next day at least.

    I would like to know what other people think about not allowing anonymous comments. I do not post names or email, etc, to protect privacy.

  33. Cindy Lavoie says:

    I love your honesty and openness here. The situation you described will, I think, happen to all successful bloggers somewhere along the line. I would like to add just one minor point to your list of Steps to Handle a Flamer. That is, wait a day before you respond. I find that it’s amazing the amount of wisdom and perspective one can gain with some distance and a night of sleep!

  34. Will says:

    #3 decide if you want to deal with the flame… For me the choice is easy, but I may be in the minority. I love engaging nutjobs/weirdoes/assholes in conversation. I almost always will argue with them.

    Am I alone in my desire to do this?

  35. Ms. Freeman says:

    I always choose not to approve rude comments, and if on the rare occasion that I do I bring it to the attention of my readers and they pretty much handle it for me. :)

  36. Logan says:

    Thank you for sharing your post. When I first started my blog, I was trying to decide what my focus was going to be. Was I blogging for a particular purpose? I wrote a blog entry that was political in nature, just talking about the news. When I got a reply about it, I realized I did not want to have a political discussion on my blog.

    Getting a certain kind of reply about a post can really help to focus a blog as well as get under your skin. I think if you are too put off by a flamer, you have to decide if this is a topic you want to talk about. As for me, blogging was something I picked up to be fun, and not to get placed back into the world I am trying to escape.

    Thanks again for the article.

  37. I think your tips are great, and especially the part about keeping your cool. There’s enough fighting in the world, and being “right” is a smug illusion at the end of the day as everyone is valid…

    I get shot down left and right, primarily because of the views that I espouse, and I do so NOT to get a reaction, but because I REALLY believe in what I’m broadcasting come what may. For me, having Sun, Air, Water and Earth watch my back, gives me courage to take it on…(though it dosen’t pay the bills necessarily.) ;)

  38. To all problogger readers here, thank you so much for your feedback and support! It’s overwhelming and very encouraging. I’m really glad sharing this experience has been beneficial for you. It certainly has been a great learning experience for me! :)

    Overall I agree with all on the importance of constructive criticisms (even if negative), but where it borders/moves to the line of flaming, we’ll have to deal with it slightly differently (i.e. the steps in this guest post).

    @Jannie Funster: That’s Lionel, one of my readers :) I was asking my readers on twitter/facebook on their opinions on how to respond to flames as I was writing this problogger guestpost. They often have a lot of great ideas to share.

    @John: Haha, you are here! It was great advice, so naturally I’d want to share it! :)

    @Cindy Lavoie: Totally agree about waiting for a day (or two) before responding. I was covering it more implicitly under point#1 (not being defensive), to give time for our thoughts to be aired out. Sleeping over it indeed helps to give perspective to the situation!

  39. Julius says:

    Explaining to your readers about the flame encounter and deciding if you want to deal with the flame are the two points I enjoyed the most. Sometimes, we encounter a flame that isn’t really worth dealing with. But instead of ignoring it, we can simply acknowledge the sender of the flame and say that we respect his or her opinion. This way of thinking has its own limits though, especially if the sender is persistent.

  40. Trace Mayer says:

    I was chatting with Tim Ferris about this after one conference and we seemed to agree that the threshold for approving a comment should be whether it adds value to the discussion. There is a big difference between a differing opinion and a trolling flame.

    He told me his policy for dealing with flames. Usually, he just trashes them. But if they are particularly vehement like the essay you described then he sends them a personal email response that consists solely of: ;)

    Then he usually gets another essay twice as long which he deletes as soon as he receives it.

    I have found this way of dealing with flames particularly effective. Neither I nor my readers have the spare time and attention to waste on flames that add no value to the discussion.

  41. Sheril says:

    If you’re going to play the egocentric game of self-promotion, don’t be surprised if it attracts the trolls who, in an inverse way, are giving you exactly what you crave: ATTENTION.

  42. Honestly, I’m pretty intolerant of flamers or trolls, especially if they persist. I’m not interesting in working out if someone has a point if they’re just there to cause trouble. I don’t approve their comments and they go away. Approving flamers comments just invites them to come back and tells other flamers that it’s ok to attack.

  43. Sandra Lee says:

    As a beginner blogger, this helps me be prepared for what might occur in the future. I liked the sense of authenticity that rang from this article. Personally, I feel it’s best to diffuse negativity as best we can so it doesn’t spread further.

  44. I had something similar happen to me on social media recently, a certain person had made a complaint about having to get over her fear of selling – I offered a hearty positive contructive piece of advice (well I thought so) as to how to overcome our fears. The reply I got was vitriolic and I was extremely taken aback by her response. I offered one more comment as an apology to her as I had not meant my comment to be taken that way – and recieved an even more firey reply.

    I chose not to reply again – I chose to end our SM association all together and not only unfriended her, but blocked her as she (in the meantime) had come over on to my wall to continue her attack on my character, personality and approach to life. I was left bewildered and bemused as I had obviously pushed a button when all I had ever intended was to offer a helping hand.

    One piece of advice I can offer, is – Don’t take anything personally – it is almost always something that person needs to deal with and usually an old ‘button’ you accidently pushed and has nothing to do with you.

    I agree with your ideas on handling this kind of thing and it will become more and more relevent as more and more people access social media. Thanks Darren.

  45. Lee Ka Hoong says:

    It depends on what kind of flame in my blog, if someone purposely come to my blog and flame without pointing to the specific blog post, then I’ll just ignore it or delete it. As long as the flame sounds reasonable and genuine, then I’ll accept it. Of course, I would reply and tell him my view, I’ll accept him if he is right.

    Sometimes flaming is good for our blog, as least someone is giving his point of view and we can improve our blog from there.

    Nice post Celestine Chua!

    Regards,
    Lee

  46. Blitz Surfer says:

    Celestine- your post is very informative. You are a true expert on the field and your first hand experience is priceless. Flaming must be done with courtesy with great manners.

    Looking forward to more posts from you.

  47. Everyone has different opinions but there is never an excuse for flaming. Great advice and great article. I will re tweet!

  48. Megan says:

    Great post.

    Do not feed the trolls–that’s always good advise in handling flamers. But if the flamers have a point, it is always good to learn from it. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone is not right all the time. Just don’t get your ego too big to recognize that you’ve made a mistake.

    Also agree to disagree. Healthy debates are fine as long as they don’t start to becoming like a word war, defaming and insults thrown all around–as long as it doesn’t become personal.

    You cannot please everybody. One out of ten readers will always disagree with your opinion. That’s why it’s called an opinion. Everyone can have their own.

  49. Chris says:

    I used to let things ride when flamed, because other readers would invariably spring to my defence.

    But then I realized that no-one else wants to read flames or the inevitable tit-for-tat arguments that follow.

    So I now hit ‘Delete’ immediately. If I see a second dodgy comment from that commenter, I ban them for good.

    It’s your blog, your time and money, and if you don’t like what others have written on it, don’t stand for it.

  50. From my own experience, when you reactive to a flammer, You are lost that time.