A few weeks ago, Bes wrote about reacting to negative comments. His post brought back a few memories from when I entered the blogging essay contest and pissed off a whole lot of bloggers. I wanted to respond to Bes’s post with regards to what I think are three types of negative commenters and the psychology behind a response.
Type I – I Want to Change You
When I was in therapy (err, counseling) for some problems I didn’t know (and still don’t know) existed, my therapist recommended the book The DNA of Relationships. The book comes from a Christian perspective and is helpful in many respects as far as understanding how people react to things and how you as a person should react to certain things.
The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. One point the author argues is that the root of anger is change and pain.
Let’s say a person leaves a comment on a blog post and says, “Your writing is horrible” or, “I’m going to unsubscribe unless you turn on full feeds.” The commenter is trying to change you. What can be done in that situation?
The normal reaction would be to get defensive and feel pain. Since the commenter is the source of your pain, you try to do something about it by trying to “change” the commenter so that the commenter doesn’t cause you pain anymore.
But when you try to change the commenter, the commenter gets defensive and feels a new source of pain and the cycle continues.
An Appropriate Reaction to Someone Trying to Change You?
Break the cycle. I personally like the approach that Bes suggested, which is to maintain distance. Another approach might actually be to change and apologize to the commenter. When responding to a negative comment, it is crucial to be objective.
Type II – I Don’t Like You, Or Anything You Have to Say
The second type of commenter is what is commonly referred to as a troll. The commenter just wants to stir up trouble and attempts to do so by personally attacking you and ripping apart your work.
It’s important to ignore all personal attacks and not take them personal. Typically a commenter will engage in a personal attack for a number of reasons including:
- You have offended the commenter.
- The commenter’s argument isn’t winnable.
- The commenter has no respect for you.
- You have limited credibility in your subject matter.
Some examples of personal attacks I have received is someone calling me an idiot, or someone saying, “Who are you to tell us what not to write about.”
It’s best to ignore those kind of comments. Comments that are personal attacks do not argue a point and are ad hominem logical fallacies. A logical fallacy isn’t even worth responding to because the argument is null and void before it has even begun.
Type III – I Have a Beef to Pick. But it’s not With You
I worked at Walgreens for three years while I was working on my undergrad. I worked in the photo department, and too often a customer would come up to my counter claiming that I had ruined their film.
My first reaction was usually to defend myself and say, “I didn’t ruin your film. You did.” Most of the time I had to bite my lip and remind myself that although the customer was being accusatory, I couldn’t take the accusations personal if was to handle the situation appropriately and professionally.
The first thing I usually asked the customer was, “What happened?” After that, the customer would show me the pictures and how horrible they came out of our photo machine. I would then look at the negatives to see if there was anything else that was causing the pictures to show up bad (such as over exposure, multiple exposure, blank pictures, night photography, etc…).
Some commenters are the same way with regards to how they might approach a subject you have written about. The beef may seem to be about you, but it may very well be about the material you are talking about. Try not to take this kind of criticism personally. Try to understand the commenter’s position. Then look at the commenter’s negatives to see if there is something else that might be causing the criticism. There might not be anything you can do about it.
In my case at Walgreens, however, there were many times I had to correct somebody’s photos. But I only did this after figuring out why the pictures were coming out bad in the first place.
I want to point out that these types of negative commenters are the most crucial ones. If you go out of your way to find out about the commenter and actually listen to the commenter’s points, then the commenter could very well end up a loyal reader well into the future.
If you find that one of your posts has a negative comment, try taking these steps and see how they work out for you:
- Determine if the comment is worth your time and emotion.
- Research the commenter. Go to their website (if available) and find out as much as possible about them.
- If the commenter sites sources, check those out.
- Find the points that you and the commenter agree on.
- Reevaluate your points and see if your logic is correct.
- If corrective action is needed, take it.
- If there is no middle ground, respectfully disagree.
Sometimes it is best to not respond to the commenter publicly. As with retail, sometimes you want to take the customer aside and talk to them where nobody else is watching. I recommend e-mail or an instant messaging program for this type of communication.
I only listed three types of negative commenters. I am sure there are more. If you have your own examples or tips, please share them below in the comments.