You know, talked back, had that certain ‘tone’ in their voice, gotten a little sassy?
Children can be contrary. The longer we do this parenting thing, the better we get at coping.
Some of us even learned how to defuse an angry child with the tools of psychology that we gathered from ‘the textbook of life’— or maybe it was that Parenting without Pain class at the local Y.
Certain things work and certain things don’t. And when we finally earn that My Kid Is Nicer Than Your Kid bumper sticker, we are pretty sure we know how to respond to defiance, temper tantrums and name calling.
We know how to take action without escalating the problem.
We know to be firm, but friendly. Assertive but cool-headed. And we know that communicating—and listening—well, it’s key to a successful outcome.
Your blog and your reader community are no different. Sometimes a reader will leave a comment that moves way past “here’s another viewpoint” to ”you are full of crap.”
Call it ‘dissing’ or ‘flaming’ or something else. But when a reader doesn’t play nicely in the sandbox of comments, you as the blogger have a right—and an obligation—to step up and say something.
The thing is, the way you handle it—what you say and how you say it—matters because it will impact not only the person who left the negative comment but, more importantly, your entire community. Remember that your readers will have a front row seat and will be watching and listening.
5 Steps to Resolving a Negative Blog Comment
I love comments. I really do.
I like hearing all sides of an issue. Because it makes me think in different ways and consider alternative viewpoints.
From time to time, I even change my mind. (I’d better never run for President because weighing new evidence and using new information to make a better decision is called waffling in a political campaign.)
Still, sometimes a reader will leave a comment that crosses the line. It disrespects me or someone else. Or it misrepresents the facts. Or it adds nothing helpful to the conversation.
We can’t give her a ‘time out.’ We need to either deal with the comment or, if it’s over the top, delete it—or even blacklist the reader.
Here are 5 steps I’ve used to defuse the situation—publicly.
1. Acknowledge the comment—with respect.
Let’s take this scenario. Recently I wrote an article on how to use your blog to cultivate more leads and potential customers for your business. I got lots of questions and value-added tips in the comments section. Until one guy shows up.
The first thing I do is recognize the comment.
What he says: “I have no blog. I have no idea why blogs even exist. They were just created by some IT person.”
How I respond: ” Thanks for weighing in here, [name of reader]. Always good to hear another perspective. Blogging is not for everyone.
2. Find something good to say first.
This is a good way to disarm a troublemaker because they are so not expecting a positive comment from you. And if you find something good in the person first, they will be more likely to listen to the rest of your comment.
What he says: ” I have magazine articles that have sold for more than 40 years. Blogs have nothing to do with creating material for those who wish to better themselves as do readers of mag articles. They are worthless.”
How I respond: “Congrats on your successful career writing magazine articles! 40 Years. That’s very impressive. I’m just now starting to get back into writing for magazines.” [Then I go on to talk about how blogging can be a good strategy if there are goals behind it.]
3. Ask for clarification if necessary and respond honestly.
This is the step where you can correct any misunderstandings or miscommunication by asking questions to be sure you understand the meaning of the comment. If you are sure you understand what the person is saying, respond as openly and honestly as possible.
What he says: (See the previous comment.)
How I respond: “On blogs, I will just say that not everyone needs one. Take you for example. You are doing well without one. I do work with writers and aspiring authors who are using a blog as a platform: to grow a reader community and an audience for their books. And some freelance writers use a blog to showcase their work and get more assignments. Here is an example. (Left a link.] Thanks for sharing here.”
4. Listen and reflect back but ignore the weird stuff.
In parenting classes (and in teaching), it’s called reflective listening. Basically, paraphrase the words they say and the feelings connected to them. In that way, you establish rapport, let the commenter know that you heard them, and show your community that you respect your readers.
What he says: ”NO ONE needs to blog in order to gain and audience. How about instead you and I create an online magazine for business novices?” (I know. How weird is that?)
And, in a later comment, “To help prove your case, plz give me 3 book publishers who require [that someone have a blog before they submit a book project to them] and show me on their sites where it is so. NO person I have ever known who bought a book had ever read anything previously written by that author.”
How I respond: ”Sounds like blogging doesn’t work for you. But for an author, a blog can be an amazing marketing tool. I have some research somewhere on that. Will let you know if I find it. Thanks for contributing here.”
5. Move the conversation back on track while modeling openness and transparency.
The last step is all about moving the discussion back where it belongs and continuing to respond to all readers and all viewpoints. By doing this, you show that you still value reader engagement and that you are making your community a safe place to be.
An added benefit in the above example: A reader came in after the exchange and, without naming names, said that she was “full of admiration” for the way I respond to comments respectfully, even the “challenging ones.”
This is exactly how you want your readers to react. Because they will know that they will be listened to and given a chance to explain themselves.
Of course, sometimes—very rarely—you will do all this and the commenter will continue to act like a jerk.
Then you have to make a decision. Ignore and continue to interact with other readers, go offline with the conversation, delete the comment or take even more drastic actions, like blacklisting the reader.
But 99 percent of the time, I’ve found this process works in resolving the issue.
What about you?
Do you ever get negative comments on your blog?
How many chances do you give the offender?
What strategies have you used to turn a negative comment into a positive?