How should I handle a negative comment?

Oof, it’s the worst.

There’s no more awful—even infuriating—a feeling than logging into your Dashboard and seeing a negative comment. While no one likes to dealing with them, in blogging, they can unfortunately be a fact of life.

Our first piece of advice? Take a deep breath. Remember that sometimes, things can get misconstrued when you’re reading a piece of communication, versus someone giving you feedback directly and verbally. And definitely remember that the types of people that purposefully take time to leave hyper-negative, mean, or all out attacks on another via comment…well, it usually says more about that person and less about you.

With all that in mind…

To delete or not to delete?

We personally don’t think you should delete comments that are constructively critical, even if they’re painful. In fact, we think it’s never a bad idea to try and respond kindly and calmly. Sometimes starting a dialog with your readers in a public forum can actually be a good thing—you’re able to get feedback, show them you’re listening, and engage with them in a real, authentic way.

Of course, if a comment is negative in that it’s abusive, derogatory, is harassing you or other readers, inflammatory, irrelevant, total spam or just plain awful, definitely delete it!

Is the comment valid?

It can be so hard to remember this when you’re feeling defensive about your work, but constructive comments—yes, even the snarky ones—are giving you feedback about your audience and your site. Even if someone comments negatively about content you have offered, it does provide information to you about how the work is being perceived, however painful it is. If the comment is from a long time reader who is leaving this type of feedback, again, responding to their comment or sending them an email can feel like a risky step, but it might surprise you in how positively the interaction ends. In our experience, people are quick to vent online, but when you try and forge a connection, they really appreciate it.

Here’s a fantastic piece of advice from blogger Julia Engel when considering the validity of a comment: “Remember that anyone going out of their way to publicly share their opinion about you has a motive for doing so. Try and figure out if their motives are pure at heart, meaning they actually care about positive change for you and your blog.”

The number one rule of blogging

At the end of the day, you should also remember that you can’t please everyone. Your blog and your content is likely to evolve over time, because you will evolve over time. You can never be all things to all people, so comments that ask you to provide something or be someone you’re not can be taken with a grain of salt (in your head, of course!). Remember too that for every person who leaves you a negative comment, there are likely 5 more who loved whatever you posted about. Take time to listen to your readers and get their feedback, but ultimately, you must be guided by what you think is right for your blog and business.

Managing comments

If your comment section starts to get really nasty, you can also develop a comment policy. This would make it clear to readers what types of comments you accept, versus what are automatically deleted. Design*Sponge is a great example of a blog that clearly lays out their comment policy for all to see on each and ever post.

If you’re worried about comment sections getting aggressive, you can also choose to moderate comments. This means you would approve each comment before it gets published to the site. You can turn this setting on by going to Settings > Discussion. Then, look for the section that says Before a comment appears and check the box that says Comments must be manually approved. This will hold all comments for approval by you, in the Comments section of the dashboard (just like under the Pending tab).

Not sure what to write to a critical commenter? Here are a few opening lines to get you started:

“While I’m sorry if XYZ disappointed you, I appreciate you leaving your feedback here.”

“Apologies, [commenter name], it was definitely not my intent to come across as [X], but I can see how what I wrote could be construed that way. I’m sorry if I offended you! Thanks for leaving your feedback.”

“Thanks for the feedback, we’ll keep this in mind the next time we do a post like this!”

“Thanks, [commenter name]. While this was tough to read, I do appreciate you leaving your thoughts and being part of the community. You can reach out to me at [your email address] if you ever want to discuss offline or have any other questions about [the issue at hand].”

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