How Do You Handle Negative Comments?

This weekend I didn’t take my own advice and I’ve been doing damage control ever since. I’m not going to go into all the details, but suffice it to say, it doesn’t pay to respond to negative feedback or feed the trolls.

Let me explain.

Not everyone is going to like what you write. The majority of them will tastefully rebut and you can carry on an intelligent discussion among the members of your community. If you go ahead and respond to the people who are looking for a fight, it will only hurt your reputation and spill over into your community. Don’t do it.

Here’s how to handle the trolls:

  1. Ignore them – Let them say what they want and then ignore them. Do not respond, no matter how many times they insult you. You can’t reason with them.
  2. Delete their comments – When it comes to comments you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you let nasty comments stand, it makes your community uncomfortable. If you delete them you’re accused of stifling free speech. The bottom line: It’s your blog and your community, cater to them, not the trolls.
  3. Moderate comments – If the trolls are bringing friends and they’re piling it on, moderate your comments. This doesn’t have to go on forever, just until the furor dies down.


Here’s the thing. The people who are really negative are doing so for a reason. They’re trying to provoke a response. The more you give into it, the more you respond, the more it will continue. No matter how much it kills you not to set matters straight, don’t give in. Even if you’re right, don’t give in.

Your community comes first

When your blog becomes a battle zone your regulars will leave for neutral territory. They’re not visiting your blog for the drama, (well, most of them aren’t). They’re visiting for the advice and the atmosphere. Do the right thing and think of them first.

28 thoughts on “How Do You Handle Negative Comments?

  1. I think that as long as comments are not talking about the topic but just flaming me or anyone else, it should be deleted as it serves no real purpose. and yes, I agree with the point above that your blog IS your blog. You should be the one deciding which comment should be kept.

  2. @ 1-800-HART

    I said “unless they express hatred and condemnable spite”
    Well, I didn’t mention SPAM, but spam is not a comment 😀

  3. I disagree with “deletion is cowardice.” If you had seen the kind of comments Deb’s talking about, you know you won’t win with words.

    About not deleting hateful comments, I’m 50/50 on that one.

    A part of me doesn’t want to delete these types of comments so these people can see and remember that they’ve done something shameful. However, not deleting them is akin to spreading a Welcome mat at your front door. It’s like saying, “go on, make abusive comments, I don’t delete them here in my blog.” Just imagine mainstream television showing beheadings in the Middle East or Osama Bin Laden’s videos. The number of radicals would increase tenfold.

  4. Amen Deb! I totally agree with all of your post. It’s your blog. You don’t have to allow hate on it. For those few that will whine over that? They can get their own blog and post hateful comments to it or allow hate on it.

    Great post, as always…


  5. The best way is to ignore. Once you realize someone is trying to evoke anger or a negative response you hold the power to say nothing at all.

  6. This is exactly my point. When your readers become uncomfortable, you know something’s not working. While I believe it’s up to each blogger to instill his own comment policy, I also believe your community comes first. When you allow vulgarity on your blog, you run the risk of losing your readers. I guess you have to decide what’s more important.

  7. Deleting comments shows intellectual and moral weakness

    It’s hard to believe that people in the world actually believe this.

    I am curious in how you would define the ways my “intellectual weakness” is by deleting anonymous comments on my own blog, that I thought that were repetitive foul language, abusive and even death threats and other comments that I would be ashamed of inviting my 16 year old neice to come read the blog that I pay a Internet Service Provider monies every month out of my own pocket?

    And what about the anonymous repetitive clean language spam comments that say something like “nice blog” and link out to porn sites or other sites that have viruses or spyware automatically loading if some of my readers click on them?

    PS: // And, what about all those other valued readers who subscribe to your comments and receive an email of every single other comment that is posted on the entry too? Should they be subjected to read that abuse too?

  8. I only delete hateful comments. I don’t mind disagreement or debate, but when people are being vulgar and my community is uncomfortable, I have to make a choice.

  9. I would advise not to delete comments unless they express hatred and condemnable spite.
    Sometimes I do leave even such comments.
    Deleting comments shows intellectual and moral weakness.
    You don’t have to go in arguments with such a commenter.
    Just let him/her understand that you don’t appreciate such an attitude and you are not going down to his/her level.

    I agree with the rest in this short article
    Thank you.

  10. I can’t remember who said this but it makes sense.

    Your blog is like your house. You can invite everyone and hope people will be civil. But if someone gets abusive, you should kick them out.

  11. I’m so glad you wrote this! It is disheartening to both watch and become accidentally involved in these situations. You really can lose a lot of face value VERY fast when this happens. Excellent tips on how to handle it!

    Hope Wilbanks @

  12. jimjamjoh I disagree, what appears on our own blogs is up to us to decide and if we left some of it then it would stop many people commenting out of fear of being pulled into the abuse. I take your point if people are just disagreeing or have a position different to your own but what we are discussing here is not dialog or feedback but outright abuse. I delete anything hateful, rude or otherwise not fitting for my own comment area such as spam. If it’s not safe for work or something I wouldn’t mind my mum seeing it doesn’t appear. My comment standards are clearly displayed at my own blog and 99% of people are happy to follow them. The only people who seem to have a problem are those who would be deleted anyway such as the “deleting my swears is censorship” or the people who send me hateful comments because of where I choose to post.

  13. I agree; good post Deb. Lame that it’s even needed but good. This stuff happens and I think that ignoring may be the best route at this point. I hate deleting any comments but agree that if they only insult without adding to the conversation that the first loyalty is to the community. There’s that fine line though. It’s tough, but there’s a huge difference in someone thinking I personally suck or should be quiet and saying so in an well-planned argument way vs. someone thinking one group of people as a whole are worth insulting (say kids or women, waiters, whatever). Destructive comments are not worth anyone’s time.

  14. I agree that generally, if you ignore them .. eventually they will find someone else to have their fun with .. didn’t we ever learn anything from certain snarky sites we all know?

    PS .. for wordpress, if you go to OPTIONS/DISCUSSION .. there is a field at the bottom for ‘Comment Blacklist’. On my petlvr site I fill that with a few choice swear words that I can think of, so if my Bad Behavior plugin or Akismet plugin doesn’t catch it .. wordpress will simply catch and put the post in moderation, or mark it as spam.

  15. @jimjamjoh –

    And what if, instead of staying on topic you’re told to “Shut you’re whore mouth and make me a sammich.” Is it still cowardice to delete the comment or do you keep it up and argue the point? I’m not talking about simple disagreement. I’m talking mostly about vulgar and abusive language.

    In my opinion this type of talk also shies people from interacting. As I said, with deleting comments, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  16. simply put, it stifles the dialogue, and imbues you with too much power. it shies people from interacting if they feel they’re subject to your editorial whims (no matter how founded you feel/know them to be).

    if a comment is, in your esteem, worthy of deletion, it should be susceptible to defeat in the market via dialogue. win with words, not administrative privilege.

  17. I have to agree — people behave much differently over a computer than in person or over the phone. I answered some customer service emails for a website and I had never seen so many vulgar comments. There’s no way people would have said to that someone’s face.

    People don’t often think about the fact there’s a real live person at the other end. It’s crazy but true…. I can be pretty sensitive and I’m learning to disregard the ridiculous stuff.

  18. Definitely don’t let it consume you. It’s when you get all caught up in it that the problems start. Moderate the comments or leave them up, but don’t encourage them.

    I also believe keyboard courage brings out the worst in people. A lot of trolls or even people who just like to argue do so because their anonymity gives the courage. They’ll say things to you or me they wouldn’t dare say to people in the real world. Take it for what it’s worth.

  19. @nusuni – I agree. Opposing points of view are encouraged. Some people lack rebuttal skills however, and think “you suck” or “you’re really dumb” are an witty and intelligent comeback.

  20. Usually when I delete them they have to meet two criteria – they make no sense and they are not constructive. I welcome constructive negative comments with open arms, but lame “You suck, you know… you suck” comments do nothing – thus I delete them.

  21. Hi there,

    I’m new to the blogging world, though I’ve been active on the web for a decade. I also work in Customer Support and let me tell you–people can be down-right nasty!

    The thing I’ve learned over the years is that their bad attitudes are not directed at you. Some people are just angry, and not very happy with themselves. And they tend to take it out on whomever they are dealing with at the moment.

    The other problem is we have a sense of entitlement in this country that is just crazy. Many people believe their needs are the most importnat, no matter the situation.

    With both of these types of folks, you just have to let them vent, moderate your blog as you see fit–and move on to more productive things.

    Have a great week,
    All things Internet Marketing

  22. I think an important way to handle negative comments is to stay positive – no matter how much it kills you – and try to handle as many comments as you can with a smile and a positive spin.

    Another tip that I found when our own blog was on fire last week was that establishing a comment policy may be a way of letting people know the rules before they start posting. Your line is defined, and crossing it gets a reader blocked.

    Unfortunately, we had to establish our “play nice” policy mid-fire and even that earned criticism. What can you do, eh?

  23. It can be so demotivating when you are attacked but as Advice Network says in the comment above, at least you are doing something right in order to get noticed :/

  24. @Ryan – My problem is I always think I can reason with people. Internet trolls and chronic malcontents aren’t interested.

    @Advice Network – Trust me. You’re not looking forward to this kind of negativity. Not only does it set you back a day or two, but repairing the damage is disheartening.

  25. This is an example of a problem I’m looking forward to having. For now, I don’t have enough traffic to have more than a comment or two a week!

  26. Deb, I feel your pain. The hardest lesson to learn is to ignore people who are in the business of tearing you down.

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