Turning Negatives into Positives

Reading Andys post about “hate” got me thinking about criticism. I realised that in the past I have learned more from flames than I have from compliments. This could be turned to your advantage.

It seems like longer but Performancing has only been live for a few months. In that time we have received much feedback, mostly positive, some fairly agressive. I am sure if you do a vanity search for your blog you will find the same. While the bad stuff might upset you, criticism can be a valuable asset.

While it might be better for your ego if you do not always read and digest everything that is said in comments you must not be selective in which comments you read. Only listening to compliments can be really damaging to your blogs quality, and arguably for yourself as a person.

While it would be nice if all the comments were positive, complaints can be your best feedback. Many people who lash out actually feel aggrieved or hurt rather than feeling like causing bother. This is an opportunity to see how you have been misunderstood, misrepresented or what you have said could have been distorted. We post so quickly and often it is so easy for a throwaway comment to be taken the wrong way and you know what? Communication takes two parties, it is your job to get your message across as it is your blog. You can’t blame the other party for not understanding.

By showing that you welcome all feedback you will get more comments and openness is a great quality in a blogger.

I am not suggesting that you just take on board everything people say to you or about you and it is OK to be upset. Bad comments can be paralysing and can make you want to pack up and quit. I have been there many times. This is not about being a doormat. What you are doing is listening and analyzing to see if the feedback has validity. Think to yourself how the situation looks from the others point of view. Could they have misunderstood due to bad communication on your part or are they just being a grumpy git? There are people who just want to make trouble. Be on the look out for people causing trouble with other visitors on your comments also, it is up to you to police those.

When you receive a negative comment

  • Don’t be crushed, Don’t be defensive, listen and encourage explanation
  • Think “what can I learn from this”
  • Get a second opinion
  • Consider how you can get your point across more clearly
  • Remember how it feels for when you next criticise others

Like piloting an airoplane, when you are blogging you need to make course corrections. It is only by listening to feedback, good and bad, that you can learn what the real situation is. Your audience are the ones who you are writing for, your blog is for them not you.

It might not seem this way but often “bad” feedback is the most honest. In fact a bloggers most common feedback is silence. A lack of feedback means something is wrong but there is no way of pinpointing what it is, at least with negative criticism you have something to act on.

While it might take a little courage it is a good idea to solicit criticism – ask your audience what they worst things about your blog are. What single thing would they change. Tell them you will not be offended.

How valuable would it be if someone let you in on the one thing that is keeping people away? That one single factor that annoys the hell out of your audience that you never noticed.

10 thoughts on “Turning Negatives into Positives

  1. The trick is to get the new traffic happening on YOUR blog rather than adding traffic to someone else’s ;O)

  2. … and finish your comment with some promotion ‘begging for comments’. Then you will get angry comments and the game starts with the main subject of this thread again 🙂

    Not really serious but if you have a new blog …

  3. Keep in mind that old marketing research shows that maybe 1 in 17 people respond to surveys, coupons, promotions, etc. This probably applies for blog articles. What I’ve learned is that most people don’t know what to say after they’ve absorbed a new bit of information, whether in person or in print.

    We are after all a world raised on the boob tube, which doesn’t require us to respond, except to ourselves. And those of us that actually read printed matter before or besides the Internet are also not expected to respond. So that does not mean that someone reading your blog doesn’t occasionally yell “yes, dammit, I learned something – thank you” to themselves

    For a reasonable measure of such a possibility, check your blog statistics to see if the percentage of returning visitors is increasing. Or start promoting your RSS/ Atom feed.

  4. Good comment, Chris 🙂

    Yeah, it’s a fine balance isn’t it. The fact is most people read on topics by writers/bloggers they’ve come to respect over time (I know I have my favorites at performancing).

    I guess knowing readers, most don’t expect a response to a comment but are more than happy if they do – and a happy reader equals a successful blog.

    I also hate what I’m seeing at many well-known blogs – the “me too” comments.

  5. I think it is important for all bloggers to reply to their comments. What we try to do here though (with lots of prodding from Nick) is to leave some air for other members to jump in, it is not good for this blog to be all us us us! I in particular was guilty of too many “thank you for commenting” comments early on. Sometimes that might be the problem, if a comment sums up a really good point and you have nothing to add it can be tricky (just look how many times I have used a variety of “good point”, “yeah me too” style comments here!)

  6. There’s nothing worse than silence at a blog.

    If I can make all my readers feel comfortable enough about making a comment on my blog (the good and the bad) then I think I’ve done a good job.

    One of my pet-peeves is making a comment at a blog and the blogger not responding to it – to me that’s just bad manners. I have made the effort to read your blog/post and feel inclined to comment – at least you can do is communicate back.

    Not expecting it from the bigger blogs – eg: ProBlogger, Performancing etc., those comments feed on themselves. What I’m about is the blog that has little or no comments on them.

  7. Yeah it is probably impossible to be clear 100% of the time without making your writing extremely dull, you would spend far too much time explaining and not getting to the point. It is a worthy goal though to be as clear as possible. There is an idea put forward by NLP folk where they argue “the meaning of the communication is the response you elicit”, while of course there are obvious exceptions in the case of complete fruitloops, nutters, crazy folk etc it is not a bad theory to work on as it makes you work harder to be understood.

  8. Chris,

    While I agree with much of what you have said, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to blame the blogger for the reader’s lack of understanding. We all take things in through our own personal filters. There’s no way a blogger, or any communicator, can tailor messages so that they get through everyone’s filters without distortion.

    Picky, picky, picky.

    Keep up the great work!

  9. That’s so true that silence is the overwhelming reaction. Positive or negative criticism is so seldom compared to the silence of people visiting and going away again.

    Be thankful for everybody ‘wasting’ his time to give you the gift of a comment 🙂

    If you are working with self-made photos or graphics I can really recommend to post your pictures parallel to photography competition groups (i.e. on Flickr) … you will get comments 🙂

    And don’t forget to link to your blog article in the photo description … it’s a little link baiting and it brings you comments on your work.

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