How To Deal With Negative Comments

One of the bloggers I discovered by being part of the Blogging Idol competition was Rajaie AlKorani, a 14-year-old blogger from Syria. I must admit that I was amazed (if a little sceptical) about his age, as will you be if you go over to RajaieTalks, and read what he’s writing about!

Anyway, Rajaei recently wrote a post on “How To Effectively Deal with Negative Comments on Your Blog“, which I just read, and which gave me a kick-start out of my writers’ block.

You see, I had to deal with a similar situation in the past few days.

In June, I gave a presentation at SIGiST Israel 2008 on Finding Requirements Bugs, as a result of which I was invited to give a similar talk to the test team at Company X. My talk lasted for just over 2 hours, and most of the attendees were really “with me”, asking questions, taking part, and genuinely enjoying the presentation.

However, there were one or two attendees who were obviously not impressed. During an exercise in “Ambiguity Review”, while we were brainstorming the possible ambiguities in the exercise they had just done, one of them said (and I allow myself some poetic license)  “If I go and bug the developers, business analysts, etc. with these silly ambiguities (i.e. non-problems), they’ll throw me down the stairs“.

Well, I couldn’t “Take A Break, Go For A Walk“, as Rajaie suggests (tip #8). And “Send The Commenter An Email, A Friendly One” (tip #3) was obviously irrelevant!

So, what could I do?

Firstly, when you are giving a presentation, and you get a negative comment, that comment is out there for all to hear. “Don’t Delete The Comment” (tip #1) is a no-brainer, unless you are Dr. Who.

You probably aren’t expecting a negative comment, so take a minute to “Understand What The Commenter Is Trying To Say” (tip #6) – just because the comment is negative, doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It may in fact contain much more valuable information than a whole pile of positive comments.

You need to think fast on your feet, and quickly work out if “It’s OK To Be Wrong Every Once In A While” (tip #2), or “Ask Yourself, Did I Deserve It?” (tip #9), although not quite in the way Rajaie talks about.

If you can “Observe The Situation From A Different Point Of View” (tip #10), you may be able to relate better to the negative comment by putting yourself in the commentor’s shoes. If you find that the negative comment really does hold good advice, then “Don’t Ignore The Advice, Put It Into Action, Immediately“, if you can (tip #7).

And do remember, “You Will NEVER Impress Everyone Every-Time” (tip #12), however long and hard you’ve worked on your presentation (and believe me, I certainly did that!). Sometimes, people just don’t like something for no reason whatsoever, period. As Rajaie says “But you could always make a poll asking your readers for their opinion on the article to improve it for next time.”

And what in fact did I do?

Firstly, I asked the commentor what he was trying to say (#6), after which I tried to observe the situation from his point of view (#10).

I asked myself whether I deserved his comment (#9), and realized that I did – I had made a mistake (#2) by not explaining the rules of the brainstorming session. I should have started by telling the audience that we were going to collect as many ambiguities as possible, even those that are trivial in the real world, and after that we would reduce the list to the most important ones.

I should have taken the opportunity to ask him to lead the effort of reducing the brainstormed list (#7), but we were running out of time (no excuse …).

On the way home in the car, I rationalized with myself that you can’t impress everyone all the time (#12), but when I got back to the office I did write to the Manager who invited me, and requested that she send me the feedbacks from the team, so that I can see how to improve for next time.

And finally, I’m ending it with “Writing A Post Discussing How You Deal With Negative Comments” (#4) 🙂

Many of us will find ourselves in the position of receiving negative comments, be it at work, at home, in front of an audience, or from a single person. We can just “blow up” and get mad – believe me, I’ve done that on occasion – or we can try and deal with it as a learning experience.

Have you been in this type of situation before? How did you handle it? Any tips that you’d like to share as comments below will be a added bonus to me and my readers.

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9 responses to “How To Deal With Negative Comments

  1. Great post Debi – lots of food for thought on many levels – not just in business and in blogs or presentation.

  2. Thanks Devra. Glad you enjoyed the post, and found other levels that it can be applied to as well (like “life”, I guess?)

  3. Debi–
    Liked this one.
    Keep on keeping in our faces with new and exciting news of the greater testing world out there.
    Keep up your great perspective as well as the good work.

  4. Thanks Hedy,
    Glad you liked it. I’ll definitely try to continuing bringing you the great wide world, of testing and whatever else 🙂

  5. I, too, liked this post. I have received some left-wing negative comments on my posts (which tend to be mildy to radically right-wing), and have tried to respond sticking to the facts, without emotion. I don’t know if I always succeed, however. It is a midah to constantly work on, I guess.
    Thank you for the post. If I have any technical questions about my blog, may I ask you (I am only a ‘wannabe’ geek)?

  6. Hi Lady-Light,
    The way I see it, a negative comment is better than no comments! So, good luck with continuing to respond factually to them.
    And sure, if you have technical questions, use the contact us form, and see how I can help.

  7. My mother used to say that the only thing worse than being hated was being ignored! 🙂 Negative comments are positive in one sense – at least you’re saying something that’s getting a reaction!


    • Hi Simon,
      Thanks for commenting on this post, and of course, I have to agree with your mother – definitely a smart lady you have there.
      Just out of interest’s sake, I’d be interested in hearing how you found this post? It is, after all, more than 1/2 a year old …
      And a small comment, if I may, on the design of your blog – the headline of Ochre on variegated white/greys/black is a bit difficult for me to read, and I have 20/20 vision at 2 feet!
      Off to go have a look at some of your work 🙂

  8. Hi Debi – I found it ‘cos Google spat it up to me on one of my Alerts. I’ve no idea why it took six months to get around to indexing your page! I hadn’t realised the post was so old, tbh.


    PS: I’ll look into the colour-scheme thing: I think you’re refering to the site homepage rather than the blog….?

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