You don’t write because you’re afraid of what other people will think. What if they hate your writing? What if they hate you?
A glance at the comments on, say, a Huffington Post article shows that readers have no compunction about letting writers know exactly what they think. And sometimes it ain’t pretty.
And then there’s the fear that you’ll offend someone by being, well, yourself in your writing.
I hear you. In the past few months, here’s what I’ve experienced:
- A reader telling me I must have PMS.
- Someone who left a 400-word comment complaining that he found two typos in my blog post. He let me know he envisioned me as a frazzled lady with messy hair who has trouble coping with her life.
- A longtime reader accusing me of being a racist.
- Someone who was upset that I used the word “sissy” in an email to my subscribers.
- A woman who was perturbed that I was hosting a teleclass with three male guests.
I’m sure I’ve had other complaints, but these are the ones I remember from recent months.
Writers Aren’t the Only Ones
You may think writers are particularly vulnerable to getting complaints about their work. But even if you gave up your writing dreams and became a barista at Starbucks, someone, sometime, would hate what you do — and let you know.
Of course, you don’t pour yourself into a skinny iced caramel latte the way you do into your articles, short stories, or blog posts. When someone criticizes the foam on your drink, you get over it. When someone criticizes your writing — ouch.
If you push through the fear and get your writing out there, I guarantee that eventually you’ll piss someone off. So what do you do about it?
Dealing with People Who Complain: 5 Ways
Here are some of the tactics I use when faced with an angry reader or even a troll.
1. Set phasers to “Ignore.”
If you’re talking about trolls who smear your blog or an article you wrote with uber-nasty comments, the best thing you can do is ignore them. It hurts, but remember, some people will hate on anything. If you don’t respond, they’ll soon move on to the next victim.
2. Explain without apology.
But when someone emails you an anti-fan letter, or lets you know they’re upset with something you wrote?
Most commonly, I write a short note explaining myself without apology. (This is assuming I don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong. If I make a mistake, I do apologize.) If the reader accepts that, all is good.
But sometimes, the reader is still not appeased or has another nit to pick. In that case, I hit Delete. There’s just no making some people happy — and the truth is, your job as a writer is not to make everyone happy.
Instead of working your butt off to please someone who’s unhappy with you, pour your energy into thrilling the ones who love you.
3. Kill them with kindness.
Even if I’m about to explode over something a reader has said to me, I don’t spew my anger on them. I complain to my husband and my friends and get it out of my system so I can deal with the reader without going ballistic.
Saying “Thanks so much for sharing your insights!” to an unhappy reader defuses them — whereas if you come at them with teeth bared, you’re in for a downward spiral.
4. Laugh it off.
I still remember when Diana’s and my book The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success first came out, and we gleefully posted a glowing Publishers Weekly review on a writers’ forum.
One woman in the forum blasted us over the idea of the book and went on to say we shouldn’t be proud that PW called the book “upbeat and exceptionally informative” because, hey, why do books by women always have to be upbeat? Why can’t we just be serious?
I was crushed (this was our first book — my baby!) and thought up all kinds of replies to put this woman in her place. But then Diana took over. Her response? “I guess you won’t be wanting the Renegade Writer mug, then.”
Diana’s response was perfect. It defused the situation, showed the poster we weren’t going to let her comment affect us, and kept us from wasting time arguing with a single crabby writer.
5. Buck your genes.
We’re genetically wired to seek out and pay attention to threats in our environment, which means we often ignore positive circumstances.
I fall into this trap — I let one negative review or snippy email ruin my hour, even though I have dozens of great reviews and get tons of nice emails from readers. For example, the post by the woman who wasn’t thrilled with our Publishers Weekly review was surrounded by posts from people who were. Why didn’t I think of them instead?
It’s not easy to think about the many positives in your writing career when you come up against a single negative, but make an effort to do this when you find yourself faced with a troll or an angry reader. Let yourself get upset for a minute, complain to a friend — but then remember the editor who loved your article, the kind comment you got on a recent blog post, or the letter from a reader who was moved by your work.
How about you: Have you ever dealt with an angry reader, or even a troll? What did you do about it? Share your experiences and tips in the Comments below!