Creativity

How To Respond To Critics on Social Media

If you’re accomplishing anything of significance in the world, you’re bound to pick up a few critics. Especially in today’s social media maelstrom, there are plenty of people who are more than happy to criticize just about anything – especially from the comfort of hiding behind a fake social media name. Sometimes the critics are clearly off their rocker, but in many cases, the critic has a legitimate complaint, and occasionally it hurts. The question is, how do we respond? Do we ignore it? Here’s a few thoughts that might help the next time you get a critic (serious or otherwise) on social media:

1) First of all, take a breath. Don’t respond immediately out of your emotions. You’ll almost always regret it, and often you’ll say something in the heat of the moment that you’ll regret later. Just take a breath, step back, and think.

2) Check his or her number of followers. I recently received a scathing social media response to a blog post of mine. Before I responded, I checked how many people were following him. It was 4. That’s right – 4 people. So for me to respond to him, meant I would reveal his name to my thousands of social media followers. In other words, I’d just be promoting him. So I decided to ignore it since only 4 people (besides me) saw it anyway. (And sometimes when you ignore critics, it drives them crazy.)

3) Don’t always assume they’re out to get you. Think about the criticism from their perspective. Perhaps he or she misread your post, or didn’t think it through. I’ve had many critics who changed their mind when I (graciously) pointed out their misunderstanding.

4) If it’s legitimate, take it. In my own case, I freely admit that I’ve posted things I wish I hadn’t, or wish my writing had been more clear. In those cases, I willingly took the bullet. A critic can do you a lot of good if it’s solid criticism, if you take it to heart, and if you reflect on how you could have done better.

5) Finally, if it’s a jerk or troll, ignore it. Remember that some people are desperate for attention, so while they’re sitting in their parent’s basement in their pajamas, they decide to attack someone online. It makes them feel powerful, but in reality, it’s a cowardly, miserable act, so don’t go down to their level. Just walk away.

I can’t tell you the number of highly respected leaders who gambled with their reputation and integrity because they got caught up in a pointless, emotional argument online. Don’t take the bait. People are watching you respond (or not respond) so make sure everything you post is something you’d be proud of later.

Do you have any other good tips for dealing with online critics?

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29 Comments

  1. All great thoughts Phil. I’ll add my own personal rule, which is part of #1, “If it makes you feel better, don’t press send!” A good friend told me this, so I can’t take credit, but it has served me well.

    1. I really like that! It’s been a rule of mine, but I have never articulated it so elegantly! It usually is bit of a checklist in my head…”Am I being helpful or just trying to impress? Am I adding value or taking away? Will this make ANY difference to their life or mine?” But your succinct version is SO good!

  2. Sometimes walking away is all you can do. Someone was once furious with me despite the fact we appeared to agree with one another. Any attempt to clarify just made him angrier.
    The angriest person, though, was a woman who disliked my vote on which fast food chain makes the best hamburger. She went ballistic because her favorite was my least favorite.

  3. Love this. I always tell my staff in response to any criticism: look for the nugget of truth. I metaphorically look at it as taking the thoughts captive and torturing them for the real truth. If there is no truth I let them go.

  4. Kipling’s “If” had a good perspective on this:
    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

  5. Amazing insights and many-sided wisdom. I have learned a lot and I totally agree with all the points you raised, Phil.

  6. Yes, I’ve been cyber-bullied and body slammed in Jesus’ name by Christians who never talk to me in person. Since I manage social media accounts for clients, as a cardinal rule, I’ve always responded to criticism from people I care about in-person if possible or by phone. I have a side gig as a reporter for a local newspaper and my publisher warned me to not look at a story I wrote about a city banning marijuana use. I took a peek and was astounded at the unwarranted criticism as if they didn’t even read my story. I’m always surprised in fact by people who criticize without even reading the article or watching the video. I think we’re in a hyper-sensitive culture and social media bullying is an acceptable practice. I’ve been called names and slammed also by complete strangers. If I wasn’t managing social media for clients, I think I would get off of it although I see it as necessary evil to keep up with family and friends around the world.

    1. I totally understand seeing critical responses from people who didn’t even read your post or story. Amazing what people “assume” from reading your headline… Thanks for sharing that. It’s so true!

  7. I once asked a very popular minister who is often criticized on social media how he deals with his critics. I’ll never forget his response…

    “We are most like Christ when we are silent in the face of our critics.”

    Thought that was good advice, especially when it comes to the “digital courage” crowd.

  8. Kipling’s “If” had a good perspective on this:
    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

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