That was the best word I could think of to describe the way I was feeling.
It was a few nights ago, and I was about to go to bed, but I checked email one more time.
And there it was.
The email I’d been waiting for.
My first “hate mail.”
Truthfully, it wasn’t “hateful” as much as just shortsighted and rather trivial, but it was a far cry from the positive emails I usually get.
Now, I’ve gotten poor reviews (which were totally justified, by the way), unsubscribes, and dissenting views in the comments section of the blog, but that’s totally fine. Actually, I expect that stuff. To an extent, I even expect some people to send emails that reek of jealousy, naiveté, and just plain meanness.
That’s the world we live in, and I’m being naive to think I can circumvent that somehow.
But this email was different.
It was pointless.
Literally. There was no point.
This person just basically said, “I don’t this, and you shouldn’t have released it.”
But my point of writing this post is to take advantage of a great teachable moment:
People of the blogosphere (and world): if you’re going to take the effort to do something, take a stance, or make a point, actually make the point.
If you have something to say, say it. If you’re in the position to truly help someone, do that — if it involves criticism, try to do it in an encouraging and uplifting way.
There are, of course, exceptions to the “just say it” rule:
- If it’s going to hurt someone, don’t say it.
- If it’s not going to help someone solve a problem, don’t say it.
- If it’s directed at the world (to get attention), rather than the person you’re referring to, don’t say it.
Now, in this particular case, the person mentioned that they’d signed up for my (free) fiction-writing course, didn’t like it, and proceeded to email about it.
I’m not going to repost it here, but like I mentioned before, this email was simply, “I didn’t like it. I have experience with this stuff [they listed credentials], and your course is no good.”
I’m all for someone letting me know they didn’t like something I’ve done. I actually read (and respond to) these emails, and I truly strive to take their feedback into consideration. I understand the public nature of running a blog, and I accept the challenges inherent in that.
But again — if you just want to hurt someone or don’t care to help them solve the problem, the only thing you’re doing is wasting your own time. (I’m in the unique position to be able to rant and then use it as a blog post. Ha.)
What was my response?
I thought about my response for a few extra minutes. What could I say that would really make a difference? What could I say that would be above reproach, while still making the point I need to make?
My answer was, essentially, “I know. I didn’t release the course because I’m the best at writing fiction, I created the course because I wanted to grow. To learn, to adapt, and to hone my skills.
“I’m sorry you didn’t like it, but that’s okay. However, your email had no substance. I’m happy to take advice, if you’re willing to give me some pointers.”
I think it was a good response — short and to the point, and it wasn’t rude or passive aggressive.
What should your response be?
Hopefully you’d never send an email, give a speech, get in a debate, or engage in any other form of communication without ensuring that you have something to offer the other side, but if you’re caught up in one and end up on the receiving end of a rant, here’s what you should do:
- Ask yourself if there’s a point. Maybe you’re missing it, or maybe they’re not being clear. This is really easy to do in email/written format, because everything they’ve intended to say is already right there in front of you.
- If there is a point, consider your response carefully. Respond to the point, not their rant. Don’t argue with emotion — use logic/rational thinking, and stay calm. It’s easy to go off on someone who’s belligerent.
- If there isn’t a point (and you care about them/what they might have to say), gently ask them for it. In my email response, I really did care about what this person’s thoughts were — it matters to me, and it matters to future blog readers/subscribers. However, this is a tricky step — it’s really easy to come across as patronizing, passive-agressive, or condescending. Just state the facts — “hey, you didn’t give me anything to work with! I really care about this, so can you help me out?” works fine.
- Be sure to remind them why you care. There’s a reason their communication sparked an emotion in you — tell them. What’s at stake? Your reputation? Your career/professional life? Why does it matter that you want their opinion? What will you do with it?
- Don’t be upset if/when they don’t respond. I’m not sure most people are used to calm, collected, and balanced debate. I’m certainly not, so if I got a response like I’ve outlined it would probably throw me off guard. I’m not expecting a response from this person, but if I get one, awesome!
Finally, don’t be upset when you get that response.
They might “retaliate,” or try to make things worse — don’t let it get to you. One thing you learn (very quickly) in the blogging world (and probably most professional industries) is that you need a thick skin and a hard head to push on — there’s always someone who’ll disagree with you. With the anonymity of the online world, there’s been an increase in the number of “say-what-you-want-no-matter-whom-you-hurt” mentalities out there.
I don’t know if I did the right thing, but I did what I thought would have been the “higher road” — the thing I would have preferred had the tables been turned. Overall, it wasn’t a big deal — it sparked in me a blog post idea that I hope will be received well, and it’s something that definitely needs to be mentioned if you’re ever interested in jumping into this crazy online world.
As always, though, and now more than ever, I want to know how you feel about this. What would your reaction have been? What should I have done/should I do in the future?
Leave your comments and thoughts in the comments section, and I’ll be responding!