I received a message the other day from a musician friend who was devastated by a caustic, critical remark left on her Facebook page.
After reading the trash that had been thrown in her direction, I wrote her a note of encouragement. Here are some of the suggestions I shared with her. Now if only I can follow my own advice.
Out of the blue, a misguided internet troll had seen fit to publicly question the moral and spiritual character of my friend’s husband, also a musician, because he wore a hat during his concert in a church venue.
My friend responded in a very civil defense of her husband only to receive a new targeted message from the cyber sniper. Evidently this person had the amazing gift to sense, while watching my friend perform, that she was insincere and lacked heart. What an encouraging gift!
About a year ago, a woman felt it necessary to leave a comment telling me she was not going to return to my site because I was not spiritual enough. However, she added, “I will pray for you.” Wow! Pray for me? That certainly took the sting out of her message.
I can only guess she would pray that somehow I would come to my senses, preach more, use more Bible verses and church language in my blog posts.
My question is this: Why not just leave? Why did she feel it was necessary to tell me she did not find my post edifying enough? Do these poor souls feel the need to inflict pain?
Does it sound like I am upset? Absolutely! My heart goes out to my musician friend. I ache for the folks who posted a picture of their grandchild and got a venomous comment on how the child was dressed and decided never to share pictures of their grandchildren again.
The internet allows negative people to hide in the bushes and hurl grenades of negativity without any thought to the pain and hurt they can inflict. So how should we respond to this kind of criticism?
1. Consider the Source
- If the criticism is from a friend who cares about you or even from a stranger who seems to be legitimately trying to help you, then perhaps it might be worth your consideration.
- However, a friend or someone who is a caring person will not generally use a public forum to offer critique.
- As hard as it is, anonymous, cruel, snarky comments deserve to be ignored.
2. Consider the Tone
- “I looked directly at you after the concert and you didn’t even look my direction. I don’t believe anything you said from the stage!” The only question you should ask yourself with such a message is, “How fast can I hit delete?”
- “I wanted to talk to you but couldn’t catch your eye. I was so disappointed.” This totally different tone inspires me to write an encouraging message of how sorry I am we didn’t connect. “Next time tap me on the shoulder with a brick, that usually gets my attention.”
3. Consider any Trend
- Several years ago there was a flurry of comments on how I dressed for concerts. None of them were particularly cruel but in general they suggested that my wardrobe was distracting. I was offended until I realized this was a trend of comments that I needed to pay attention too. Most of them were well intended. I am grateful for the information.
- I no longer perform in my pajamas!
4. Consider your Response
- I used to spend hours composing responses trying to explain myself and win these people over. Over 40 years I can count on three fingers (3!) the number of people who responded back.
- Occasionally the tone of the critic is respectful enough or the criticism is accurate enough to deserve a response. Even then a simple apology or an acknowledgement that you have taken the criticism to heart is all that is required.
5. Consider your Heart
- Guard your heart. It is very easy to allow someone who does not know you or care about you to throw you into an emotional tailspin for weeks. I have received tens of thousands of encouraging letters, messages and comments. I can count the cruel and hurtful criticisms I have on the fingers of my hands. Why then is it the negative messages that I remember and mull over? Practice what you preach Ken!
- If there is a grain of truth in the criticism, be willing to acknowledge it and make an effort to change your actions. A couple of times I have written a thank you note to a nasty internet troll for alerting me to that grain of truth. Interestingly, I have NEVER received a response to one of those notes.
6. Consider Your Own Internet Activity
- If you don’t have something positive to say, don’t say it! Be graceful and encouraging.
- Don’t get into personal internet battles. This is the worst place to work out differences.
- Express your opinions without attacking the person with an opposing opinion.
Have you ever been blindsided by unfair critique?
Have you ever been helped by critique received on the internet?
Do you have advice on how to handle unfair internet critique? [reminder]