Words by Tara Wagner
How to Respond to Rude Comments, Criticism, or Negativity in Your Online Biz
I happened to Google how to respond to rude comments just to see what was out there and was really surprised at the number of recommendations on putting people in their place and acting just as rude.
If you wanna learn how to respond to rude comments without escalating the situation or feeling like a jackass yourself, then this is definitely the video/post for you.
I’m going to be focusing more on online comments, especially from an entrepreneur’s standpoint, and being able to turn those negative comments into a positive exchange. But, these skills and tools that I’m going to show you apply to any conflict.
So, grab a pen and some paper and let’s dive in.
Watch here or read below.
I have been seeing a lot of conversation lately around answering rude comments, or criticism, or negativity, specifically online – social media, or email – but what I’m going to talk to you applies to in-person interactions as well.
The challenge with in-person interactions is that you need to be pretty practiced at this because it’s not like you can pause as though you’re on other side of a screen and thoughtfully write something out.
You got to be able to come up with it on the fly.
So if you don’t feel quite confident enough for that yet, practice these tips in those online settings. You’ll get the hang of it, and you can start slowly integrating it into conflict in-person as well.
There are four different parts or steps to this process.
I’ll tell you right now, they’re gonna feel clunky, or awkward, or like it’s just not you that’s not something you would say.
That’s always the way that it is when we’re first starting out with something. But, don‘t let that sway you.
Because if you really allow yourself the time to master this and to get comfortable with this, to get over the awkward hump (which sounds really gross), you’re going to get to the other side feeling really confident and being able to turn criticism, negative reviews, rude comments, angry customers or clients into your raving fans.
I’m going to share an experience that I had where I was able to turn a very angry email that literally told me to “f off” into one of the best exchanges that I feel like I’ve had. It really allowed me to connect with this person and left this person feeling positive and grateful about our exchange as well.
If you want to be able to do that, you gotta be willing to practice it and get through the awkward stage.
Step #1: Step back
Step number one of how to respond to rude comments is actually to step back. In other words, you never want to leave a comment if you’re not in a cool state of mind.
You never want to leave a comment with an emotional charge or some sort of personal agenda like, “I’m going to tell them. I’m going to teach them a lesson.“
No, don’t do that! That will only escalate the situation.
Now, sometimes we need to step back for a couple of days because something might really hit us pretty hard. And if that’s the case and you’re worried about this comment maybe sitting out there online without a response to it, you can easily just drop a comment and say, “I wanted to let you know that I received this, and I’m going to get back to you just as soon as I can.“
That’s going to allow them to know that you’ve seen it; but you’re not going to get yourself into a situation where you say some stuff you don’t want to say.
It’s really important that you write out that kind of statement ahead of time before you feel triggered so that it doesn’t come off passive-aggressive, you’re not trying to slip in a little, you know… slap in the face or something like that in there.
You want to do this from a cool state of mind so you can make sure that it’s very cool and calm.
Allow yourself to get centered, cool yourself off, and then come back in the right state of mind to be able to approach them in a really healthy way.
Step #2: Define your desired outcome
The next step is to get really clear on the outcome that you’re hoping to create in this situation.
What’s your goal here?
- Is your goal a happy customer?
- Is it clarity?
- Is it communication?
- Maybe it’s happy onlookers…
There’s a lot of lurkers that are watching to see how we’re responding.
Maybe you even have a goal of establishing some healthy boundaries because some serious boundaries were crossed with their comment.
You need to know what your goal is before you start replying or formulating your reply to ensure that what you’re saying is going to align with what you really want to see.
Another question that I like to ask myself is, “How would my happiest, healthiest self respond?“
In other words, if I was having an amazing day, if this comment or statement did not totally upset me, if nothing could shake me from my stride, if I just felt totally good or I was in a great mindset, maybe I was feeling compassionate and patient towards this person instead of ticked off, hurt, or offended, how would I then respond?
This helps to get me into the right frame of mind so that I’m focusing on how I want to show up and not how I might want to show up just in that moment.
But, who do I really want to be and how does that person want to show up in this situation?
That allows me to tap into that mindset and those emotions so that I can better formulate my response.
Step #3: Adjust yo’ mindset
Step number three is about adopting a more helpful mindset, which I know can be difficult when you’ve just received a comment that maybe doesn’t leave you feeling so good.
Sometimes we don’t even want to adopt that mindset, but this is going to be important to allow you to really tap into where they are and respond with more compassion and in a way that doesn’t escalate things.
Remember that all human behavior – even rude, critical, negative comments – is stemming from our own emotions in an attempt to either express or gain some control over how we feel, and to meet our deeper human needs.
Now, it’s not always a helpful attempt. In fact, most of us get it wrong most of the time, but we’re all going to do the best we can according to the tools that we have access to in that moment.
Knowing this, I adopt a mindset that this person is probably having a pretty shitty day and I choose to treat them with compassion, and understanding, and patience because I’ve been there too. And I’m sure you probably have as well.
Now, this does not mean that you’re not right. It just means that you’re not trying to make them look wrong.
When we adopt a mindset like this, it allows us to get further with people because we’re treating them as though they’re actual human beings Which I know is a crazy concept in this day and age… but again; we’ve all been there we’ve all had days where we were not at our best. Maybe even our absolute worst showed up. Maybe we were absolutely embarrassed over how we reacted to something.
But if someone was able to respond to you with patience and compassion, wow.
How does your view of that person go up when they don’t go into your bad day with you, when they don’t go down to the level that you found yourself at?
That’s what we want to be doing. We want to get further with people by connecting with them AS people.
Okay, so I know these three steps sound like they take a lot of time and they might maybe the first times that you do this, but with some practice you’re going to fall into these habits really, really quickly and be able to move to step number four, which is all about formulating your response.
Step #4: Formulating your response
The thing that I want you to do here is pretend that you are formulating a response to a really good friend on a really bad day.
- You’re going to have patience.
- You’re going to have understanding.
- You’re going to have compassion.
- You might also still have some boundaries.
Now, there is no cookie-cutter response, but I am going to walk you through a few things that I always look for and that have helped me to turn around a lot of really tense situations into really positive communication and experiences.
Let’s dive into those one at a time and you can decide for yourself which ones are going to be the best fit based on the comment that you’re trying to reply to.
#1 Include Gratitude.
The first thing that I always try to include (and I recommend that you do too) is gratitude.
This is both the easiest and the hardest thing that you will include in your response.
It’s the easiest because it’s one sentence.
It’s the hardest because you probably aren’t going to want to do it.
But it’s very simple and it’s very important that we respond with gratitude. It shifts our focus so that we’re able to receive whatever value from this exchange might be there for us.
So, being able to just simply say:
“Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. Thank you so much for reaching out. Thank you so much for letting me know how you feel about this.”
I know it’s difficult!
I know you may not really be feeling it, but I want you to practice it, or fake it if you have, to so that you’re expressing to them that there is an openness there. You are open to receiving their feedback, even though they might not be giving it in the best, healthiest way possible. You’re still going to receive it because you’re the professional, you’re a freaking badass, and you’ve got this.
#2 The Apology and Your Desire.
This next part is actually a two-parter.
The first part of this sentence is actually going to be an apology where it’s needed or necessary.
I’m hesitant with this one because I know that a lot of women over-apologize. We take the blame for things that we shouldn’t be taking the blame for. But, this isn’t about blame. It’s about taking responsibility for the things that you can take responsibility for and expressing regret. It’s not about blame, it’s not about shame. It’s not about saying that this is your fault. It’s just about taking responsibility, taking ownership, or expressing that regret.
The second part of this sentence is about expressing your desire to create a better outcome or a more positive experience for them.
So putting these two together, it would look like this:
“I’m so sorry that you’ve had this experience. That’s not at all what I had hoped for and I really want to do what I can to turn this around for you.” “I really want to do what I can to make this better or to make this right.“
Now, again, choose your words wisely according to the situation, but try to include that apology and your desire to create a better outcome for them so that they feel heard, and seen, and they know that you are on their side.
#3 Ask For Clarity.
The next thing I do is to look to see if I have clarity around their needs. And if I don’t, I’m going to ask for a very specific action to be taken in order to gain clarity on what they’re most needing or wanting from this situation. I’m not going to promise that I’m going to be able to provide that, but I do want to know what would feel really good to them. I’m going to do this with a very specific request, so I’m going to ask them something like:
“Would you be willing to jump on the phone with me for 15 minutes so that I could ask you three or four questions to just understand more of what happened and how you would like us to fix this?“
When I do something like that (like invite them to a phone call or an email) I always will restate my desire to create a positive outcome for them because I want to reassure them that I am not going to put them on the spot, that I’m not attacking them, that I am in-fact on their side.
I do want to create a win-win out of this situation.
I want to make sure that they feel comfortable because let’s face it, when we’re upset about something as customers or clients, it’s awkward to get on the phone or to really express ourselves fully.
That’s not something most of us have learned how to do comfortably. So, I really want to ensure them that I’m going to create a safe space for them and really be able to receive what they’re saying.
Now, if that’s something that you don’t feel like you can do over the phone, definitely don’t offer it.
#4 Maybe Ask Them to Reach Out Through Email Instead.
This is allowing you to divert the conversation from a public place, where it’s very difficult to meet their needs and where things are more likely to escalate, into a private scenario where you can one-on-one talk with them and help to resolve the situation.
#5 Stick to Your Boundairies.
And then lastly, what you might need to do is state any limitations or any boundaries that you have without any judgments, without any labels, without any pushback or emotion behind it. You want to just be really cool, calm, and collected. An example of limitations might be saying something like,
“I really want to help you find a solution, but my system’s not capable of doing that.“
If we’re talking about boundaries – let’s say, for instance, somebody who leaves a racist comment on your social media – if that’s a boundary for you (and I hope that it is) you want to be able to say, “No, that’s not okay,” in a way that’s not going to escalate.
But if you say, “I don’t allow racist comments,” chances are that’s going to escalate because that person may not even agree that their comment is racist. (How many times have we seen that online where people are like, “That’s not racist. That’s this. That’s that“?)
We don’t want to get into an ideological argument with someone. We want to just (without labels or without judgment) nip in the bud what we do not allow.
So, you could simply say something like, “I want to help you find a solution for this, but I do not allow name-calling or I do not allow comments based on another person’s race.“
How I answered my “f off email”
Now, let me give you an example of how I’ve stated my boundaries in a way that allowed me to turn an email from somebody who told me to “F OFF“, in all caps, didn’t just say “F” by the way, and was able to turn that around into a really positive, encouraging exchange.
In my response to her, I answered some concerns that she had, and then I simply just needed to state:
“And by the way, I’m a human being. I totally understand if you’re having a bad day. I get it. We’ve all been there. But, I just want you to remember that there’s a human being on the other side of the screen. I really hope that your day picks up.“
She responded back to me with:
“Thank you so much for your response. You’re right. I am having a terrible day. I just got this really bad news and I’m feeling pretty devastated.“
From there, we actually emailed back and forth just offering support to her and answering some questions that she had on where she might be able to go to get support.
Her last email was just a simple, “Thank you so much. This totally brightened my day.“
This is the power of being able to respond as our Best Self, assuming that other person also has a Best Self that they just maybe can’t access them this moment. When we have compassion and understanding with healthy boundaries, taking responsibility for what we need to take responsibility for, doing our due diligence, answering questions, making those clear requests, but being a human being and not trying to put somebody in their place, this is the kind of thing that we can create.
“How do you respond to troll comments?”
My best piece of advice for how to respond to troll comments is Q.T.I.P.
Chances are it’s just some kid on the other side of the screen being a troll getting his kicks off of it. Sometimes the only thing you need to do is delete, have a sense of humor about it, or you might need to block them.
Delete and block are totally adequate choices for certain situations. Not for legitimate complaints or just rude people, but if it’s just a straight up troll, just block and delete.
There’s no problem with that whatsoever.
If you noticed, learning how to respond to rude comments requires a pretty strong mindset and a pretty stable emotional state for yourself.
If you’re putting yourself out there, if you are doing anything of value, you’re going to get pushback in one form or another.
That really means we get to develop NOT just thicker skin, we get to develop a stronger, healthier mindset.
And if that’s a struggle for you, I have a tool that could help.
I have a process of belief breakthrough that teaches female entrepreneurs how to gain control of your emotions and how to overcome your limiting beliefs or your triggers that are influencing how you’re showing up in these situations.
I put together a 15-minute training called Bottlenecks to Breakthroughs.
And I’m offering it for free.
It’s going to teach you the overview and the steps of how to do this for yourself.
You can grab that training for free by clicking the photo below or clicking here to learn more.
What about you, boss lady?
I would love for you to drop a comment letting us know YOUR best tips on how to respond to rude comments, especially without escalating the situation and in a way that creates happy clients, customers, or onlookers.
What works for you or what do you most want to try?
Scroll down to leave your comments!
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About the Author
I’m the breakthrough coach for self-employed women who are barely surviving their business. I help you to identify and overcome your old habits – both practical, as well as emotional and mental – learn a better way of approaching the work/life/family juggling act, and gain confidence in your new role in your growing businesses. Learn more about me here.
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