How Do You Handle Negativity from Others?

by Jami Gold on January 13, 2015

in Writing Stuff

Megaphone on a security fence with text: Do You Listen to Negativity?

At some point, we’re likely to run into negativity in our lives. Maybe we have a friend or relative who likes to complain—loudly—every time they go out to eat, to the point that we’re embarrassed to be seen with them. Maybe we have a boss who berates us publicly in meetings with our co-workers. Maybe we have a parent or spouse who tells us we’re not “good enough” to succeed at something.

It sucks. And quite frankly, it can be a form of emotional abuse.

Unfortunately, we’re likely to run into negativity in our writer-lives as well. Feedback might be filled with cruel “give up” put-downs. We might be attacked by internet trolls. Reviews might rip apart us, personally, instead of focusing on our book.

That kind of negativity sucks too. And I don’t think anyone would blame us for trying to avoid it as much as possible.

So the question then becomes, how do we want to avoid it? What are we willing to do? What’s our personal policy for how to handle negativity from others?

Negativity Surrounds Us—Now What?

It’s near impossible to avoid all negativity. Most sources of news focus exclusively on the bad, and we often can’t completely check out from current events and all connections to family, friends, or social media.

At the same time, the internet has created more paths to negativity:

  • “Don’t discuss religion or politics” has often been advice for getting along with others—and many ignore that advice on social media.
  • Worldwide social media can lead to more culture clashes.
  • Social media and blogs and comments have given everyone a voice—which leads some to feel entitled to be heard.
  • Anonymity leads some to say things they’d never say in person, or to not have to treat the name on the other end of the screen as a real person with feelings.

It’s inevitable that we’re all going to have to face negativity, so we have to decide how to handle it. Some people choose to avoid sources of negativity, whether that means not reading reviews of their books or staying off Facebook or Twitter during events that stir up negativity, and some people proclaim certain aspects of their lives safe spaces and defend them vigorously.

There’s no “always right” answer because we’re each going to have a different line of discomfort. Some hate confrontation, and some revel in it, etc.

We each have to find what we’re willing to live with, from the perspective both of how to combat and/or avoid negativity and of what we’ll put up with to maintain connections to others. Only we can make that decision.

Negativity, Opinions, and Free Speech

In the U.S., the importance of free speech is sometimes explained with a quote from Evelyn Beatrice Hall (this quote is often misattributed to Voltaire, but actually comes from Evelyn’s biography of Voltaire, where she summarized his beliefs):

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Whether you believe in that or not, that quote gives us a start in examining how we might want to interact with those we disagree with, especially if they’re full of negativity:

  • Does “defending to the death” mean people should be allowed to say whatever they want, wherever they want? Or should we be able to control our own online spaces?
  • What about in public spaces? Is it okay to try to remove the platform of someone spouting views we disagree with (such as by trying to get their media platform canceled)? What if the only way to take away that platform would be to destroy their life (dragging them through the mud in every way possible)?
  • Should we always try to disagree in a respectful way? How does that affect our choices?

There are no easy answers to those questions, but I’ve often reminded myself that free speech doesn’t guarantee that anyone will care about someone’s opinions or prevent others from invoking the right to not listen. The freedom to say what we want doesn’t mean anyone is owed a platform.

Negativity Example #1: The Entitlement Problem

That attitude about not owing someone a platform goes double when we’re talking about our online spaces. Nora Roberts, mega-author of both romance and futuristic suspense stories (as J.D. Robb), posted last week on her blog about her struggle with creating a virtual positive space on her own blog and Facebook page.

No matter the conversation topic, someone will feel the need to dump negativity on Nora and her readers. When confronted, they’ll reply:

“It’s just my opinion.”

Everyone has opinions. That’s not special. Having an opinion doesn’t give anyone the right to be rude, especially in someone else’s spaces. No one is entitled to spout their negativity anywhere and everywhere. No one is entitled to be heard.

My Decision: My Blog Is Not a Platform for Others

I’ve seen this myself on my blog. About six months ago, someone started leaving comments on my older posts—disagreeing with every post topic. According to them, head-hopping is wonderful, showing is awful, both character and plot-driven stories are insipid (theoretical ideas only, please), intrusive omniscient narrators are the way to go, info dumps are to be applauded, etc.

At first I shrugged. I don’t take offense when people disagree with me. I wished this person luck with their writing and with finding an audience who appreciated their style.

But as the comments rose into the double digits (and continued over weeks and months), the comments started feeling like graffiti on my blog. I went into “maybe you should visit a different blog with advice more to your liking” mode. They didn’t take me up on my suggestion.

Finally, as the number of comments continued increasing, and as this person’s comments insulted my other commenters and my guest posters, the reality of the situation dawned on me:

Some people just want to be negative in someone else’s spaces.

I don’t have to put up with that on my blog or my Facebook wall. No one is entitled to my or my readers’ attention, and I don’t have to give it to them. So I deleted all their comments.

I didn’t put a *smile* after that line (even though I thought about it) because that decision didn’t make me happy. But the truth is that we’re allowed to create policies about negativity for ourselves and our spaces.

My blog or Facebook wall doesn’t have to be someone else’s platform for spouting their views. They’re welcome to start their own blog and create their own spaces for that.

My decision isn’t about censorship, shutting down freedom of speech, or saying someone isn’t entitled to their opinion. They’re absolutely entitled to their opinion. But their platform for sharing that opinion doesn’t have to be here.

Negativity Example #2: Opinions Are Subjective

The second issue Nora brought up in her post is that some people leaving their opinions on her spaces try to tell her how to do her job. “You should write this way.” “You shouldn’t write those kinds of stories.”

In other words, they’re full of opinions. Storytelling, thy name is subjective.

These aren’t readers pointing out factual issues (typos, historical errors, etc.). Nope, just opinions—that they are bound and determined to tell the author. They demand that the author listen to their opinions. When questioned, those posters’ defense of “It’s just my opinion” usually include a “You should learn how to take constructive criticism” tone.

To those with “constructive criticism” opinions, Nora again says:

“Bite me. … The reader is not my employer… Not welcome. Not asked for. Not accepted. … A book doesn’t come with a suggestion box, and the writer is not obliged to sculpt a story to your specific needs.”

In one of my Facebook groups, we discussed whether this response was too harsh. After all, for indie authors, the reader is the customer.

But no matter how much we respect readers, we can’t treat them as customers in a “The Customer Is Always Right” way because what some readers love, others will hate. Even if we’re not published yet, we’ve probably seen this with conflicting feedback from beta readers or critique groups.

Multiply that by thousands of readers, and we have a situation where we do have to ignore our readers’ “constructive criticism.” Just because something doesn’t work for one reader doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Opinions stated as “this thing I didn’t like means something is most definitely wrong” are inappropriate to post on an author’s blog, Facebook wall or page, etc.

Those readers can vent away in their own blogs, Goodreads groups, reviews, etc. There are plenty of reader spaces, and out of the millions of sites on the internet, they’re being asked to avoid negativity on less than a handful.

The only reason they’d seek out the author’s spaces to state their negative opinion is if they felt entitled to have their opinion heard by the author. They want to hijack the author’s spaces as a megaphone to spread their opinion.

Now, some of us might choose to listen to readers through reviews or whatnot, just to get a feel for whether there’s an issue of something not working at all. But we could seek out review sites for that information. We don’t have to invite that feedback into our spaces unless we want.

I’ve written before about how we have the right to decide how our spaces are run. We can come up with spam policies, moderation policies, commenting policies, etc. Having a negativity policy is just another way to control our spaces. We might not be able to avoid negativity everywhere, but if we think of our spaces as our online home, we get to decide who we let in the front door. *smile*

Do you try to avoid negativity, and if so, how? How do you handle those you disagree with? Do you try to prevent negativity in your spaces, and if so, how? Do you think I was wrong to delete those comments? Do you agree or disagree with Nora Roberts’ attitude toward constructive criticism from readers?

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78 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Flossie Benton Rogers January 13, 2015 at 7:43 am

I agree with what you did about deleting the comments. You gave the person ample opportunity to tamp it down and exit gracefully. Nora also has the right not to be hassled by a reader–in her space== who wants her to write a certain way.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 9:19 am

Hi Flossie,

Yes, like as we were discussing last week about branding, our brand is the impression others have of us. And in this person’s case, an impression of quirky grew into an impression of bashing those who hold different (and the more common) beliefs about writing craft issues, and that latter impression grew in strength as time and comment numbers increased until I finally said “enough!”

As for readers who want writers to write a certain way, I like Nora’s attitude of “I listen to my characters.” 🙂 I can’t make my heroes more alpha than they really are or whatever. That’s just not how my process works. *shrug* Thanks for the comment!

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Carradee January 13, 2015 at 9:58 am

A pertinent detail: There’s a difference between commenting on an event/action/mindset, and ridiculing a person. It’s “That dress looks ridiculous” vs. “You look ridiculous.” “That decision was stupid” vs. “You are stupid.”

Once you turn things into a personal attack, that’s a logical fallacy (ad hominem), and you’ve lost the argument—but in propaganda terms, ad hominems readily work as appeals to emotion, so if your goal is to turn public opinion against the other party, ad hominems work for that even while you actually lose the argument. Which has led to some people believing that an ad hominem wins an argument.

My roommate says she wishes she could’ve recorded the time she saw me furious, because it was a hilarious (and “masterful”) use of language to completely lambaste a person’s actions, without getting crass. I wouldn’t be surprised if I write a satire someday, once I get more comfortable with displaying that side of me. (I avoid it as a knee-jerk reaction, because I’m used to those kinds of tools being used against individuals themselves.)

I completely agree with your deletion and with Nora Roberts’s attitude. Websites are not public places. Websites are private property. Every private entity has a right to say how its space will be used. That’s why, when one writer’s forum was virulently anti-self-publishing, I didn’t run around spouting self-publishing’s praises. I politely sought to correct misinformation, at least so others on the forum interested in a more rounded view might be aware there was more to the story, but I wasn’t about to go filling the pro-trad-publishing space with anti-propaganda.

And then the way some folks jumped down my throat and refused to believe my own evidence and experiences was telling in itself.

Now, if someone posts an article or blog post that takes a strong stance on something, I am willing to comment in the contrary, pointing out specific items of misinformation, disinformation, and/or incomplete information. But I have to feel well enough (physically and emotionally) to bother/care to do so. And I do so with the knowledge and understanding that my comments may be deleted at the site owner’s discretion.

Thing is, I was taught, as a kid, that 100% critical = kind & loving, and that 100% praise = someone “just being nice” and “not meaning it”. (To this day, I feel uncomfortable saying something that’s 100% positive. I don’t let that stop me from doing it.)

So after I got Internet access at 15 (over a decade ago), in my wanting to show how I liked things and cared for them, I was one of the trolls.

I was honestly bewildered when people got upset with me. I couldn’t understand why so many people were “too sensitive,” as my family insisted I was when I didn’t like the way they said something. When I was around 16, I drove a friend to tears and she bothered to tell me why.

That was when I started making sure I said something positive. I paid attention to how people responded and figured out on my own that people took negatives best when they were sandwiched between positives.

So. What does that have to do with how I view negativity?

Whenever I see a troll or something harsh, I remember myself. I consider everything through the lens of being well-intended unless given cause to believe otherwise. And when/if I respond, seek to do so in such a way to help cue in people who are confused, as I was.

Interestingly, I haven’t had much trouble with trolls in my own spaces (other than immediate family, but I’m now far, far away from them). I think it’s because I’m not fun for them—and I’m usually able to make them look stupid if they tick me off. There’s one person here in town who’s refused to come anywhere I’ll be, since I made obvious that I was disarming all their baiting and one-upmanship on purpose.

(I made myself look oblivious at first, but then one day, they tried it when I had already been ticked off and such. With the tone of a single sentence, I undid all my playing dumb. 🙁 Their expression was fantastic, but my slip-up has negative effects for some other people. All I had to do was hold off for two months… But what’s done is done.)

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Hi Carradee,

Very true! This post is about the personal kind of negativity, but I’ve seen people take offense and blow things out of proportion even when not a personal attack. Those responses usually escalate into the personal, which doesn’t help the situation. Hopefully we might do better at coming up with smart policies when we’re not in the heat of the moment. 🙂

As you said, the polite thing is to respect the space we’re in. Here, I often welcome disagreeing opinions, like my “Do you think I was wrong to delete those comments?” question. But I’d still expect people to show at least a modicum of respect. LOL!

I’m so sorry your family twisted your perceptions that much, but I’m glad you’re in a healthier place now. *hugs* Like you, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and to not take offense. Tone-policing is a lost cause online, where there is no tone.

I hope things all work out for you! Thanks for the comment!

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Pauline Baird Jones January 13, 2015 at 12:18 pm

My space, my rules. On others’ space, I try to be polite, to act, not react. But I was glad to read NR’s response, because I think we’ve all got the “just constructive criticism/just my opinion” line at some point. It felt wrong, but I never really thought about why, just walked away. I had a great mentor who told me that good criticism makes you feel empowered and excited, bad makes you want to toss in the towel. Pinning “constructive” to your criticism doesn’t make it so. (wry grin) So yeah, you were totally right, IMHO. Besides, I like your space. It’s a positive place. 🙂

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Hi Pauline,

LOL! at “Pinning “constructive” to your criticism doesn’t make it so.” Yes, I’ve posted before about how just because someone else would write our story a different way doesn’t mean it would be better. That’s good for us to remember as authors–and as beta readers. 🙂

Different doesn’t automatically mean better. Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Carradee January 13, 2015 at 7:57 pm

I understood Pauline’s point as being in reference to people who claim that negative criticism = “constructive”, redefining reality to make it so they’re the nice ones and your issue with their actions mean you have a problem.

Such people can be incredibly insistent. When I started getting praise from clients that get recognition, my family started INSISTING I don’t know what words mean or how to properly use them. Per them, their redefinitions were necessarily reality, and my disagreement with them was evidence that I had Asperger’s or some such thing—some kind of psychological/processing problem.

Sorry if this ending is abrupt, but just typing this is difficult for me, right now.

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:24 pm

Hi Carradee,

Yes, that’s a very possible interpretation as well. My post tomorrow is about how within writing we often “redefine” words to add meaning, but that’s very different from arguing for the opposite. I’m sorry your family twisted situations around so much. *hugs*

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Emerald O'Brien January 13, 2015 at 1:11 pm

I try to avoid negativity in my own life and my writer life for sure. In my own places, home and online, I think it has to do with being respectful. The moment someone crosses the line, it’s not a “safe” place to be anymore. Whether it’s just you, or it’s your guests that are recieving negativity, I think you did the right thing by deleting those comments.
I believe that just as personal settings can show a lot about a character in a book, one can also reflect a lot about the person online who runs it as well. What they allow and what they will not.
I loved that post of Nora’s, by the way, and the general message I got from it. When you have some control over your surroundings, I’d say use it. When it’s negativity in another place, it’s easier to leave.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Hi Emerald,

That’s a great point! One of the reasons I finally decided to delete those comments is because they became more insulting of those commenters who disagreed, and one comment attacked one of my guest posters.

I have thick skin for myself and don’t usually take offense, but I want this to be a safe place for my visitors too. I don’t need my readers to feel insulted (by me or anyone else) when they come here. Yes, when we experience negativity in a place that isn’t ours, it’s easier to leave, but why would I want to force my readers to make that choice? I feel better about my decision now. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Serena Yung January 13, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Oh yes I definitely hate it when readers try to almost command you to make these plot changes or these character changes (or change their gender!!!) I mean, it’s our story, not the reader’s. The reader has no right to CONTROL our story. They can give SUGGESTIONS or pinpoint things that are not working well, but they can’t control the story. Plus, I can’t change my plot or characters unless I realized I made a mistake somewhere, e.g. gaping plot hole or character inconsistency/ out of character moment, haha.

About that person who appeared six months ago, oh man, you’ve seen me with many non-mainstream opinions on writing, but even I’m not THAT anti-mainstream, haha. I usually have a more nuanced position where I prefer technique X better than technique Y though Y is more popular nowadays, but I see the merits of Y too; and I realize that the norms and preferences are different in different genres (or time periods or cultures!)

For people who want to express different viewpoints, it’s helpful to phrase it in a polite, diplomatic, and respectful way; it’s also good to point out if there’s anything you DO agree with too, since saying that you agree with someone on something usually calms them down, haha. It’s similar to what Carradee said about sandwiching negative feedback between some positive feedback to make it more acceptable to the hearer. Of course, when we give these agreeing statements or positive feedback, they should be sincere, not just false honeyed words…(almost blandishments. :O)

I don’t see the above technique a “manipulation”, though. Rather, I see it as being sensitive to and caring about the hearer’s feelings. 😀

For the part about some people being confrontation avoidant, and some revelling in confrontation instead, despite how much I express disagreeing/ non-mainstream opinions, I’m actually quite conflict avoidant, haha. I also have a good friend who’s really smart on this: When he agrees with you, he expresses his agreement very vehemently and enthusiastically; when he disagrees, he expresses it in a way that either SOUNDS like he’s agreeing with you (lol), or in a way that is SO gentle and diplomatic that it doesn’t sound at all like he’s “against” you. It sounds like he’s just commenting/ pleasantly chatting with you, and there is no hint at all that there’s anything confrontational, oppositional, or conflictual about it, haha. So I really admire him in this.

There are two other friends that I can think of who express disagreements in such magnificently skilful and tactful ways. (You can tell that I really value and esteem tact, haha.) For one friend, she’s very calm and just gives off a feeling that she’s not at all pressuring you, intruding on your space, or anything. So when she disagrees, you don’t feel slighted or hurt or anything. It’s really amazing how she manages to do this!

The other friend somehow manages to express her disagreements in a way that sounds friendly and relatively gentle, though enthusiastic at the same time. The smiling definitely contributes to this. So I once again never feel “attacked” when she disagrees with me.

In contrast, I know a person who is not so tactful in expressing her disagreements, and she disagrees very often, a bit of a debater. 🙁 When she disagrees, she starts talking even more quickly than usual, with a lot of heat and sharpness, and she doesn’t smile and looks like she’s mad at you even though she claims she’s not angry. So with her, I try very hard to only express agreement (or pretend to agree), or simply avoid instances where disagreements might occur, because it’s SO unpleasant when she “machine guns” you. =_= Now I’m not saying she’s a “bad” person, just that in THIS particular aspect, she is not very pleasant to talk to, haha. Eek.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Hi Serena,

LOL! Yeah, I’ve never had a problem with the way you worded your opinions. 🙂 This person, however, chose the insulting route. It wasn’t diplomatic, polite, or respectful–and there wasn’t a single positive comment (or even a positive word!) in the bunch.

As for the idea of some readers wanting to control the stories they receive, it sounds like they need a “choose your own adventure book.” 😉 I’ve seen an author attacked for trying to determine the interest level of continuing a series–as though the question was manipulative or blackmailing. I don’t know what the author actually said, so I don’t know what the “tone” might have been or how much the “method” of trying to determine that interest level might have contributed to the problem, but an author doesn’t owe anyone a certain book.

So I hear you about how much tact can help in this situation. Unfortunately, tact and getting the right “tone” are difficult in online situations. (Which is why I lean even more toward giving people the benefit of the doubt, but others are just as quick to attack. *sigh*) As you said, those people aren’t pleasant to deal with in any confrontational situation. Thanks for your comment!

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Serena Yung January 13, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Yay! I’m relieved that my wording was okay, haha. Lol yes they should read choose your own adventure stories instead.

Ya about the difficulty of conveying tone online, that’s why I flood my messages with emoticons and uh…expressions of laughter, lol. For that friend I mentioned who is really smart at tact, he types an expression of laughter after any comment that may sound unplesant to me, to show he means no anger or anything, it’s just a simple, friendly comment. Also, he has another great method where he uses exclamation marks a lot! 😀 Exclamation marks can make statements bubble even more strongly with positivity, at least that’s what I feel, lol.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 2:50 pm

Hi Serena,

LOL! Uh, yeah, I’m big with the emoticons and whatnot too. 😉

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Carradee January 13, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Yes. I <3 emoticons. I even include them in professional e-mails. 🙂

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Anne R. Allen January 13, 2015 at 1:23 pm

I agree 100% with what you’re saying and what Nora said. Some people argued on other blogs that because the negativity was on Nora’s FB page and she doesn’t own FB, the negativity was somehow okay. But it isn’t.

I saw Nora write more on the subject on another blog and she said one of her most negative comments on FB came from a religious fanatic who wanted to bully Nora into only writing stories that conformed with the fanatic’s personal belief system.

In other words, this “reader” wanted to bully Nora into kow-towing to a hate-based view of religion. Given what happened in Paris this week, this is scary stuff.

Bullies, trolls, and terrorists don’t have to be tolerated in the name of “fairness”. We shouldn’t feed them or applaud them or promote their agendas. The person on your blog was an obvious troll. I delete all trolls on my blog. People can disagree with me, but if they disrespect me or my readers, I delete.

I think we owe it to our blog readers to keep them safe.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Hi Anne,

Yeah, I don’t get that attitude about FB either. Yes, we don’t “own” our FB page, but FB has given us the tools to manage our Pages and Timelines–for a reason.

Our Page or Profile Timeline isn’t like the general news feed, where we can’t delete someone else’s post (all we can do is tell FB that we don’t want to see it anymore). In contrast, FB has given us the tools to delete a post from our Timeline.

So why on earth should we not be allowed to use them? Our Page is still our platform–it’s not the general news feed. Do those same people argue that we shouldn’t be allowed to block people in our Twitter timeline?

Great point about “fairness” too. I could have the opinion that everyone whose name starts with “J” should die. (Yes, I’m picking on myself to make it uber-obvious that I’m not serious. 😉 ) That opinion doesn’t have to be respected at the same level of other opinions. It’s not “unfair” if we ignore the ridiculous, the trolls, the bullies, etc. They can still state their opinion, but they’re not owed an audience of listeners. 🙂

Thank you for making me feel better about my decision too, as like you said, I do want my readers to feel safe. 🙂 And thanks for sharing your insights!

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Robin January 13, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Thank you for maintaining a positive tone to the conversations on your blog. I have gone through and commented on a lot of your old posts… (you often link to them, and I fall down the rabbit hole.) so I’m glad you went to the trouble of deleting the negative commenter’s ranting, or naysaying, etc… because I frequently take the time to read the comments and discussion after your posts, and I expect (based on what I’ve seen here thus far!) On your blog I Expect intelligent, respectful conversation. And I find it. 🙂 So Thank You for maintaining a nice space for me to visit.

I believe the internet would benefit greatly from more of us remembering my mama’s advice – if you have nothing good to say, say nothing.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Hi Robin,

Yes, at first my shrugging attitude included the thought of “oh, they’re old posts, no one else will see these comments.” But it’s still not right to attack other commenters or my guest posters, no matter how old the post is. 🙂 Thanks for backing me up on that thought!

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Robin January 15, 2015 at 12:51 pm

your old posts are definitely getting read. 😀 Many of them are quite helpful

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Jami Gold January 15, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Thanks, Robin! I’m glad to hear that. 🙂

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) January 23, 2015 at 7:57 am

Hi Jami, I’ve been MIA from (taking a long holiday/post-holiday break) but I’m back.

I agree with those before who said you did the right thing. Even if you had “let it go too long” as some have said, I can understand why you give the benefit of doubt in general. I’m the same way.

Sometimes it really is someone having an off day, and either didn’t fully mean what they first said, or would’ve said it more tactfully.

I certainly had my troll-ish moments a few years back, which got me banned on one forum, and contrary to popular belief, I LEARNED from that.

That may not be the case for the vast majority on the internet, but I do respect someone for at least trying to be better after a big blow up, because trolls aside, we’re human and that sometimes means we’re not as tactful as we’d like to be.

Still, in general it’s true we can mistake abuse for “constructive feedback.” But it still can go the opposite extreme, people so afraid to say ANYTHING contradictory that nothing changes for the better.

That’s why I’m not always a fan of the “Silence is Golden” approach. Sure, most times it’s wise to back away before things get heated.

HOWEVER…

Sometimes in life we have to face hard conversations, and they’re not always 100% positive, even if how we express them can be more often than not, that’s a distinction I think few people make.

That’s why I personally can’t stomach feedback in the “My way or the Highway” bullish manner many writers take when they talk about publishing. Doesn’t mean I think they’re lying or misleading.

Yes, this business is hard, but writers shouldn’t make it harder by making new writers afraid to disagree, which doesn’t mean they’re going to slam someone on Facebook or whatever. Sometimes I feel writers confuse “Professionalism” with “Submissive” in the the oppressive, not good way!

Hacks aside, we were all beginners once, and while I agree overall with the ideal of “We’re eternal students” pragmatically speaking it’s not always possible to stay in that place, or at least I personally haven’t found a way to co-exist these two separate yet somehow connect ideals for myself yet.

To me, that’s not a “Can’t Please Everyone” issue, it’s much bigger and broader issue than that.

That’s a big part of why I feel people can use accountability as a weapon rather than simply keeping ourselves and those we work and/or live with honest but still civil.

It’s also why I don’t entirely agree with “Say something nice or DIE!” mentality.

Sometimes honesty isn’t positive. BUT as Jami and others in the comments have said, you don’t have to criminalize or demonize people to be honest. That’s not “Free Speech” it’s abuse, whether it be physical or verbal. I certainly don’t advocate or condone abuse on my site or social media hangouts, but at the same time, I do think sometimes those tear-jerking, rage-inducing conversations NEED to happen, but simply kept as private as possible amongst the people involved.
(There’s a reason we have the saying “Behind the scenes” you know?)

I do agree with Nora about “listening to your characters” and I certainly was put to the test with my upcoming debut novel “Gabriel”
(A children’s book, just to clarify since this a romance-centered blog for the YA/Adult/New Adult crowd) and many beta-readers early on wanted my antagonist to be the MC rather than Gabriel himself, partly this was because Gabriel’s personality is more laid back and thoughtful versus Rum (my antagonist “Frenemy”) is rough and tumble and doesn’t mince words and bent on revenge

But this was GABRIEL’S story, and while Rum’s key to the conflict, it didn’t work with him as the lead. The only way I could make that work is to have dual narrators, and that would make the book thrice as long as it is now! (I’m still working with my editor on it since selling it in 2012)

This is an issue I think most stories starring shy or soft-spoken characters often face, we certainly don’t want them to be passive, but we also can’t turn them into bitter, five o’clock shadow (in the case of men), and trigger-happy psychos if that’s NOT them, even if it’s thrilling for some to read about.

That said, I don’t fully agree with another commenter who said readers are ALWAYS your employer.

There’s a BIG difference between considering your readers (when you finally have them in the first place) versus pandering to them. Yes, to have a career you need readers (who are customers) but you as the writer still have to stand your ground creatively.

I really don’t mean this in a catty way, but it’s your name on the book, you’re the one who has to market it, and sometimes what’s right for a particular book isn’t right for some of the readers you want to have or have had in the past.

I’m sure there are fans of Anne Rice who like her earlier work more than her current work, and we all know how authors of a popular series may not have embraced books outside that series, which doesn’t inherently mean they’re not as good, but they may attract a different fan base separate of the series. That can work, too.

That’s no less valid whether your a “brand name” or not. Period. I agree with Nora having their “House Rules” but I do worry sometimes when I hear authors who seem callously indifferent to their readers. You don’t have to pander to your readers to be appreciative of them, for reasons BEYOND the financial (Re: Book Sales)

While we as writers don’t want to be governed by our readers, we should APPRECIATE and respect the readers who genuinely love, buy (or library borrow) and tactfully review our work, and give us respect in return.

I’ve gotten to know some fabulous authors on Twitter, and when I started doing fan trailers of books I love from new or lesser known authors in hopes of finding more readers to share the love a certain book or give it more of a boost, sometimes the author and/or illustrator of that book will see it/enjoy it and personally thank me for helping spread the good, and that was a cool feeling inside this heart of mine. While we often lament or get frustrated with how hands-on we writers have to be now, those moments remind of the BRIGHT SIDE, and now more than ever writers need to band together when possible to help each other survive and thrive in this business.

I only do fan videos for books and authors I truly love and respect, as a reader first, but also as an author myself.

While fandom can get out of hand (like in the case of some of Charlene Harris’ fans for ending her Sookie series) it can also be beautiful and humbling in a GOOD way, too, and I try to remember that whenever I get down about this slow crawl toward my author dreams.

So while I agree we should consider our reader AFTER we’ve drafted our work, and respect the readers we do have, we still have to write what we love and are good at, otherwise we’ll have no readers at all.

That’s especially why I truly have respect for authors who can afford to indie publish most or all of their work, subjective junk and plagiarist scandals aside, that takes guts and heart that should NEVER be mocked or made light of.

With all due respect (and I DO MEAN THAT) I also think that commenter’s take on “hobby” writing is far too narrow.

Just because you aren’t answering to a publisher or a rabid fanbase doesn’t mean you don’t take your writing seriously. Often the problem is more nuanced than that. Something I know you know, Jami, but I feel writers further ahead of where we’d like to be can forget sometimes.

I once misunderstood an author on Twitter who I thought discounted middle grade books (the way some children’s authors bash ALL books for adults, and I don’t mean the XXX kind for clarity’s sake [Wink]), which is what I primarily write.

Or how some critics bash romance fiction in general, to use a genre more familiar to most of the regulars on this blog.

What he REALLY meant was that he didn’t know how to describe or categorize his books in his neck of the woods from a marketing logistics standpoint.

Apparently in the U.K. (not sure about Europe at large) there isn’t a defined category for middle grade fiction (books for kids 8-12) like there is for picture books and YA, but he actually writes what we in the U.S. and Canada know to be middle grade fiction, so it was simply a cultural misunderstanding, which despite the “Global” ideals we get told daily can still happen.

Anyway, it resolved and no hard feelings on my part or his, I even managed to make a fun joke of it.

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Jami Gold January 23, 2015 at 9:09 am

Hi Taurean,

I hope you had a wonderful break. 🙂

Yes, I see nuances too much to always write off a person, opinion, perspective, etc. I am still learning, and I invite my commenters to share their insights because I DO want to learn. 🙂 As you said, there should be a middle ground between silence and meanness. Too many situations devolve into insult matches because people hold themselves back until they lose all sense of trying to find common ground, so I think reasonable discussion about difficult topics is important.

Great example of how the feedback from others might not match the story we want to tell. As you discovered, the protagonist might not be the most powerful of character personalities and that’s okay. If it’s their story, it’s their story.

“There’s a BIG difference between considering your readers … versus pandering to them.”

Yes! Exactly! Considering our readers, target market, etc. is just smart. We get to decide who that group is though. We might want our audience to be readers who are okay with A or who enjoy B, etc.

But that’s completely different from trying to deliver the exact book any one of them wants. Because THAT? That would be impossible. 😉

Fantastic point about how there’s a difference between refusing to pander and being unappreciative. And I think that’s the nuance being lost from the lack of context with Nora’s quotes. Her words on their own might sound both non-pandering and unappreciative. However, seeing as how her comments were on her spaces and about her spaces, where she spends time with her fans–replying to them, thanking them, etc.–I think it’s obvious IN CONTEXT that she does appreciate her fans.

As you said, we can respect and appreciate our readers even if we don’t pander to them. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your insights!

P.S. No worries on the edits. 🙂 Let me know if I missed any!

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Christina Hawthorne January 13, 2015 at 1:50 pm

To me it always comes down to respect. Those who are disrespectful from the start are usually not there to give constructive criticism or put forth a measured argument. You acted correctly and I agree with Nora’s opinion on the topic. How often have we been in a restaurant and rolled our eyes because some poor employee was having to deal with an irate customer who was determined to be irrational. At some point you have to tell someone you can’t please them and send them on their way. A customer shouldn’t be allowed to hold a business and its customers hostage and your site is no different. My inclination is to counter disrespect with respect in every situation, but like you I have my limits and at that point I’d end a person’s access. Your actions were appropriate.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Hi Christina,

Yes! Respect (or disrespect) is a choice–and that choice reflects many other attitudes.

Great example of the restaurant too. We’ve probably all seen a situation where someone wasn’t going to be made happy, no matter what. Their unhappiness wouldn’t be helpful to the other readers here either, so it’s not like it could be a “teaching moment” or anything. Thanks for the vote of support! 🙂

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Carradee January 13, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Good analogy on the restaurant. I’m the kind of customer that easily becomes a nightmare—list of allergies as long as my arm. It’s worse than it used to be, to the point that I pretty much can’t eat out without having something that’ll make me itch, but even before that… Imagine being allergic to rice, tomato, egg yolk, pork, almonds, stevia, aggregate berries (ones with seeds on the outside)—where you can’t even be around strawberries, and even trace amounts of rice will leave you sick for days.

Add to that a health condition that means you should eat at least 4x per day; if you feel hungry, you MUST eat within 20 minutes or else you’ll get ill; and you’re under nutritionist orders to eat protein with every meal—more protein than most people need.

I can tell the difference between a server screwup and a kitchen screwup. When I do eat out, I encounter some kind of screwup probably 1/3 of the time, if not more. Servers are always so relieved when I don’t hold kitchen mistakes against them.

I also make sure to tip well—with excellent service getting a tip high enough to be considered excessive. But you know what? Those servers recognize me the next time, remember some details about me, and make sure to work my table, probably telling their co-workers about all the allergies to dissuade them from wanting to deal with me. I’ve even had a server notice when I forgot to say “No X” in an order, where he asked me or added it for me.

A little respect and consideration of others can go a long way.

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Hi Carradee,

Great example! I have a few minor allergies (nothing like yours), and I always feel bad for being “difficult,” so I can only imagine the struggles you face. I’m glad you’ve found some servers who are willing to work with you! 🙂

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Carradee January 15, 2015 at 1:15 pm

I’ve actually found friendly, informal, or church gatherings to be more difficult than restaurants. Restaurants, I can hand the server a list of the major ones. Other places, well…

My parents would scold for making others feel bad, if I actually said I was allergic to something others had made. More than once, I ended up with hives and trouble breathing because… I guess examples are best, because it’s the kind of thing that’s so far outside most folks’ normal that people don’t seem to understand until I give them.

• Mom, in dragging me in the bathroom and waxing my legs before the wedding of my first friend who got married, used a sangria wax—and then didn’t listen to me when the hives first started showing, and then wouldn’t let me out the door without hose on, insisting not wearing them was disrespectful and that I should’ve already known that.

• If I went somewhere with my parents and there were strawberries, they’d only take me home or do something about it if it was convenient for them. I was told to deal with it. And if they did bother to get all the strawberries put away, they insisted I had to be fine, because the strawberries were gone. (Never mind that I was already mid-reaction…)

• Mom would make cakes for others with strawberries in them and 1. would leave the containers unwrapped in the fridge (I was often required to make or assist with dinner), and 2. not always tell me when she had strawberries out, so I’d take a break from work to get a snack—or a meal—and end up having an allergic reaction that left me unable to work for a day or more. (Remember—if I feel hungry, I MUST eat within 20 minutes.)

• Someone (could’ve been Mom or Dad) ate strawberries and left the bowl in the sink for me to wash. I had to stop in the middle of washing dishes, take antihistamine, and lie down. I got in trouble for not finishing.

• I was required to do dishes, most of the time (even though handwashing dishes triggers my contact dermatitis, thinning my skin and making it outright painful to touch anything… I eventually considered being called “lazy” for not doing handwashing every night as an acceptable exchange, to be able to type and work with less pain).

• When I developed a coconut allergy, Mom refused to believe me and kept cooking with it, insisting that it was all in my head when I said I was getting itchy…and was therefore identifying things she’d used coconut oil in without telling me. (I was still living with her at the time.) Once a health practitioner confirmed my sensitivity and gave us a printed list, she would STILL use it, sometimes, then pitch a fit about how I had no right to complain because I hadn’t been helping her with dinner, to say anything. (I actually HAD come to the kitchen to help, that evening, and she hadn’t needed any—and I’d reminded her BEFORE she pan-fried the chicken that I couldn’t eat coconut oil.)

Those are the most egregious ones that I’m aware of, though there were others. The attitudes behind them were normal and considered acceptable, with me being called “naïve” or angry/hateful/bearing a grudge when I tried to politely suggest ways to improve things. Friends have told me of more examples that I don’t remember.

So I have a really hard time saying anything outright about my allergies without being asked directly. Because I don’t feel as if I have a right to make others feel uncomfortable. :/ Just a few months ago, I had a few friends team up on me to look me in the eye and say, “WARN PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR STRAWBERRY ALLERGY.”

So… While I beg pardon from anyone who thinks I talk about this stuff too much, my other option is to say nothing at all and convince myself again that it’s all in the normal range of “dysfunctional”.

I’ve discovered that a lot of my “sickliness” has actually been hunger. I can’t even eat until I’m satisfied without feeling guilty for eating so much.

Perhaps the most difficult part of it is that I love my family. I dislike them, and I don’t miss them, and it’s frankly a relief to be far away with them not talking to me, but I still love them.

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Carradee January 15, 2015 at 1:17 pm

P.S. I do realize that’s off-topic, Jami, so if you want to delete or edit my post, please feel free. 🙂

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Jami Gold January 15, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Hi Carradee,

Yikes! And thank you for sharing all that. I won’t delete or edit the post because I think it’s important for people (including me) to have reminders that we do need to cut others slack. Just because something isn’t serious or dangerous to us doesn’t mean it’s not serious or dangerous to others.

My most serious allergy, I don’t even know what triggers it. I almost died at a restaurant after my tongue touched (I never got as far as chewing) a food I eat almost every week, and they refused to give me any information that might help me avoid it in the future. (Their response: We use only all-natural ingredients. — Okay, great, but people can be allergic to natural things too!) Luckily, I’ve never encountered that problem again (I suspect it was a sauce ingredient). So yes, I understand how something minor and seemingly harmless can be deadly.

Personally, I’d call your family’s treatment abusive, and I’m sorry you had to endure that. I’m glad that distance is helping you feel better about speaking up for yourself. You deserve it! *hugs*

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Carradee January 15, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Thanks, Jami. Appreciate it.

As a note for anyone unfamiliar with allergies—allergies tend to run in packs, because one being triggered leaves you vulnerable to developing another, and they often don’t develop at all without a health condition (or five) leaving someone predisposed to developing them. Please do not ask people with complicated allergies if we’re “actually” allergic. Complicated allergies are too much work and headache to be faked, the majority of the time.

Also, if you dislike something, please don’t say you’re allergic. That makes life difficult for those of us who actually get ill from things. (Though if something makes you throw up to taste it, you probably ARE intolerant.)

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Jami Gold January 15, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Good points, Carradee! (Especially the bit about being too much work to be faked.)

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Killion Slade January 13, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Hi Jami! I LOVE this topic and I’ll keep my comment short and sweet.

1) Awesome you booted the troll!

2) Nora’s POV is her POV and she should be allowed to call the shots.

3) I quit watching TV [the news media outlets] almost three years and it has helped me emotionally, mentally, and with an over-all sense of well-being. WAAAAAY too much negativity.

4) Negative peeps – I have literally had to make the conscious decision to remove those kinds of people from my life. One was a family member. Never a kind word, always so sarcastic and very unkind. I was never good enough no matter how much money I sent, educated myself, etc. I finally had to cut to cord and allow myself to defend the right of the positive space. Non-constructive negative people are a deal breaker. I reserve the right to love myself enough to not tolerate it anymore. 🙂

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Hi Killion,

Yep, I don’t do the nightly news anymore and make conscious decisions about what Twitter disgruntled rabbit holes I’ll expose myself to. 🙂 We don’t need Negative Nancies or Emotional Vampires stealing our good juju. LOL! I love that you’ve gotten strong enough to not tolerate it. Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Deborah Makarios January 13, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Your house, your rules 🙂 Everyone has the right to speak, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else has the obligation to listen to them.
Happily I haven’t had any nastiness in blog comments, but you never know when that may change.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Hi Deborah,

Yes, before this incident, I’ve had to delete only a handful of comments. Of those I can remember, one was an obvious troll, one didn’t like that I used Wikipedia as a reference (because then she couldn’t use my post in her school report *shakes head*), and one attacked another author’s religion for no reason whatsoever. So out of thousands of comments, I’d say that’s not too bad. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Maggie January 13, 2015 at 5:50 pm

I’ve been in the food industry for years…and I’m a writer…and I know one thing with absolutely certainty. The customer is not always right. They may have an opinion yes, but they are not always right. There is a difference. Unfortunately we now have cowards who hide behind anonymity who think they can be as rude and insulting as they like. The aggression that is emerging because of social media is appalling.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Hi Maggie,

Yes, sometimes people (customers or not) aren’t right–just rude. And rude or insulting doesn’t fly with me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your dual experience insights!

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Carradee January 13, 2015 at 8:24 pm

As a freelancer, I’ve had a client communicate badly, where I had no idea he didn’t understand what he was saying, because he used the appropriate jargon.

When he was unhappy with the resultant work, he insisted that I’d dropped the ball, not doing my job by making sure he understood what he was asking for. He even claimed that his advice was professional and would help me with client communication. I pointed out that in my 9 years of experience, clients preferred me giving them credit for having brains.

Okay, I didn’t phrase it quite like that, but that was the gist of the conversation. He tried to pull the “customer is always right” BS. I just snorted and rolled my eyes and felt sorry for his family.

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:28 pm

Hi Carradee,

LOL! at the “credit for having brains.” Yes, being able to admit mistakes is a measure of maturity some lack. *sigh*

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Robin January 15, 2015 at 12:31 pm

I bet you can’t count the number of “complaints” that could be accurately rephrased as “I got what I asked for instead of what I wanted, and now I’m MAD!”

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Jami Gold January 15, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Hi Robin,

LOL! Isn’t that the truth. 🙂

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Carradee January 17, 2015 at 7:27 pm

*laughs* Yep. I don’t get them often, but when I do… *shakes head*

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Arsoleen Woolcock January 13, 2015 at 6:27 pm

I agree with you wholeheartedly. There’s a difference between constructive criticism done tastefully and rude negativity.

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Jami Gold January 13, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Hi Arsoleen,

Thanks for stopping by and chiming in! 🙂

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Jennifer Jensen (@jenjensen2) January 13, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Hi there, Jami! This was a great post (and I’m off to read NJ’s now). I especially liked this sentiment:

“My blog or Facebook wall doesn’t have to be someone else’s platform for spouting their views. They’re welcome to start their own blog and create their own spaces for that.”

I have a right to say/write what I want, and anyone else does too – just not necessarily in the same place at the same time. Play nice or go home. Thanks!

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:21 pm

Hi Jennifer,

Yes, it seems like those lessons from kindergarten never sank in for some folk. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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A.J. Goode January 14, 2015 at 6:54 am

I think you handled the situation perfectly by giving the person a chance to speak until the person abused the privilege. You’ve given me so much to think about when it comes to setting boundaries in my own space. I always thought it was best to approve all comments on my blog because it showed I was honest and willing to take criticism; now, I’m wondering if that doesn’t just make my blog more about drama and negativity in the comments section and less about the blog content.

It’s definitely something to consider. I never really thought about the fact that I have the right to set my own boundaries. Thank you so much for this.

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:36 pm

Hi A.J.,

“Abused the privilege”–That’s a great way to put it! Yes, I’m completely open to hearing criticism and disagreement (I often ask for disagreeing opinions!), but respect can still be a part of that.

That’s a great point about the potential downsides of allowing a free-for-all in comment sections too. A stunning example of this problem is the Rainbow Cake Comment Apocalypse. (Warning: There’s probably language at that link.) That was definitely a time when the comment drama completely overshadowed the content. Thanks for sharing your insights! 🙂

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Dave (@Newburydave) Withe January 14, 2015 at 8:58 am

Jami;

Love your blog posts. You are nearly always jump into the middle of what’s happening with very germane analysis and insight. Keep it up sis.

Thankfully I’ve had only small involvement with the kind of trollish negativity online that you describe. Probably because I’m beneath their notice. However, two incidents stand out in my memory:

1) Back when I was a green author in training I started an online writers group, specifically for faith based writers, to swap Peer to Peer critiques and writing discussions. I based the format of the group loosely on the Baen’s Bar Slushpile, without Baen’s anti-religious bias. I intentionally set it up to be freewheeling and informal.

As the owner and moderator I didn’t want to have to ride herd on my members so I left it to the members to apply the Golden Rule as the rule of conduct online. I set up some ‘Roolz’ and behavior standards, as any good moderator should, but they were largely suggestions to a group of conscientious people.

My members validated my confidence in them by conducting themselves well until, one of the members took another to task about a Theological position that some of her writing seemed to violate. He began to harangue her about the need to conform to his notions of orthodoxy. She complained to me.

Our group at that time included members from most of the major Judeo/Christian faith traditions in the world. I had come to think of all of them as friends. I wrote a private message, copied to the offended member, to the theologian and basically asked him (sternly) to take the discussion to a more appropriate forum we all had access. I reiterated the site ‘rule’ that this group was for the critique and the discussion of writing related issues, only. No controversial, off topic, discussions were allowed.

He took the correction and was apologetic. Friendship was maintained and the group went on undisturbed. Of course my group is a secure, invitation only group so my experience there may not apply to blogs like your own.

2) I friended a person on Facebook. He was disabled and had a lot of time to do Facebook. Unfortunately he really didn’t have anything to contribute to the discussions, but felt that he had a ‘ministry’ suggesting that all his ‘friends’ like different sites and Fb member’s pages. His like requests seemed to be rather random and unconsidered. The didn’t have any pattern or common theme that I could discern.

My incoming message queue filled up with his like requests to the point where legitimate messages were lost in the blizzard. I warned him that if he didn’t stop spamming me with like requests I’d be forced to unfriend him.

He replied that he couldn’t, it was his calling to do this. So I unfriendly him and blocked his messages. Not all trolls are nasty or negative, some are just static.

I developed a very strong anti-troll attitude while I was a corespondent on the Baen’s Bar Slush-pile because I observed the damage that trolls do to legitimate discussions. As a newbie I got drawn into an online argument with one, until one of their seasoned members took me aside (figuratively) and told me to ignore him until the moderators threw him and his vitriol out of the Bar.

I’ve seen the same kind of thing played out on other sites I’ve corresponded with since then. You definitely did the right thing when you cleansed your site of that Troll’s bile.

To paraphrase one of the Biblical sages. “Online Trolls breed rapidly whenever they and their ‘Negativity’ are not swiftly thrown out of the discussion.”

You’re doing a good work, sister. Keep at it and don’t doubt your sensibilities. If it feels wrong to you, hey it’s your blog, there is no legitimate moral standard that would force you to tolerate anything you think is wrong. Resist the Urge to Feel Guilt about it.

In my humble opinion a proper operating standard for online real estate owners is to maintain the legitimate exchange of ideas, within your stated theme, among thinking people. If you can accomplish this in the highly polarized world where we find ourselves I’d say you are a success.

In the case of internet Trolls, once you identify them as such treat them like any other malware. You don’t share your living space with vermin don’t tolerate them in your online space. Such online pests are the Cockroaches, Fire Ants and Termites of the internet. Just get out your can of Troll spray and Eradicate them and their ‘negativity’ from your virtual ‘house’.

We your loyal followers will thank you. There’s enough ‘Negativity’ in the world around us without allowing them a seat at our table here. I know that I for one come here to enjoy your upbeat attitude as much as the valuable information you give us.

Write on Sis

dave 😉

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:41 pm

Hi Dave,

Great point! Yes, trolls can damage legitimate discussion, and that’s not a situation we’d usually want for our spaces. Thanks for sharing your experiences! 🙂

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Davonne Burns January 14, 2015 at 11:39 am

Writing what I do I’ve had my share of negativity. At one point I was told I should stop writing and kill myself. Yes, death threats for writing something they didn’t agree with. Needless to say that commenter was reported. That’s an extreme and something I hope you never have to deal with but it goes to show just how entitled some people feel when it comes to their belief system. I very firmly believe that we have the right to ignore so called criticism no matter how constructive the other party thinks they are being.

Personally, if someone does not like that I write romance for the MOGAI community then they have no business commenting on my writing. If you disagree with the subject or don’t like my writing, then it’s not for you.

Simple.

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:43 pm

Hi Davonne,

Oh my gosh! That’s horrible! And I agree–it should be so simple, and it’s certainly a choice on their end when it’s not. That choice alone says loads. Thank you for sharing, and I’m sorry you had to experience that! *hugs*

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Nancy January 14, 2015 at 11:46 am

Absolutely agree with all of the above articulate, reasonable, sensitive reasons for deleting inappropriate comments. Kudos!

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:43 pm

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for the vote of support! 🙂

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Laurie Spice January 14, 2015 at 5:40 pm

I completely agree with Nora Roberts and your opinions. We haven’t come across this on our blog or FB pages yet (we are too new) but we discussed it before we went live. We are okay with debate, we welcome it and even debate and disagree among ourselves, but we keep it clean and not personal. We won’t put up with personal or ugly attacks against us or our readers.

I did laugh a little when I read your post because I used to be the head of a rather large alumni association. We have a FB page where people connect, talk about how they’ve been etc. A few years ago, people started posting all sorts of political nastiness. When the attacks got so bad I started deleting things, I took a lot of free speech criticism. Finally I created an alumni opinion page so the blowhards could attack each other and leave me and my page alone. Those same people who attacked me on free speech now police the regular alumni page for me, steering fellow blowhards to the hot air alumni page where they happily attack and belittle each other and leave the rest of us alone. It’s just too bad we can’t desegregate all negative trolls so easily.

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:46 pm

Hi Laurie,

It sounds like your group came up with a great policy! I hope you never have to refer to it. 🙂

LOL! at your solution. Yes, it would be so much easier if they segregated themselves. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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Joanna Aislinn January 14, 2015 at 6:54 pm

For me, Jami, it somehow always goes back to Walt Disney’s Thumper (of Bambi fame). “If ya can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

“Constructive” feedback, criticism, etc, can be delivered with compassion and kindness, regardless of the situation.

Negative people: I am friendly with all, but generally stay away from those who ooze negativity. Life is too stressful on its own. I also can’t imagine a negative crowd has much joy on the day to day.

Reviews: I prefer to think I’m providing my “thoughts” on a given book. I do my best to comment on the high points. I might allude to blah-blah-blah that I’m might have liked better, but never in a disparaging way. (I find that most challenging when I’ve promised a review in exchange for a book that winds up being a total let-down.) If I don’t care for it–like the last one I read–I just keep MHO to myself.

Finally, making gratitude a practice tends to repel negativity (kind of like peppermint to mice and garlic to vampires, I guess. 😉 )

Be well. Great post!

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:49 pm

Hi Joanna,

Gotta love Thumper! 🙂

Yes, I tend not to review books I don’t like because I don’t want to focus on negative things. But I completely support those who review all kinds of books at all kinds of interest levels–just not in the author’s spaces. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Pat Ireland January 14, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Hi Jami, I think you are absolutely right. There are a lot of people who seem to get confused by the difference between having the right to an opinion, and having the right to an audience. The kind of drama, negativity, and trolling that you talk about is the main reason I tend to avoid reading comments (on practically any site — although I will definitely be reading the comments here from now on).

I just wanted to say thank you for a great blog. I’m learning a lot from reading your posts. And it’s such a treat to find a site where the discussion is so fantastic.

Whenever I hear people insisting that others are obligated to listen to their opinions, it always reminds me of why an opinion is like an anus: everybody has one, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to walk around inflicting their own on everybody they meet. Nobody particularly enjoys having one shoved in their face. (And as often as not, they turn out to be full of, er, excrement anyway.)

(Sorry, I just *had* to add that!)

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Jami Gold January 14, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Hi Pat,

Exactly! A right to an opinion isn’t the same as a right to an audience. And thank you for the kind words! 🙂

(And I’ll just laugh and not comment on the last bit. 😉 ) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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Kassandra Lamb January 14, 2015 at 9:16 pm

Great post, Jami, and great comments. At first I thought Nora Roberts’ words a bit harsh so I popped over and read her post. Hmm, not so harsh after all. Love her analogy about what one would or would not say to a party hostess.

What we’re talking about here are interpersonal boundaries. Bottom line: you can do whatever you want in your space. You cannot do whatever you want in my space. And my space includes my “territory” on the Internet i.e. blog, Facebook page, etc. and it includes my ears. I am not required to listen to you.

The one area where I think Nora was being a little, not harsh necessarily, but maybe too black and white is regarding readers’ comments on how to write. On the one hand, I get what she’s saying, and I chuckled at the “books don’t come with suggestion boxes” line. But I think we need to keep in mind the reader’s demeanor when they make “suggestions.” Sometimes people think they are being constructive. They mean well, but they just don’t realize that they don’t know enough to know that they don’t know enough.

I received an email recently from a gentleman who said he had enjoyed my book but felt it would “flow better” if I didn’t try so hard to find “just the right word.” I was a little taken aback since this contradicted much of the positive feedback I hear about my writing.

Then he gave an example: Why couldn’t I just say “he walked across the room” instead of “he sauntered?” I laughed out loud.

I agree with Nora that a more appropriate place for his unsolicited comments might be in a review, rather than an email that I was expected to respond to politely. But on the other hand, since he didn’t seem to understand why “saunter” is better than “walk” I was just as glad he didn’t review the book.

I wrote a pleasant non-committal email back, because I think he meant well. He just didn’t get it.

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Jami Gold January 15, 2015 at 12:12 am

Hi Kassandra,

Yes, taken alone, her quote could be harsh, but in context, most would understand the message she was trying to get across. I’ve often thought of my blog as being my online home, so the party example is one I’ve used myself before. 🙂

Back in grade school, one of my teachers explained freedom as the ability to do what you want as long as it doesn’t affect others’ freedoms to do what they want. Although simplistic, it works in many cases. And in my spaces, I want freedom from negativity. 🙂 And I like how you include your ears in that list too. That’s exactly how I feel about not being held hostage to be someone else’s audience.

I also agree that intention can come into play with comments from readers. Someone who “doesn’t get it” is different from someone who veers toward attacking or insulting. I’d probably ignore emails of the latter and give non-committal answers to the former too. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Justine Sebastian January 15, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Hi, Jami! It’s my first comment here on your blog though I’ve been reading for a while now—I love your content. ::big grin::

I found this post in particular interesting and I absolutely agree that negativity should be kept out of your space if that’s how you want it. Though some people seem to thrive on it. There are communities on sites like Live Journal that focus on nothing BUT negativity—but they do it under the guise of Social Justice (haha, no).

I do try to avoid negativity, but I can’t always do that. I’ve received negativity from the passive-aggressive to outright ranting blow-ups. To be frank, I prefer the blow-ups because nothing irritates me more that passive-aggressiveness. Regardless, I don’t sit back and take it because my particular view is “you brought it TO ME” and therefore, I will address it unless it’s something unbelievably ridiculous. The ones I dislike the most though are the comments/reviews I (and probably everyone else at some point) get where it is OBVIOUS the reader/reviewer is only nitpicking because they feel they have to dislike SOMETHING about the work. I had one reviewer gush at me about a story I wrote only to go on to say, “But I didn’t like the sailboats.” Another complained about the size of the paragraphs in another story. I mean, really? REALLY? Heh. Jeeze.

I don’t outright try to prevent negativity—I think that’s impossible because this is the internet and people have opinions they indeed feel entitled to and so, they will cram them down your throat at the first opportunity. I do, however, have a zero tolerance approach to it. I’m always and forever up for discussion and even debate, but the second that sort of thing starts to turn ugly or become a personal attack then I am DONE, no questions asked.

No, I don’t think you were wrong to delete those comments; I think you might have let it go on a little too long, in fact. (Sorry, please don’t hate me for that!) That person was obviously a troll and one with a very… let’s just say… odd… view of writing if even a kernel of that was true. (Though yes, I know it probably wasn’t.)

I do and do not agree with Nora Roberts’s stance on things. I DO agree that people need to keep their big yaps shut when it comes to the “It’s just MY opinion” BS, but I also think her “the reader is not my employer” thing is hogwash. OF COURSE the reader is her employer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Big Name Author or a lowly indie author like me, the reader is always your employer. Here’s why: If the reader did not READ YOUR BOOKS then you would be out of a job. Sure, you might still write, but you’d be a hobby writer then, not a person who is employed in the profession of writing.

However, what you said about how the reader should not be allowed to dictate what we write is spot-on. I’ve had people try to do that to me in the past (and to this day, actually) from random readers online to my family. That is where I draw the line and also throw in my own, “Bite me. (as well as a few other choice expletives because I have a filthy mouth)”

And there we have it… my opinion on the matter. (Oh noes! Lol. :D) Thanks for taking the time read my ramblings.

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Jami Gold January 15, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Hi Justine,

LOL! at your nitpicky examples. 🙂 Sailboats–sheesh…

I very well might have let this commenter go on too long, so I won’t disagree with you there. 😉 In my defense, I kept giving them the benefit of the doubt because their views were so odd that I couldn’t decide if I was being punked or not. Especially given that one of the comments praised the author known as such a bad writer that a “bad writing” contest is named after him. I praised the commenter for their irony, but no, they were serious. LOL!

I understand the line you’re drawing about whether or not a reader is a customer. I suspect this comes down to semantics. Are readers who pay us for our work customers? Yes, absolutely. But are they the “the customer is always right” type of customer? No.

I see nuances in most situations, so I can see how she probably meant the second meaning for the word, and thus, I agree with her. However, if we were to take a literal meaning only, I can agree the phrase would be too harsh. I’m not going to wordsmith Nora Roberts, however, so I’ll just give her the benefit of the doubt. 😀 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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Glynis Jolly January 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

There distinct differences between negativity, constructive criticism, and rudeness. When someone reads one of my posts, there’s a possibility that one of these things will pop up in the comment section. I appreciate the constructive criticism, so I will thank the person with a smile. Some aren’t as tactful, the plain negative comment. I answer letting the person know that I actually read the comment. The ones who are rude will either be excluded from the comment section or at least get ignored.

Jami, please be kind to yourself by not taking the negativity so personally.

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Jami Gold January 15, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Hi Glynis,

Aww, don’t worry about me. I don’t take offense easily, and I shake off most negativity. Taking things personally? Not my normal way of dealing. 🙂 But hopefully this will give others some insights to think about. Thanks for stopping by!

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Jennifer Barricklow January 20, 2015 at 11:51 am

LOTS of great conversation here. Clearly, this is something many of us grapple with, in one form or another, on a regular basis.

I was struck by the bit about who a writer’s customers are — and if they are always right. As a writer, every reader is not my customer because a very large number of readers are not interested in what I write. This is true no matter what genre or category I write in.

Everything I write has a target audience, so for that piece, members of that target audience are my customers. If someone has a serious issue with something I’ve written, I consider very carefully if he or she is in that target audience. If so, then I need to take his or her concerns seriously. If not, I will weigh those concerns and take from them anything that seems useful with regard to the target audience. I don’t dismiss the reader’s concerns because they come from outside the target audience, but I keep that fact in mind when evaluating them.

Of course, trolls are another matter, being rather more than outside the target audience…

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Jami Gold January 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Hi Jennifer,

Fantastic point! If someone is in our target audience, we’d probably want to consider their feedback on a different level than someone at the edge or completely outside.

I would say, however, that some types of feedback are more subjective than others:

  • Stating that a plot point doesn’t make sense? For me, that’s something I definitely want to fix–no matter where the feedback comes from. 🙂
  • Stating that a character’s motivation is unbelievable? Eh, maybe–that’s probably more dependent on that target audience you mentioned. The motivation we expect from a murderer in a romance is different from the motivation we expect from a murderer in a mystery. In the former, the motivation might not be a major part of the story.
  • Stating that they don’t like a character? Eh, maybe, maybe not. If we get lots of similar feedback, yes. But if others do like the character just the way they are, then it’s probably purely subjective.

So that’s a great point! And because of that alone, I would never say that I don’t want to hear feedback from readers. I do want to know if there’s something I need to fix, and I’ve learned not to be overconfident about there being no room for improvement. 😉 No matter how good I think my work is, beta readers and editors always find something for me. LOL! Thanks for bringing up that point!

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Karen McFarland January 21, 2015 at 2:10 pm

So sorry Jami that I missed all the excitement and wonderful comments when this post first came out. But I was sick girl. Yet, I must say that you were in the right to remove comments that you felt were unwarranted. They were rude. And this is your website, your blog to do with it whatever you so choose. I also felt that Nora Roberts was perfectly within her rights to address her grievances as she so eloquently did on her Facebook page. That’s her platform and it does not belong to others to make snide remarks. I think there are certain people who don’t quite know, or weren’t taught about boundaries, manners and the like. They feel it is within their rights to say whatever they wish without thinking about how it will affect other people. It certainly wasn’t the place for it and I think Nora handled it well. As for myself, I try to avoid negativity whenever possible. There’s already to much of it in the world around us in my humble opinion.

Very nice post Jami. Thank you! 🙂

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Jami Gold January 21, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Hi Karen,

Exactly! Our platform does not exist to fulfill other people’s agendas. 🙂 And like you, I don’t need to be more exposed to negativity than is already out there. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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Meg Justus January 23, 2015 at 1:06 pm

I just got through spending an unavoidable week in a very negative space — my sister’s home. I had to be there because of family business, but it’s going to take me a while to get back to normal now that I’m home. Negativity can come from the ones who are supposed to love you as well as strangers. And, oddly enough, both are just as horrible.

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Jami Gold January 23, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Hi Meg,

Yes, very true. There’s no law of physics that makes those who love and support us do so. 🙁 Here’s hoping you find your equilibrium quickly! *hugs* Thanks for stopping by!

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Sophie May 22, 2015 at 7:36 am

One thing I learned very quickly is that me and negativity just don’t go. I admit, I’m pretty sensitive to a few things. Conflict and negativity are two of ’em. Add in the fact that I try to see the other side (and fail) and you get a recipe for disaster. (As an aside: What do you get when you add an easily-panicked girl who hates loud noises to a paintball round? A panicked girl who was on the verge of a panic attack after just a few shots (and getting shot at). Not doing that again…)

I’m hoping I’ll just ease up as I age, and not be so sensitive, but I’ll see.

But I digress: If you create a site, that is your space. Not theirs. While some negativity is good, it can go too far. I agree with what you had to do and what Nora Roberts did. Both times, the offender pushed it too far. I will have likely done the same (eventually…). I just hope I don’t have to deal with it, but that’s unlikely.

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Jami Gold May 22, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Hi Sophie,

Yes, there have been a few rare times that I’ve deleted comments off one of my Facebook posts too. Sometimes people just want to crap on others, and I don’t tolerate someone being rude to other commenters or guests. In other words, if we don’t run into it on our site, we’re still likely to run into negativity somewhere. 🙁 Thanks for the comment, and I hope you manage it avoid it!

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