10 Tips for Criticism Without Harming Your Reputation

A big turn-off for many people online are the rants, attacks and snarks that we see all too often in blogs. Really negativity is not attractive, and those who use negativity to attract an audience are storing up problems for the future. Sometimes though we have valid criticisms, how can we get our point across without making our audience think less of us?

  1. Calm down – Take a breath, walk away, posting emotionally could cause more trouble than cure.
  2. Know what you want – Why are you doing this? What is it you want changed or to achieve?
  3. Does it need to be public? – First the best approach is to contact the company or person in question directly. I often go buy the rule of thumb “Praise in public, complain in private“. We all slip occasionally, but worth to keep in mind.
  4. Stick to the facts – If you only present the facts as you see them then you are normally safe as far as legal grounds are concerned (though I am not a lawyer), and only use relevant information.
  5. Get a second opinion – Before making something public, ensure you have expressed the issue clearly – this is not a time to be misunderstood!
  6. Keep to the issues – Personal attacks, name-calling, embellishments, posturing and exaggerations will just make you look nasty and foolish. The issues should speak for you.
  7. Swearing – Some people swear because they think it is funny or just part of their brand, which is fair enough if this is what your audience expects. I find though more people are put off than engaged by swearing, particularly where the quantity seems excessive even for swear fans. While you might like swearing, and might even think it is warranted, you will lose the support of your audience who want to see your points articulated well without resorting to it. If you must swear, give fair warning in your introduction, particularly if you are using audio or video.
  8. Balance? – Can you balance it out with any positive, empathy or second perspectives? Is it possible you just got the wrong idea? Show that you are a human being with an issue, not going after someone for links and traffic.
  9. Don’t sell – Make your point and leave it. Do not use the opportunity to sell or pump up your own stuff otherwise your audience will question your motives and you will lose their trust and credibility.
  10. Use a mirror – Is your own house in order before you go attacking someone else? And spare a thought for how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of your article.

Any more thoughts or tips? Disagree? Please share in the comments …

View Comments (8)
  • I couldn’t agree with you more, Chris. Though I try not to judge, I’m offended by swearing/profanity. I love an old quote from the Bible about this subject… “be swift to listen, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James) Thanks for the awesome rant against rants!

  • I write a blog on which I critique the terrible TV adverts shown over here in the UK and – as it has the word “worst” in it’s name – just about every post is negative.

    After 2 years of this negativity I’ve found that having a point is the most important part.

    Once you know what you want to say – the point you want to make – it becomes the hat rack onto which you can toss all your snarky comments, sly digs and the occasional swear word too. But with out a point you just have a pile of hats on the floor (the hat analogy fell over there).

    I’d also recommend not taking yourself too seriously as well – it is just the internet afterall ;)

  • Thanks for the list. The #1 tip is like what Digg tells me when I make two shouts too close. I also agree with you about #1. Posting less means you have more time to make better content, you have time for guest posting and of cource your post may get more comments than ever before cos it is on the homepage longer.

  • Express sympathy and even empathy. While the other person may be incensed and not much fun to be around, he or she most likely just wants someone to understand his or her problem/worries/concerns/fears. When you express a bit of understanding and say, “I hear you,” the whole situation often defuses instead of burning brighter.

  • When I review a product or service, I always talk about the advantage and disadvantage publicly, without hiding anything from readers. In the review, I believe we should talk about the negative if it really exists. Readers not just want to listen to your positive views.

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