It takes an admirable level of courage to share a piece of yourself online, whether it’s your art, your writing, a picture of yourself or of a moment that means something to you. It’s vulnerable, and it’s beautiful. Sometimes, all it takes is one negative comment to strip you of that sense of pride.
I remember when I first auditioned to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. It was such a surreal experience and an absolute highlight in my dance career. At the end of a day full of intense dancing, we lined up to take individual headshots for identification purposes and for the public to vote for the women they wanted to see in training camp.
When the online voting went live, I knew I didn’t love my photo. It wasn’t exactly a picture I’d put in my portfolio, but who cared? I was a finalist to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader! The simple thought sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions featuring thrilling highs of excitement, stomach sinking anxiety and the smooth glide of gratitude.
Then, I saw it. The comment underneath my photo that derailed my rollercoaster: Wow. Did somebody warn PETA about this poor shaved ape?
The words played on a loop in my mind. I felt fire rising in my face, and my fury of feelings slowly consolidated into one emotion—embarrassment. The comment triggered a number of my insecurities in a very public way, and I was 1,000% ready to react with a public middle finger.
The comment triggered a number of my insecurities in a very public way, and I was 1,000% ready to react with a public middle finger.
I chose not to because I imagined a potential employer wouldn’t want to hire someone who wages war in the comments section of the company’s Facebook post. It was the right call, but the whole situation lived in my head—rent-free—because I felt like the commenter won. He disturbed my peace, and I didn’t get to defend myself. I thought my lack of response meant I conceded to his opinions of me. This was so far from the truth.
I realize now that sometimes the best response to a negative comment or angry commenter is no response. An even better option is to delete the comment and keep it moving because trolls will be trolls. However, for those days when I’ve “got time” or must respond for business reasons, I try to keep these a few things in mind:
Sometimes, the best response to a negative comment or angry commenter is no response.
Be conscious of your triggers.
When emotionally triggered, I tend to overlook logic and lead with emotion. I had a number of insecurities regarding my audition photo, for example, so that particular comment was rather provoking. Sure, there were other invalidating comments under my photo, but I was easily able to bypass them because they didn’t amplify the anxieties that already occupied my mind.
Knowing and understanding my triggers and insecurities has helped me discern the space that my responses come from. First, I ask myself whether or not my desire to respond is from a space of sensitivity and anger. Next, I ask myself if my response can lead to a genuinely constructive exchange. Then, I move from there.
I ask myself if my response can lead to a genuinely constructive exchange. Then, I move from there.
Keep it kind.
Have you ever had message regret? It’s when you unleash your wrath in a message just to get your point across, and it fills you with an adrenaline-induced rush of comeback satisfaction that spoils overnight and turns into an uneasy feeling of “oh, God . . . what did I say, who saw it and did I have to go ALL CAPS?” Same.
After several moments like this, I decided to take time to learn the art of tactfully presenting a response that acknowledges the commenter’s opinions, gracefully expresses my counter, states the facts and sprinkles a bit of kindness on top.
I’m not perfect. I still have my moments, but I’ve learned that it’s much more satisfying to maintain your composure and power in these exchanges. Keeping it kind definitely helps you do that. It also serves as an excellent reminder that (sometimes) there is another human on the other end of a negative comment.
It’s much more satisfying to maintain your composure and power in these exchanges.
Remember, not every angry commenter deserves your time or your energy. You have control over whether it disturbs your peace and you get to choose what to attach to your identity.
Stay genuine. Stay conscious. Stay kind.
Have you ever struggled to maintain composure in response to an unkind comment online? What are some practices that can help you actively choose to not allow negative comments to steal your joy?
Image via Ivana Cajina