Rules for Helpful and Productive Reader Feedback.
I’ve most likely spent way too much time thinking about how to leave helpful, kind, generally worthwhile feedback underneath blogs and articles that welcome reader commentary (which is nearly everywhere these days).
My first thoughts about this topic coincided with the beginning of my blogging career almost two years ago.
I’ve also had to learn, from the writer’s perspective, to get in touch with why, at times, I’ve cared so much about what a virtual stranger (no pun intended) thinks of me or of my articles.
So, since I’ve probably spent more time than the average bear pondering this rather popular form of communication, I’d like to share with you these six tips.
Edit your thoughts, edit your words—edit, edit, edit. If you’re anything like me, then sharing your feedback via the internet actually has a leg up compared with person-to-person interaction.
I’ve definitely shared with you that I don’t easily think before I speak (hence my repeated mentioning of my “foot in mouth” disease), but the beauty of this style of thought articulation is that you have a moment to pause before you hit the “enter” key.
Don’t get me wrong, I type incredibly quickly and am well aware that thoughts flow easily from brain to fingertips, but still, there is a lag.
Take advantage of that and re-read what you wrote before you submit it, or wait a little while before responding if you’re really that upset. (The latter is a good tip for all forms of human interaction.)
2. Agree to disagree.
Yes, you disagree with the author—and that’s okay! Just realize that this person probably disagrees with you too.
My aunt told me a long time ago that you get more bees with honey than you do with shit. If you’re honestly trying to woo someone over to your way of seeing the world, or the subject at hand, then be thoughtful about how you communicate your disharmonious point of view.
Pretend you’re writing your own article (or actually do it!)—maybe your word choices would come out more the way that you mean them to if you think about it from this perspective.
3. We are not computers.
This is not some elephant journal sci-fi movie. There are actual, live human beings on the other end of the line reading what you write. Would you talk to another person (no matter how much you disagreed with her) the same way that you do when you’re behind the luxury and safety of your computer screen? (If you would, then you need more advice than I’m able to offer up.)
4. Pretend your mama’s listening.
5. Hone your own communication.
Often, we learn the most from people who challenge us. (This is one of the reasons that, speaking of sci-fi, we’re not meant to be a world of carbon copies.) Use this disagreement to shape your own thoughts, words, and overall ability to connect with all people—even, and especially, the ones that you don’t see eye to eye with.
6. Anger management.
The jerk store called—and they’re running out of you.
Seriously, though, if you find that you proceed without caution more often than not when it comes to reader feedback, then think hard about your interpersonal relationships over there in the “real” world too. Maybe it’s time to do something about cooling your hot head down.
One of my absolute favorite things about writing for elephant journal is the communication and connection that I find with other readers and writers.
It’s a special thing, what we have—this globally expansive community that’s willing to share ideas, visions and hearts. So, please, have a little more heart with how you respond after you’ve read something.
Here’s to happy reading—and happy communicating.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise