Negative feedback. Ugggghhhhh.

One of those wish-it-wasn’t-true-but-it-totally-is kinds of truths:

The more visibility you get as a business — both online and in the real world — the more feedback* you get from others. 

*“Feedback” is a euphemism for rude $#*t people sometimes say to you on the Internet because literally anyone can say anything to anyone if they have an Internet connection.

Now, of course, not all negative feedback is bad. If the source sharing it is doing it from a place of love or respect, then that feedback might deserve our consideration.

But what about when it’s not? Or what if we’re not sure?What’s the best way to handle negativity online? And how do we stand up for ourselves in the most graceful way without “feeding the trolls”?

negative feedback - how to respond to online trolls and critics

Almost weekly, I get questions from my students about this very thing. They ask how to respond to a criticism, a rude comment, a mean tweet, or a strongly-worded e-mail. This negative feedback might come from friends, family, or followers… or it might come from an internet troll.

So if you’ve been at the receiving end of negative feedback before, know that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in good company…

…Good company like Todd Herman, Denise Duffield-Thomas, Screw the Nine to Five, Chris Winfield, The Boss Project, Caitlin Bacher, Claire Pelletreau, Shunta Grant, MemberVault, Paige Filliater, Yael Bendahan, Kyla Roma, Molly Mahoney – The Prepared Performer, Jaclyn Mellone, Your Courageous Life, and Tyler J. McCall.

Yeah, that was a lot of name-dropping, but LISTEN. This is an important topic. So I got a little extra help for this one and created a brand new segment for The Courtney Show: Troll Call.

Want to watch our Meant Tweets-inspired segment, Troll Call (along with the snarky stylings of some of my online biz faves)? Check out the video here (or below)!

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If you’ve been in business for a bit, I imagine that you, too, have encountered trolls. Negative feedback just comes with the territory.

So, what do you do? How do you process that negative feedback? When is it best to ignore, delete, or… respond?

You’re in luck because I have a simple filter I’m going to share with you. 

Negativity Means Visibility

First off, if you’re getting negative feedback, good. Celebrate. No, seriously!

Yes, even when you’re met with rude, ugly comments.

Why? Because as a business, more than half of the battle is visibility.

You may be the best at what you do in all the world, but if no one knows about you, it doesn’t really matter. You need to be visible to make an impact.

Now of course, we want the RIGHT people to notice you, but if, in the process, we get a little negativity our way, that’s not all bad. It means we’re being seen. We can work with that.

Not to mention, good marketing should both attract AND repel. We want to attract the right and repel the wrong. And by attracting and repelling, your followers will sort themselves for you; they are showing you whether they will be a potential customer, or…. a potential pain in the ass. 

Sometimes those who are repelled are louder (or use angier emojis), but that’s just part of it, and you can’t have one without at least a little bit of the other

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Negative Feedback Non-Negotiables: When to Delete, Ban, Bless, and Release

Now, before we decide whether to ignore, delete, or respond to a negative comment, I have a few Negativity Non-negotiables that I subscribe to. We’ll get those out of the way first.

Negative Feeback Non-negotiable Number 1:

If the negative comment is about or directed towards a child or a person with an intellectual disability, the comment is completely ignored and deleted, and the poster gets banned. No exceptions. Ever.

Negative Feedback Non-negotiable Number 2:

If the negative comment is about something someone can’t control like their physical appearance or their speaking voice, that comment gets deleted and that person gets banned. 

Listen, we’re not thirsty for haterade around here.

We don’t need that ish. So, in the words of T Swift, we “shake it off”…

After deleting and banning that person, of course.

Negative Feedback Non-negotiable Number 3:

If the negative comment uses hate speech, excessive profanity, or includes threats of physical violence, we delete, block, and ban. BUT we also take one more step: We screenshot their comment and store it in a special* folder.

*By “special” I mean just in case you need proof of that troll. For later. As evidence. Because the Internet is scary, y’all! And you just never know.

So that’s that. 

For our Negativity Non-negotiables, we have a strict zero troll-erance policy. #SeeWhatIDidThere

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When You Might Need to Consider Negative Feedback

Now that we’ve got that heavy stuff out of the way, let’s talk about those other times… those times when the perceived negative feedback maybe just miiiight deserve our consideration. 

Essentially, we want to uncover whether they’re a troll… or a truth-teller. 

Consider that their original tone may be lost in translation — or rather, text. Goodness knows emojis and exclamation points can only get us so far, and some people avoid those digital nuances all together. This can make it hard when interpreting tone and intent.

That’s when I use a simple filter. I just ask myself two questions:

Who is the person saying this? 


Why might they be saying it?

Who is the Person Saying This?

Let’s unpack that first one: who’s saying it? 

A stranger who doesn’t know you or care about you?

Or a follower? A friend? Or a family member? 

Friends, family, and followers will usually know you fairly well, they probably care about you, they might even love you. Of course, it doesn’t mean that everything they say is overflowing with love and grace 100% of the time. Nobody’s perfect. 

Why Might They Be Saying It?

Now, back to our second question:

Why might they be saying it? 

Is it a friend who’s coming on too strong?

Could it be a family member who loves you and is looking out for you, however gracelessly they might be doing it?

Perhaps it’s a follower, maybe even a customer who cares about you, but they want to keep you in check? Or provide their feedback to help you improve what you’re doing? 

But you already know this. If you see an ad for a new product in your newsfeed, but you ONLY see super positive comments, don’t you get suspicious? 

So, publicly responding to feedback from a follower can foster goodwill with your other followers. Like digital brownie points. You’ll show your audience that you listen and consider reasonable requests, that you’re in it for them and not just for yourself, and that you care about providing the best products, services, and content. 

On the flipside, sometimes a person’s intentions aren’t so noble. Maybe what’s being said isn’t coming from a helpful place.

Maybe they are simply bored, bitter, or jealous.  It’s easy to say anything from the comfort of a keyboard. 

And success can be majorly triggering for people because it reminds them of what they’re not succeeding with. But that’s on them, NOT you.

I get that this can be hard though. Our feelings can get hurt in the process. So I recommend channeling Coco Chanel on this one and just think to yourself — as she would say — “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”

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Now, if you do choose to respond, consider this:

That Negative Nancy, that Trolly McTrollerson might be having a $%^&*y day, week, month, or even a $%^&*y year. Their whole life might be a bit $%^&*y at the moment.

So don’t meet negativity with more negativity; that doesn’t help anyone.

Trolls crave negativity, and they can’t be satisfied. The more they get, the more they’ll want. 

Or like Mark Twain said, “Never argue with an idiot. They only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” 

So, skip the arguing, don’t get defensive. Instead, extend them some grace. It’s a renewable resource. It costs you nothing in the long-run. 

Grace doesn’t mean kow-towing. Grace could even be ignoring in this situation. 

Whatever form it takes, trolls can’t process grace, so it’s the quickest way to shut them down. 

So you can simply ignore. Like it says in Proverbs 9:8 “Haters gonna hate.”

(Ok, so it doesn’t exactly say that there, but it’s like, reeeaaallll close.) 

BUT if you choose to respond, extend a little grace. Kill them with kindness.

In Conclusion…

When encountering negative feedback online, feel free to ignore, ban, delete, and move on. That’s your prerogative. But don’t delete your detractors simply because you don’t like what they’re saying; you’ll lose integrity with your audience and you might even miss an opportunity to learn something valuable.

If in doubt, remember the two questions from before:

Who is asking this question?


Why are they asking it? 

That’ll help you sort the trolls… from the truth-tellers. 

And of course, if you do choose to respond, do so with grace. It costs you nothing. And in the long-run, you’ll never regret taking the high road.

Want to watch the video version of this blog post? It includes the snarky stylings of some of my favorite online biz friends, like Todd Herman, Denise Duffield-Thomas, Screw the Nine to Five, Chris Winfield, The Boss Project, Caitlin Bacher, Claire Pelletreau, Shunta Grant, MemberVault, Paige Filliater, Yael Bendahan, Kyla Roma, Molly Mahoney – The Prepared Performer, Jaclyn Mellone, Your Courageous Life, and Tyler J. McCall! Check it out HERE.


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