7 Tips for Handling Flamers and Trolls

By Gregory Ciotti

If you run a blog long enough, you’re bound to attract a flamer or two. Some may have a genuine problem with one of your posts. Others may be reasonable people who are just having a bad day when they comment. Still others may just be out to stir up negativity.

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Whatever their motives, though, there are some important things to remember when dealing with flamers and trolls.

  1. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Flamers often want you to respond in anger. Don’t do it. If you feel compelled to do so, remove yourself from the situation. Walk away from the computer. Go do something else to distract yourself. Don’t return to the situation until you’ve regained your composure. Remember, you have everything to lose and nothing to gain by participating in a flame war.
     
  2. Be tolerant of criticism. It’s often said that the best bloggers are thick-skinned, and with good reason. Criticism is inevitable with large audiences. Moreover, it’s healthy for you to not only weather criticism, but learn and grow as a result of it. If someone is criticizing you, take a step back and ask, “Is this person flaming or simply disagreeing with me?” If it’s the latter, don’t take it personally; embrace it as an opportunity for growth.
     
  3. Take responsibility. Occasionally, a flamer will have a legitimate reason to be belligerent. If their anger is justified and you’re in the wrong, don’t let your pride get in the way. Accept responsibility, apologize, and, if possible, offer to make amends.
     
  4. Censor with care. Nothing hurts the integrity of a blog like arbitrary censorship. If a comment is truly inflammatory and lacking in any redeeming quality, removing it may be the best option. Do not, however, stifle a flamer out of spite. Carefully consider the impact that removing the comment will have on the conversation before doing so.
     
  5. Turn the conversation around. Instead of arguing with the flamer, try to turn the conversation in a positive direction. Respond to the good points of their comment. Try to empathize with their viewpoint. Inject a bit of humor. By diffusing the flamer’s anger, you can salvage a bad situation and add value for all of your readers, the flamer included.
     
  6. Take the higher ground. Short of turning the conversation around, it’s still possible to engage a flamer in a civil manner by simply refusing to be belligerent. By responding to them in a reasonable tone, you gain greater credibility in the eyes of your other readers.
     
  7. If all else fails, just ignore them. As the old adage goes, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” If none of the above solutions will work, the best thing you can do is just ignore the flamer. Most flamers crave attention, so failing to give it will often resolve the situation. It’s not ideal, but at least it avoids a flame war.

Remember, despite the anonymity of the internet, a flamer is a real person. More importantly, they’re a part of your audience. How you handle them will affect how they and the rest of your audience see you, and ultimately influence the success of your blog as a whole.



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18 Responses to “7 Tips for Handling Flamers and Trolls”

  • terry

    thanks for these useful advices 🙂

  • Marty McFly

    Send them to Theybannedme.com
    That place is populated by like minded individuals and they will prefer the unmoderated style and you will appreciate them gone.
    It is an alternative. Refocus and redirect these idiots.

  • MInTheGap

    To me, handling flamers is a little more complicated than this, though. You see you have to take into account your regular readers, and if all you’re doing is spending your time talking to the flamers, your regular readers might “bail out” because there’s nothing of interest for them, or their comments are getting crowded out by the flamers.

    I censor my comment section for language, and for politeness. As long as it’s not degrading conversation and attacking people, I’ll pretty much let it go.

  • Therese

    I like your advice and I have added another tip on my danish blog:
    Ask people to moderate their language – sometimes they don’t realize how bad it sounds to others. Give them the benefit of the doubt – flamers are people too and sometimes they just have a “bad day” as you write.

  • Gerard McGarry

    It’s harder to get rid of trolls on blogs than on forums. On my forums, I have a zero tolerance policy to trolls and their account gets booted immediately.

    On blogs, it’s obviously harder. One thing I’d suggest is to update WordPress comment moderation filter with common offensive terms so that those don’t go through to the blog in the first place.

    For the remainder of ‘sensible’ critics, it’s best to address their points and admit you’re wrong if you are.

  • Keith

    The best way to handle such people is by ignoring them. But of course, scrutinize your writings to make sure your are not unnecessarily offensive (unless of course that is your purpose, which is an entirely other matter). Such persons will eventually disappear and appear elsewhere on the net.

  • clang

    This is good advice. I once had a flamer, but my calm posture and none inflammatory approach actually turned that flamer into a fan.

    Some of what they had to say was valid. Initially I took offense at the way they criticized me, but realised that getting into a flame war with this person wouldn’t help – so I didn’t. I enjoyed staying calm in the midst of their apparent anger.

  • Daniel Harrison

    I’ve been lucky not to have many flamers on my sites. I’m usually blessed with poor quality comments designed to get links back to their sites they’re promoting.

    I don’t mind *useful* comments, but those that are blatantly designed to gain a backlink are quickly deleted (e.g. “I agree with your good point above”, or “I’ll be getting one of those for my birthday”).

  • Marko Novak

    Yeah, we all got them. They’re so annoying. I wish I could find them and punch them in the face.

  • Skellie

    My criteria for publishing vs. deletion is: was the comment left with no other intention than to make me feel bad, or does the author simply disagree? I have no qualms about deleting comments from the first camp. Freedom of speech gives web users the right to say whatever they want on their own blog — not mine.

  • Corinne Edwards

    Good advice, of course.

    But lately, I have gotten comments from a really destructive source.

    In the last comment she suggested that one of my other commentators commit suicide.

    The “Crazies” have to be just deleted!

    The controversial ones add a little spice I think. I rather enjoy answering in a really loving way!

  • Carla

    #$%@ you!

    Obviously, I’m just kidding. That was useful, well-written advice. 🙂

  • The Net Analyst

    I just wanted to say that this came at a time when I really needed to it. It sometimes seems that no matter how good your intentions are people are just online to trash everything that you have to say. Its really amazing how angry people can get about one little blogs opinion!

  • Make Money Online } David Elefant

    If all else fails, here is a line you can use adapted from my offline life:

    (Name) knows everything and especially where to find great content online thats why he reads my blog.

  • Abhijeet Mukherjee

    And daniel..one more thing .if a blog encounters flamers then its certain that its creating flames…creating envy…and hence its famous… 🙂

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