3 Steps to Transforming “Bad” Comments


This may be the most ridiculous video I’ve ever made — but the heart still beats a serious note. Comments are great until they get ugly. And by ugly, I mean when creators turn on what (usually) are well-meaning fans. Nothing can alienate a reader like a creator over-reacting to “bad” comments. Especially when the person on the other end meant well.

Get. Over. It.

A common phrase in the art world is “grow a thick skin” but that’s not something that you magically awaken and discover. Learning to accept criticism is a skill, like any other, and it must be practiced. So here’s three steps to help transform a bad comment into a valuable experience.

1. Know thy knee-jerks

Oh Socrates.  If only you were a webcartoonist.

Oh Socrates. If only you were a webcartoonist.

Your first homework assignment is to study yourself. Review any comments that upset you in the past, whether they were directed at you or not. How did you feel? What made you feel that way? Consider the story you might have told yourself. Did you catch yourself reading between the lines on what the commenter’s intention was? How did you want to respond to that person? Was your initial, knee-jerk reaction to be defensive? Attack back? Run from the situation?

Knowing yourself and your knee-jerk reactions will allow you to recognize them when they happen in the future. When they happen, it’s a sign that you should take a step back. A knee-jerk reaction is very rarely the one you want to act on. Instead, try applying step number 2…

2. Adjust your Translator

Anything is possible...with the power of cardboard.  Hey, it worked for Calvin!

Anything is possible…with the power of cardboard. Hey, it worked for Calvin!

Anything is possible…with the power of cardboard. Hey, it worked for Calvin![/caption]The internet is a great place to push buttons, often on accident. Without tone or body language, we must rely mostly on words, and often we assume the worst. Most of the time, we see an attacker where none exists. So ask yourself “How could a reasonable, well-meaning person say this?” Put yourself in their shoes. Give them the benefit of the doubt when you translate them.

This will help you separate people that accidentally push your buttons from the people that intentionally mean you harm. Trolls do exist. We just don’t want to assume everybody out there is one!

3. Become an Investigator

20080314_sherlock_holmesWhen in doubt, ask a question! Figure out what you can learn about the other person’s perspective, opinion, or knowledge. It may be that they have something valuable to share with you. Your work looks like someone else’s – how so? Perhaps you could study their work! A reader has some nit-pick problems with what you do? Maybe they have some suggestions on other things you could try. You don’t have to follow all advice, but at least ask questions and get involved. Don’t skulk in the corner feeling attacked. Become actively engaged in connecting, understanding, and growing!

In the case of a troll, ask yourself what purpose is served by trolling you. If someone is trying to tear you down, it means that you have something worth destroying. Take a troll comment as a sign you’re on the right path. Get past the troll, cross the bridge, earn XP, level up. Never let a troll get you to quit doing what you love!

What are some knee-jerk reactions you have?

What might some “bad” comments really mean?

What questions can you ask that will help you engage, understand, and learn?

Robin Dempsey is addicted to storytelling, despite all logical reasoning against this irrationally glorious pursuit. By day she works as a Mechanical Engineer, and in every spare moment outside of that she is making comics. Including in her sleep, on occasion. Addicted to world-building, character crafting, and language making, you can find the results of her sprawling storytelling pursuits at LeyLinesComic.com! Or drop a line on Twitter at RobinofLeyLines.

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  1. Great video Robin. I thought you did a wonderful job getting your point across and I agree 100%.

    No matter how good you are you will get criticism. If you want critique you need to be prepared to take the good with the bad. Everyone loves the good, but it is hard to accept the bad sometimes, especially when the criticism has merit. I love how you showed your reactions (reasonable and common ones) and how to break it down and understand the comments. A lot of times it is hard to gauge intent when it is a comment online and not a face to face discussion. Taking a breath and examining the words and understanding their meaning is great advice. Plus, it was crazy fun and entertaining. Great job!

    • I was curious to see how common my Ahrteest reactions were. I think creative types share a lot of the same struggles when it comes to critism. Perceived or otherwise! It’s fine to have those knee-jerk reactions. People just need to take care on acting on them.

    • I love to kill trolls with fire.

      When I helped run a forum, you had every single entitled punk teenaged boy thinking that they could run amok in your home and poop on your floor. Trolls thrive on attention. They wither when they’re ignored and move on when starved.

      I’ll admit, beating a troll at their own game can be a fool’s errand, but if you have a big mouth and sharp fangs, you can burn them to ashes.

  2. Great video! I had to learn all of this the hard way. haha I had a troll on my comic that stuck around for over 3 years! At first I kept getting mad and replying to him, then after a while I would just agree with everything he said to see if that would make him leave but he just kept coming back! Until I just ignored him. He hasn’t really been around since. (Though I hope I’m not speaking too soon and with this comment he comes back! D: ) I love what you said though, “If someone is trying to tear you down, it means you have something worth going after.” That’s really great!

    I still have a hard time sometimes taking critiques that I can’t tell if they’re serious or just trying to tear me down. So I would just walk away from it for a few hours and reread it later and usually taking some time away from it would get me on the right track of giving them the benefit of the doubt like you suggest. Thanks for making this video!

  3. I leave for a few days, and all hell breaks loose. What is in the water out in Colorado? Rocky Mountain Crazy?

    Just kidding – that video is about 100 types of awesome.


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