There may be people who are thrilled about receiving a negative comment about their blog posts. There may even be people who may go singing and dancing around the house when someone dislikes what they have written. Why, someone may even call out his friends and relatives for a party to celebrate the fact that someone has found errors in his blog post. I, however, am yet to meet even one of these wonderful beings; not even in zoos and museums.
Given my limited exposure to the world I have always gone on the – possible mistaken – impression that negative criticism makes people unhappy. Given that blog posts are made available for free reading, I have always tiptoed silently out of the blog when I did not particularly like them. After all, no one was holding a gun to my head and threatening my life if I failed to make a comment.
The only reason to make people unhappy by criticizing them is if such criticism can make them improve. A negative comment on a blog post can help the blogger improve only if it specifically cites what is lacking in the post and, if possible, how it can be improved. Comments of this nature on my blog – though they do not give me a thrill of happiness initially – make me thankful to the commenter since he has cared enough to spend time on trying to improve my abilities.
With one exception! Recently, I received a comment on one of my posts – that it was coincidental and how he liked my previous post better! The second half made me think that the first part was not merely commentary but was meant critically (Of course, I also thought that the commenter could not have been fool enough to think that I wrote the story without realizing the coincidence in it!).
Now, when a person sets out to make a negative comment on fiction, I prefer that he knows something about the craft of writing. A coincidence is a cheat on the reader only when it pops up out of the blue to solve a knotty problem set up in the tale by the author to tantalize the reader. When the entire tale is about what happened after the coincidental meeting, coincidence cannot be criticized. If he meant that the conversation thereafter was coincidental, he had not bothered to read the story with any attention because there is nothing in the story that says that the speaker did not realize who her audience was. Someone who gives himself unwarranted credit for his own perspicacity has always impressed me badly – but then I do realize that I may not be typical.
When I comment, I still refrain from mentioning my suggestions for improvement in the blog itself – preferring to mention it in private to the blogger. Almost all ideas relating to reader reactions are a matter of taste. I have the humility to understand that my own tastes may not be the mirror of the tastes of the world and I would rather not allow my comment to color the perceptions of other readers.
Again, with one exception! I found another commenter with the irresistible urge to be honest on other people’s blog posts when it came to negative comments and not necessarily constructive. So, I decided to see if he could take what he dished out. I had found something concrete that I wanted improved on his post and, contrary to my usual practice, I put in the comment on that post. As far as reactions on his blog to my comment went it did seem as though he could take it too. Then I found that he had felt the irresistible need to be honest on a ten day old post of mine hosted elsewhere!! Looked like I still had not found that elusive person who was rendered joyous by negative criticism!
I am sure that no-one can be foolish enough to think that comments like “You could have done better” or “Your story seemed disjointed” endears the one who so comments to the writer. Nor indeed can I see how these comments help the writer to improve himself since nothing is mentioned about what could have been done better or why the story seemed disjointed. If I am in a very generous mood, I can only think of these comments as emanating from people who think they have a duty to express their feelings on blog posts regardless of whether their confidence in the validity of their comments is utterly misplaced.
In my working life, I have come across very many manipulative bosses. Their idea of managing is to make comments like “I expected more of you” and “This letter can be written better”. This is a sort of posturing of superiority without any concrete demonstration of it that is expected to keep the subordinate on tenterhooks always seeking his boss’ approval. I have always reacted very badly to this sort of underhand manipulation even when I was being paid to go through it. In my ungenerous moments, it seems like these commenters behave exactly in this fashion and it sits ill on me to take this sort of posturing from anyone, leave alone from people less than half my age and with far lesser writing credentials than would warrant their assumption of superiority.
I have never been a votary of the belief that honesty is an adequate excuse for rudeness and much less in the assumption that rudeness is necessarily a demonstration of honesty. A belief in your own abilities is self-confidence but when it has to be buttressed by putting someone else down it is brashness. And, from the diatribe here, one can see that brashness is not one of the qualities that I love in my fellow human beings.
Lest it be thought that all my comments were like this let me hasten to add that it is the very fact that most of the people who commented on my blog have commented positively (or not at all! And the absence of comments has always been sufficient indication of a blog post gone wrong!), which made these comments stand out. There have been a few who have commented critically with concrete reasons and they have my thanks. I have been blessed, touch wood, by an absence of flamers of the personal sort.
I have no intent to have people admire their perspicacity and superiority in the mirror of my blog at the cost of putting me down. If you have something positive to say, I shall of course be ecstatic. If you have something concretely negative to say, I may not be happy when I read it but I shall nevertheless feel thankful for it in time. Otherwise, in case you did not know it, you can actually walk out of the blog without commenting! There are really no penalties for doing so, believe me!