Just a rant about bad reviews, why you shouldn’t read them, and one take on (one of the many reasons) why you should never respond to a negative review on any site:
I was in a conversation with a fellow creative the other day. He was getting really twitchy about a handful of bad reviews he had gotten on one of his self-pub books. Despite having a zillion-and-one 4 and 5 star reviews, these couple of 1 and 2 star reviews were messing with him.
I think most grievous to him was the content of the reviews. The reviewers had a few harsh opinions–some even verging on troll-like behavior–regardless, a few things were said that are stuff most people wouldn’t have the balls to say to some one’s face.
And, I get it. That sucks! And, some people are thoughtless, and crass. Some people are just goading, or trying to be intentionally divisive. Should bullies be tolerated? Probably not. Can you directly do anything about bullies? Not really. I mean you can flag their posts, but you have a 99% chance of their comments being protected under the user agreement.
And, what about posts that are offensive to you, but not outright bullying? Well, you really shouldn’t even flag those at all. You being offended doesn’t equal a grievous crime. If you think it should be against the law for people to be an asshole to you, you have other problems. (Are you a narcissist?)
I know, the internet sucks sometimes.
But, I wrote all that to say, I don’t think people should read their own bad reviews, nor respond to them.
Here’s why: it is none of your business what other people think about you.
That is my opinion.
Even if people post their opinions publicly. Even if they post it with the intention of getting you to read it, to insult, hurt you, or call you out…it is still none of your business.
Let me explain myself. I view people putting their bullying opinions out there like a flasher in the park. They run up, show you stuff that is none of your business to be seeing, for the purpose of making you feel uncomfortable. So, in my opinion, overt your eyes. Don’t be a voyeur to internet exhibitionism. They are trying to violate your boundaries.
I view this like any other kind of negative campaign. If I had some one posting all over facebook that I sucked…well, that is their opinion. Should I engage, respond back? In my opinion, no. It is none of my business what they think about me. That is their own deal, which isn’t any reflection on who I actually am. If people join in for a monster-bash, jerk circle of gossiping about how much I suck…still none of my business. Anyone who would engage in a masturbatory rant about how some one they have never met sucks, are all people you do not want in your life. Why do you care about the opinions of people you don’t have in your life, who you do not love, and do not love you? Why do they matter? I think it goes without saying that my personal opinion of these type of people would be they are people who I’d never want around. They are toxic. (This here, to me, is a perfect reflection of how some people’s Goodread/ Yelp/Amazon/Instagram pages look.)
Toxic people DO NOT matter.
Story time: I’ve had instances where I’ve had people come to me and say, “Do you know what so-and-so is saying about you?!” and went on to elaborate a bunch of crap that was frankly very negative. And, again, my opinion is that it is none of my business what some one else thinks about me, says about me when I’m not around, etc.–they are free to think I’m Hitler for all I care. That is their right! It doesn’t reflect my reality.
Also, my opinion of the person who wanted to relay that gossip to me went down, as well. I, frankly, let them know very nicely that they were a pot stirrer. I don’t want pot stirrers in my life. They aren’t people you can really trust. I know exactly what would happen if I chose to engage with this person over the alleged opinions of some one I don’t talk to anymore. If I expressed any denigrated opinion in return, that message would have been relayed to that other person, and we would have a situation where I was being triangulated into drama. My happiness is worth more to me than setting someone I couldn’t care less about straight. So, in reality, the messenger of negative stuff, and the alleged speaker of negative stuff, need to stay in one corner… far away from me… and the only way to do this is to choose not to engage. Because, again, some one’s opinion of you is none of your business; it is a reflection of their mental-state and experiences. It is not a reflection of reality–not your reality, at least.
And your reality is valid! Other people don’t get to dictate your reality, or your feelings. No one knows how you think, or feel, but you! Any one who has ever uttered the words “Well, you just think that I’m…” in an argument is gaslighting you. Dictating, with definite surety, what another person is thinking, doing or feeling, without them telling you, is an ABUSE tactic according to the DSM. Healthy people do not speak in these terms to each other. Healthy people do not presume the thoughts, feelings or intentions of others without asking. Therefore, engaging with people who smear shit, stir pots, relay messages, or troll negative opinions is a statement to those other people that you are willing to allow their opinions of your reality to effect your well-being. Engaging with them is in a way substituting your own reality for their versions of reality.
With that said, you can not control their reality either! That is also abusive, going the other way. You have no right to try to force your opinions on others. Don’t argue with bad reviewers. Don’t try to change people’s minds about you. Do not engage! You want your rights to your own self-opinions and reality to be valid for you, then you need to accept that their version of you, of reality and projected opinions are also valid for them. You don’t have a right to try and dictate their thoughts, even if you don’t agree. People are allowed to hate you. They have a right to think disparaging things of you, and tell others these thoughts. You can not control them. And further more, you have no name to clear, in fact you indite yourself by engaging, proving them correct 9 out of 10 times by fighting them, instead of just letting the bad review die. You are the one shining light on it by engaging. Let nasty people be nasty. They have a right to be nasty and live out their reality, if they please.
(Narcissistic abuse is where some one tries to substitute their reality for your own. Posting this again, in case you didn’t click on it the first time!)
Now, some people might say “oh, but if you don’t listen to the thoughts of negative others you will never improve.”
I call horse shit on that, especially if it is a trolling review! Bad reviewers rarely come from a good place, or care about your well-being and improvement. They are just venting, absentminded to your existence, or the fact you are a real person.
Every person who has ever dealt with an abusive other knows that the minute they are called out for being nasty, they immediately play the “But, I was only giving constructive criticism …because I love you, and want to see you do better.” card. (I don’t have time to get into just how arrogant that statement is.)
Here is the bottom line: we are all professionals. We all have qualified beta and alpha readers. We have colleagues, etc. I trust the constructive criticism of solicited help from other professionals in my field. An engineer asks a P.E. for a check on their programming…not a hot dog vendor. A writer solicits the helps of editors, beta readers, fellow writers or a tied in readership, and other industry professionals for constructive feedback, not internet trolls! Unsolicited incites can screw, in my opinion.
So, yes. In my opinion, you shouldn’t read your bad reviews. And, you should not engage with your reviewers. Besides being classless, it is potentially damaging to both your self-worth and your public face. (It makes you look like the crazy one.) It is their opinions, shared for other readers to engage with. I don’t believe in the myth that one bad or troll review affects sales. It is perfectly acceptable for others to have bad opinions of you, and it does not at all reflect reality. Again, you have bigger problems if you think it is a sin for some one to have a bad opinion of you! People are allowed to not like you, and have a bad impression of you. It isn’t against the law.
Let people post bad opinions of you. Let pot stirrers blow up the internet with “do you know what so and so said…” if they like. That is their reality, and their right. Don’t interact with these people. Have compassion for them. They are perhaps working through their own self-worth issues.
All in all, you have a 101 positive reviews, and supporters, and all the love of your colleagues. Why are the few negative gossips, trolls, blog-stalkers, and nether-dwellers worth more than all the love of the people who actually support you? Why not reply back to a few positive reviews with a “Thank you! I appreciate your time!” instead of to bad reviews with a “No. Allow me to dictate to the world why your reality is flawed, and why they shouldn’t be allowed to listen to you, thus proving you absolutely right about how shitty of a person I am!”
So yes. I think the moral of the story is, haters gonna hate.
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