I went to school with a girl I will call Jilly from pre-school all the way through high school graduation. We were close friends off and on, playing together in the afternoons, attending the same sleepovers, occasionally participating in the same activities. But there was a side of Jilly that I never liked that drove me to completely avoid her during our last couple years of school. She played what I like to call the “No Offense But” game. If you’re not familiar with the game, it goes something like this.
“Hi Amy, how’s it goin’? Hey, no offense *insert big smile*, but that sweater just doesn’t look good on you at all.”
There are many variations of this game including the sneaky kind, which removes the words No Offense But from the dialog entirely while keeping the same effect. It might involve, “That’s really awesome that you would wear those shoes. I could never try to pull of wearing something so out of style.” And then there’s my personal favorite, “You are so courageous to wear a skirt that short with such strong legs. Good for you.”
As bloggers we’re used to readers disagreeing with us from time to time. Perhaps we have posted a recipe that didn’t turn out nearly as well in the reader’s home or we’ve written about a learning game that turns out to be a flop with their children. At times some of us delve into politics or religion, which can bring up heated discussions in the comments section. And every blogger is familiar with trolls, those people who swing by a blog with the sole purpose of leaving a nasty and usually unrelated comment. I’ve had those – they like to tell me I’m a horrible mom and that my blog sucks – and I generally just delete the comment. I value the opinions of my readers, but obviously intentional attacks from someone who is not a regular reader but rather a fire starter are not worthy of my nor my audience’s time.
But what do you do as a blogger when a regular reader returns again and again to leave passive-aggressive comments akin to the “No Offense But” game? The comment might start out just fine – “You’ve made some great points and clearly this parenting tip was carefully researched..” – but then it takes an ugly Jilly like turn. Some will drop the passive entirely and head straight to aggressive – “…but I have to disagree with everything you said and just don’t know how stupid you’d have to be to believe all of that.” Others will slide carefully into jabbing at you like a three year old wanting to play Candyland just one more time – “….and I bet that this would work in a lot of homes. It didn’t work at ALL for us, but I bet that was my fault because I have a PhD in early childhood education so I’m probably just OVER educated causing YOUR advice to not work for us.” Pick. Pick. Pick. Jab. Jab. Jab.
There are some bloggers that cringe at the idea of deleting comments because they want to keep the conversation open and natural on their blog. They don’t want to overreact and become too sensitive to their blogger’s comments. They value the dialog above their personal feelings. But then there are others who take a blogging version of Guy Kawasaki’s #UFM (un-follow me) Twitter philosophy – if you don’t like what I’m saying, feel free to go elsewhere. The problem is that the passive-aggressive commenter isn’t as clear cut a case as a troll or a cyber-stalker. I asked other bloggers on Twitter to share their techniques when dealing with the snark, and I received a variety of responses.
– Guilt Free Deletion Policy
Some bloggers say that the situation is crystal clear: your blog, your prerogative. If a comment packs more snark than a Weekend Update on SNL, simply don’t approve it or delete it from your site. In fact, Carrie from Cadyville Coupon Clipper has a “will not engage with negativity” policy and for that reason deletes those types of comments. J. Danielle from Media Strut has written more than once on the importance of comment moderation on your blog, going so far as to amusingly suggest that if you’ve got something nasty and off topic to say, you can feel free to start your own blog. That’s some great advice.
– Kill ‘Em With Kindness
Other bloggers say go ahead and allow that comment to appear, but then reply with a sugary sweet response that will take the wind right out of their sails. Miss Britt from Miss-Britt.com said that she stands by the kill ’em with kindness approach most of the time and that seems to work for her. But don’t catch her on a bad day, and thinking about writing a flat out nasty comment? It won’t appear on her blog. Delete, delete, delete.
– Take It Off the Blog
What do you do if the same reader returns again and again leaving these back-handed compliments and confusing comments, indicating that maybe more is going on than meets the eye. For some that means posting or deleting the comment, but most definitely emailing the reader. I’ve personally gone so far as to call someone to clarify comments they were leaving, and it turned out that there was a complete misunderstanding regarding a giveaway on my site.
– Watch Them Unravel
One blogger on Twitter shared that unless a comment is flat our racist or obscene, it appears as is. The reason? Readers leaving intentionally annoying comments inevitably do themselves in with their nastiness or are taken care of by other readers who keep them in check and moderate the space or community they love. There’s no need to take care of them when they’re on their way to taking care of themselves…
The bottom line? It’s your blog and most of us have been out of high school and away from the Jillys of the world for years. So what do you do when the no-offense-but girls come to call?