Maybe it was one of those days. Maybe it was something in the air. Today, I had six comments that required the honest truth as a response. Not the tempered, kinder and gentler response but the hard cold truth.
The kind of truth you have to give knowing that some can’t take it.
Not all types of bloggers can handle delivering the raw truth. And not all have to hand out the truth. However, technical, tip, and educational blogs often confront questions and pleas for help that require a level of honesty that can bring a multitude of responses – not all of them positive.
There are two challenges when it comes to answering an inquiry honestly: how to respond and how to respond to the response.
How to Respond Honestly
I believe that if you are an honest, sincere, and up-front blogger, people will expect the truth when they ask for it. If you aren’t, and you suddenly hand over the hard cold factual truth, expect a reaction – maybe not the one you want.
They have come to you because they have enough evidence to know you are the source for the answer, the one to help them with their problem. Commenters already have an expectation of what your response will be before they even ask the question. If you are a sweet and considerate blogger, they expect a sweet and considerate answer. If you are beligerant and confrontive, they will expect a like response. Don’t disappoint.
In general, I try to blog up-front and honest, without being argumentative or confrontive. I take care not to offend, but sometimes, I just want to bash intelligence into some brains, don’t you?
There are many ways to respond honestly to a question that requires the truth but is unpleasant to hand over. You can couch it in humor, with a lot of smileys :D and winks ;-) , softening the blow. Or you can just tell the truth and let it be whatever it is.
Among the six questions that required honest answers was a request for help with a blog design issue. Though I don’t have a lot of time to answer such individual pleas any more, I had a few minutes and took a look – and screamed. I hadn’t seen such an ugly, table-based design in years. Oh, I’ve seen ugly, but this was atrocious. On the surface, it was “pretty” but under the hood it was hideous. A web designer’s nightmare. Out of sheer curiousity, I ran it through The W3C MarkUp Validation Service and it popped up over 250 errors just on the front page. Bad errors, not forgivable errors. This was not a search engine friendly design. Their design issue was the least of their problems.
So what to do. Here are the options that ran through my head for replies:
The Vaguely Specific, Kind Reply: In order to help you determine the problem you had with your web design, I ran it through the W3C Validator and found 267 errors. The problem you are having could be associated with one or more of these issues. I recommend you go through them one by one to resolve each one. That may resolve your issue.
The Pass Off Reply: The problems you are having are far beyond my ability to deal with them on a volunteer basis. I recommend you seek paid web design assistance or request help on the WordPress Support Forums.
Harsh Humor: Have you looked under the hood of your site lately? :D This is a coding nightmare. No wonder you are having problems. Burn a virtual path to the emergency room of the WordPress Support Forums or the nearest web design clinic as this site has now been declared a disaster area. Get help now.
Humor Tempered With Truth: I don’t quite know how to give you the bad news, but I’ll do my best. Your website sucks. :D Actually, it is based upon pre-1999 design practices which means it is eight years out-of-date. I checked with an design testing service and found more than 250 errors – which would make even the most experienced designer wheeze with shock. ;-) The issue of fixing your one problem is beyond my current workload as it’s going to take some serious time. I recommend that you seek out a professional web designer or look for some guible help on the WordPress Support Forums. :D
The What-I-Really-Wanted-To-Say Response: Your license for owning a website or blog on the web has been revoked for design stupidity. In order to resolve this issue, call your web designer (your cousin, I’m sure) and fire their ass, telling them they are the most stupid of stupid and that they need to stop brutalizing others on the web. Slap yourself 6 times for having your cousin or friend design your site upon which your reputation and income is dependent upon. Switch to WordPress immediately. Use a free WordPress Theme or hire a professional web consultant and/or designer to covert this abscess on the web to meet web standards. Your site is an embarrassment to the web world. And to you.
There are a hundred ways this could be handled, but these were my first thoughts. The art of responding truthfully is knowing when to respond with emotion and when not. While every part of my being wanted to hand them the last example, I had to temper my natural spirit and keep to the character tone I’ve set on that blog.
So must you, too, examine all the different ways you can respond to such a query, and choose the one that best serves you and your blog’s reputation and style.
Responding to the Reaction to the Response
Once you put your response out there, expect a reaction. It could go any which way, so be ready for anything.
The BEST response I get to such brutal honest replies is “thank you” with gracious style. If you ever ask for brutal honest and get it, you better say thank you because you asked for it. They paid you a great deal of respect by responding acccordingly.
The worst response is a backlash of viciousness. In Mean Spirited Comments and Blogging, I offer a variety of ways to respond to mean comments, of which silence is my best recommendation. Honestly, I adhere to the “f**k ‘em if they can’t take a joke” school of thought which means I’ve given you the truth and if you can’t take it, I’m done with you. You asked, you got, can’t handle, not my problem. Next!
Most of the time, the reader responses with silence or somewhere in between. The issue is done or they might have more questions, and you can decide how far you want to take this.
Remember, every potential answer seeker could be a potential client. Not just to hire your services but to show their appreciation for your help by driving traffic your way by word-of-mouth or linking.
- The Magic and Fun of Incoming Links
- Elemental Truths: Tips for Utterly Destroying Your Blog
- Are Blog Comments Getting You Down?
- Sometimes It Takes A Year of Blogging To See The Truth in Your Blogging
- Truths and Consequences of Blogs That Stand Out
- Writing Effective, Attention-Getting Headlines and Titles on Your Blog
- Editing Your Blog Comments
- How NOT to Comment on Comments
- Mean Spirited Comments and Blogging
- Comments on Comments