So you’re minding your own business and doing your thing. Then the phone rings and a friend calls saying something like this, “Did you know that someone in the church wrote about you on their blog? They didn’t say nice things! What are you going to do about it?”
I can understand. For one thing, I’ve been contacted by my fair share of people who aren’t happy about something I posted here on my blog. I’ve even been contacted by the concerned party who was just worried that I might blog about something. On the other hand I’ve seen my fair share of criticism. I’ve been blasted many times on blogs, facebook, myspace, forums, and of course the old fashioned way… church gossip.
So… what’s Adam’s strategy for dealing with public criticism? I’ll let you in on my secrets. But just keep these secrets between us, OK? I wouldn’t want any f my critics to know how I will respond.
Secret #1 I see everything. Thanks to the wonder of the internet I am typically alerted automatically within an hour of something posted about me, my family, or things I care about. That means I am almost never surprised by a phone call like I mentioned above. Almost always I’ve already read the critique and decided what I’m going to do! There are both paid and free options for doing this… unless you’re Joel Olsteen the free options should do the trick.
Secret #2 I ignore almost everything. That’s right. Even the worst criticisms are worth ignoring. Let’s say someone didn’t like what I said in church and they blog about it. Is that swipe really hurting me? Not really. I don’t perpetrate myself as perfect. And I’m big enough to take a couple of shots. I’m also not concerned about “online reputations” too much. If I ran around with a chip on my shoulder about every negative thing being said about me, my people, or my work… I’d end up looking pretty stupid wouldn’t I? Here’s the dirty secret of criticism online: A link is a link. Google could care less if it’s a positive link or a negative link to your blog. All links help your online reputation.
Secret #3 When a lie resonates, invite a discussion. In my life, about 1:100 criticisms do get responded to because that same lie or critique is starting to pop up on other blogs, discussions, articles, or other places. In other words… if I ignore a criticism 99% of the time it will go away quickly. That’s really the beauty of the internet! There are so many blogs out there that 99% of posts really aren’t remarkable. People read blog entries so fast that chances are no one even noticed the critique. But that 1% of bad things said will get picked up by other bloggers. When that happens I need to think about a response strategy. When I do respond my first step is always to invite a person saying something publicly to contact me privately. I give them my name, the link to the critique, my phone number, and personal email address. If that blog has an email I send them a message there. If not, I leave a comment inviting them to discuss the criticism privately. Some disagree with that, but I prefer to discuss a criticism privately.
Secret #4 I vent about it, privately. I don’t care how important you are… getting slammed hurts. Even the trivial “who, said what? hahahaha!” ones hurt a little. As a pastor you put everything you’ve got into your ministry so any critique seems intensely personal. I fight my self-righteous attitude to say something here on my blog or to call and demand a person take it back. Further, most pastors don’t realize that they are in the public eye… you may be the most famous person most people in your church know! Here’s the trick. You need some outlets for that anger… and the people around me know full well what this is like. I will read something, make a “huh” little laugh and then talk to one of the people close to me about it. Try it, it helps. that way if I end up responding it is never out of anger.
Secret #5 Truth always wins. The fact of the matter is that you will do some dumb things. I know I’ve said, written, and done some incredibly idiotic things. If you only ever do safe things you will never be criticized. But the good news is that if you’re a good guy, you’ll always be a good guy. You can’t please everyone and it’s not worth trying.
Secret #6 There is an ounce of truth in every criticism. That’s why I read them all. WIth an understanding that all criticisms have something to teach me, I think I’m getting a little bit smarter!