Responding to Criticism

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Updated January 28, 2020

Putting your thoughts and ideas out into the Twitterverse can yield many positive benefits (which you can read about when the rest of the mini-Guide is released!).

However, it can also lead to unproductive disagreements and even condemnation. As you post more and gain more followers, your tweets will be seen by more people in your industry, including more people who disagree with youโ€”some of whom are not afraid to let you know it. Your peers, and potentially your future collaborators, employees, or employers are looking on. Itโ€™s important to act professionally while responding to feedback and show your openness to critical feedback.

  • Clive Thompson (@pomeranian99), a New York Times journalist, addressed a correction about an article he wrote directly to Twitter after receiving criticism on the platform.

  • Tracy Chou (@triketora), the founder of Block Party and prominent tech industry figure, responded with a clarification and apology when critiqued about a view she expressed about participants of the cryptocurrency field.

When engaging with criticism, remember the following:

  • Most people are well-intentioned and donโ€™t have the desire to personally attack you.
  • You are not your individual ideas. Critiques of your ideas should not be taken as critiques of you as a person. Donโ€™t take anything personally and launch into attack-mode as a result.
  • Nuance can be lost in 280 characters. Someone engaging with your ideas may come off as rude due to these limitations.
  • Itโ€™s perfectly OK to change your views, admit you were wrong, or note that you hadnโ€™t considered a particular angle.
  • While itโ€™s helpful in the long-run to consider objections to your ideas, you donโ€™t need to respond. Sometimes liking a tweet can be a way of acknowledging a critique without fully engaging.

Despite feeling attacked, itโ€™s key to differentiate between critical feedback and valid criticism versus ad-hominem attacks and bad faith denunciations. Listen and respond thoughtfully to the former, block people who engage in the latter two.

โ€‹importantโ€‹ Thereโ€™s a big difference between โ€œblocking people who disagree with youโ€ and โ€œblocking people who are intentionally rude and hurtful.โ€ Blocking people to protect both your headspace and tweet mentions does not mean you live in a bubble or reject all criticism. It means youโ€™re preserving space for people who can engage respectfully with what you post.

Legitimate critical feedback is an opportunity to grow professionally and should be treated as such. Responding in a way thatโ€™s negative or overly sensitive is easily observed by your followers and can signal that youโ€™re not receptive to growth.

Responding to Mobs

โ€œOur crowds are online and our Colosseum is Twitter,โ€ writes Michael Fontaine, a professor of classics at Cornell University, in an article on mob mentality. If a tweet receives enough criticism, warranted or not, it can snowball into a full fledged mob. An unpopular tweet can be ratioed and receive hundreds or thousands of quote tweets, often with deeply personal attacks. A wave of DMs or emails can follow and even attempts at having your account hacked or calls to your employer to fire you.

Itโ€™s a deeply unpleasant experience that more and more people are going through, because it can be genuinely difficult to know when a form of public shaming will occur and what might trigger it.

  • Josh Pigford (@Shpigford) shared a view on hiring for his company that led to days of disproportionate response and culminated in a clarification and apology.

  • Youโ€™re reading a preview of an online book. Buy it now for lifetime access to expert knowledge, including future updates.
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