A-Listers Behaving Badly

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This is a guest post by Neicole Crepeau.

Last week I inadvertently stepped into a hornet’s nest on my blog. I publicized some SEO practices that I had been unaware of, including the fact that they may be taking place on a major blogger’s site (unknown to him, I assumed).

The response from that blogger seemed to me out of all proportion. He threatened me with a lawsuit, resulting in my taking down the original post.

His response to this perceived, but unintended, criticism struck me as such a contrast to the response I received from the Triberr guys to a blog post here on Danny’s blog. In that case, I actually did criticize a feature of their product.

Yet these two young men, Dino Dogan and Dan Cristo, were totally professional and courteous. They engaged in an open debate about their product and politely disagreed with me.

It seems to me that some of the supposedly seasoned A-listers could take a lesson from the young bloggers about how to handle criticism.

When I blogged in May about why I’m hesitant about Triberr, I criticized the product. Dino and Dan came on the blog to respond. Dan actually thanked me for the post. Dino engaged me with counter-arguments, and we had a reasonable debate on Danny’s blog.

It never got personal or nasty. This despite the fact that I had made a mistake in my discussion about Triberr, saying that it tweeted links more than once per user account. Dino just politely corrected me. He didn’t threaten to sue me for misrepresenting his product.

When I published my controversial post last week, I let the two people I mentioned know that I had blogged about them. It seemed like the right thing to do. Common courtesy, so they could respond. Plus, again, I assumed that this major blogger might want to know about these shady SEO practices that were surely affecting his blog.

Unfortunately, he was on the attack from the get-go. There was no courtesy, a lot of assumptions about my motivations, and very quickly threats.

Apparently, he has handled product criticism similarly. A year ago, on a negative review of his Scribe SEO product, his very first comment invoked the word “libel” and he proceeded to threaten a lawsuit. Contrast that with Dino and Dan, who have handled even negative Triberr reviews in a polite, professional way–and updated their product in response to it!

This blogger who bullied me online actually wrote a well-regarded post urging people to be courageous bloggers. He said “You need the courage to alienate the wrong people in order to resonate with the right people. You need to stick to your convictions when people tell you you’re wrong simply because your knowledge doesn’t mesh with their opinions.”

I’m taking his advice. That’s why I have republished my post, including the original comment thread and the tweets that followed. Because I better understand some of his concerns, and in order to protect some commenters from his potential bullying, I have removed people’s names.

This man is not alone. Other A-list personalities have become immediately defensive and intractable when their practices were questioned. I’m not the only one who feels that a lot of the biggest personalities are not open to honest questioning and criticism. They tell their clients to handle criticism gracefully, to not get defensive, to listen with an open mind and respond thoughtfully. Yet, they don’t practice the same techniques for their own brand.

These days, if you criticize an A-lister, you are apt to be labeled and dismissed as a “hater.” Disagreeing is not the same as hating. Criticism is not always mean-spirited. Democracy is built on the willingness of people to speak out, even when their opinion is unpopular, and for all of us to debate the issues openly. Shouldn’t our larger social media community be built on the same principles?

So, how about taking a step back, A-listers? I bet you’d like everyone to remember that you’re a real person. We’d like you to remember that we are, too. Don’t assume we little guys are out to get you. Don’t assume we’re criticizing you just to get attention and link-bait. We’re not all that jaded and cheap. I know you get a lot of crap at your level and it’s probably hard to assume the best of people. But please try.

Take a lesson from the young dogs. Assume the best of us, participate in discussions, politely disagree, and please don’t use your size and status to stifle any discussion.

Neicole CrepeauAbout the Author: Neicole Crepeau is a blogger, columnist at {grow}, and the creator of CurateXpress, a content curation tool. She works at Coherent Interactive on social media, website design, mobile apps, & marketing. Connect with Neicole on Twitter at @neicolec.

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