When Do You Stop Being Polite?

I only have one rule on my blogs, be nice. With Freelance Writing Jobs, which receives thousands of visitors on a daily basis, I’m forever asking people, well one or two people in particular, to please mind their manners. My biggest dilemma is when a client asks me to post a job and after I do, certain people start ganging up on the client to complain about his rates, his terms, and I’m sure if they could see it, the color of his shoes. The problem with this is it keeps people from coming back to us with their jobs and it makes most of my community uncomfortable. I’ve explained this time and again, but there are still people who refuse to get it.

One regular to my community likes to challenge me every day. On Just about everything I say or post she comments on with veiled cattiness and lots of winks ands smiles to tell me that despite her obvious baiting, she’s really a team player and ever so amusing. It’s obvious however she’s just being…well common decently prevents me from posting what she’s really being.

Some of the regulars are losing their patience and telling her what i can’t because I’m trying to keep it positive – to be respectful and stop picking apart everything I say. She’s still going on though. She throws in everything from free speech to a difference of opinion. Meanwhile I’m getting more and more stressed out at trying to keep the peace on my own blog.

So tell me, when do you stop being polite. When do you take off the kid gloves and tell someone to shut the eff up and if she can’t be respectful would she please take it elsewhere? Do bloggers always have to be nice?


  1. says

    Bloggers don’t have to be nice. They have to be diplomatic and respectful, but it is their job to be firm and to maintain the mood of the party.

    Think of it this way: even bartenders cut off the drinkers after a while.

    Send a private email. If that doesn’t get through, then you’ve already gone the extra mile and then some. You’re enabling the bad behavior by not being firm and being too kind.

    If the majority of the community is complaining, then you need to drop the ‘nice’ and quietly, privately do something about the situation.

    Think about this, too: Posting about having nasty commentators at your blog isn’t doing your reputation any favors, and it isn’t encouraging people to come on over and join the party.

    I know it’s tough. I know it’s a moral dilemma of which route to choose. I know it’s a hard choice.

    But it’s enough, I think. Last call, party’s over.

  2. says

    You’re so right, it doesn’t look good to complain about keeping the peace at a blog, but it’s something that happens to many bloggers – so why not bring it out into the open? I do like to get others’ perspectives on this.

  3. says

    Think of your blog as your house and us commenters as your guests. If people start being unruly in your house, you’ll probably give them a warning and, if they keep at it, toss ’em. You have every right to do that here.

  4. Lisa says

    I second what James said – it’s time to stop being nice and deal with her privately. You’ve been dealing with this problem for far too long. If that doesn’t change things, then you’ll have to ban her.

  5. Christie says

    Deb, I like the “rules” Tim Ferriss has posted for comments at http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/

    He was inspired by another blogger. He says: “Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. If you’re not, we’ll delete your stuff. Also, please use cursing artfully if you must, and put your URL in the “website” field and not in the comment box. Danke and have fun! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)” Maybe something similar, written in your style, would work as a first step (first warning). Then you can happily delete/ban commenters if they can’t be cool.

  6. says

    It’s a sticky subject, Deb. I think you already handle it very well. If you decide to take that extra step privately, then, sure. But you might just make thing worse in the bargain.

  7. says

    You know, I like to just call a spade a spade. It makes dealing with what’s in front of me easier.

    Abusing a public space and calling it Freedom of Speech is a manipulative decoy. It’s meant to intimidate you into silent compliance with her rules of play. Those are the tactics of a bully, and nice has nothing to do with it.

    But how to say NO in a way that gets the job done without leaving you feeling less than good about yourself? That’s the thing (least ways, it always has been for me), especially when dealing with someone who (seems) to hold power…

    Like most people, I’ve had my own troubles with this one, either not saying something when I should or over-reacting and making things worse cause I’ve been biting my tongue too long.

    I recently interviewed a one of the world’s leading mediator and negotiator, Dr. William Ury (he cofounded Harvard’s program on Negotiation; he’s the guy nations call to help them avoid war!).

    His last book The Power of a Positive No is the focus of the interview. When I read the book (a keeper) I was amazed by how simply and clearly he explained how (and WHY) so many of us get caught in the ‘nice’ loop – and how to get out of it alot easier. I’d highly recommend it to anyone mediating a community (or just wanting to relate better!).

    BUT, if reading ANOTHER book doesn’t appeal here’s links to the interview (two segments,approx 10 minutes each). Many of my clients find that’s all they need to apply what he teaches.



    Cheering for you from here!


  8. Fern R says

    I’ve never dealt with your particular situation, as the network blog I contribute to is a political blog, and when political comments are obnoxious, they’re really obnoxious and the person almost always gets banned on the spot. BUT, if I was in a similar situation, I think I would first send a polite but firm email outlining the rules and where I think the commenter is going outside the bounds. Then, if they still break the rules, I would send them a warning telling them that they will be banned if they continue to push the boundaries. And then if they still continue in the same vein, I’d ban them. Sort of a “three strikes and you’re out” policy.

    I would handle the warnings entirely in private so as to avoid embarrassing the person and avoid encouraging other commenters to pile on. In public, I would maintain what you are already doing (shifting the conversation back on course, politely responding to the obnoxious comments, etc).

    At least, that’s what I think I would do.

  9. says

    Deb, there is one gal who I was uber friendly with last year who started to make pretty snarky remarks in a variety of ways – my response was to totally and completely ignore her.

    I would far rather have someone just come out and disagree and give their arguments than play the ‘just kidding, just playing devil’s advocate, just playin’ with you you know I love you’ crapola.

  10. says

    I think you’ve done all you can to be nice. And she keeps coming back and disagreeing with you, basically telling you she’s going to do the opposite of what you’ve asked.

    I don’t think you need to be polite any longer. Be firm. Be nice, even. Tell her once more in no uncertain terms what is acceptable. Tell her what the consequences will be when she breaks it, and then follow through when she (inevitably) does. I think that’s all you can do. If you’re too much of a pushover, it’ll give others the same idea. And at some point that will lead to chaos.

    I’m pretty sure I know of what you speak, because even in your open thread she was pushing it. It may be time to cut her loose. JMHO.

  11. says

    Ignoring these people doesn’t work. Their poison comments are left lying around, souring your site.

    Silently removing these people also doesn’t work. It leaves the bad behaviour unchallenged for future flamers.

    Publicly take a double-handed approach: on the one hand, explain a constructive route to take (this can be difficult sometimes, but there’s usually something); on the other hand, put them on warning (gently) and explain that you will block them and may report them if they break the terms of the site again.

  12. says

    I hate to admit it, but I’ve been someone like this. Not really on purpose, but more of a self righteous “I am standing up for all of us” BS. Then I learned, hey, I’m not standing up for anyone when I make myself look like a (insert your favorite term here).

    It only took one comment deletion to make me realize this. If you really respect a writer and their commnity, sometimes an email and a deletion will shock them out of their behavior.

    If it continues (i’ve been on your side of the fence, too Deb) with someone who is just totally clueless, block them. Say what you think, let the members have their say in the matter, then shut down the comments. It can be theraputic for you, just don’t let it go past constructive beration…if there is such a thing. And edit out the curse words (unless they’re really, really creative, some are funny as heck). I still have one up somewhere where I told someone I couldn’t give two flying frog f***s.:-D

    Regardless, it will work out. She will get tired and move on, especially if you ignore her and invalidate her comments.

  13. Bobbi C says

    Hi Deb,

    I don’t think bloggers have to be nice.

    On my blog, when I encounter someone who’s being less than nice person, I simply see to it their comments don’t appear on my blog. (I delete their comments instead of approving them.)

    After all, the person who’s in charge of the blog has the right to decide the form the blog, including its comments, will take. If the person who’s in charge of the blog allows one person to post not-so-nice comments, that sends a loud message to all of the blog’s readers and future posters that the blog tolerates not-so-nice behavior. That’s not a message I’d want to send.

    Good luck–


  14. Bobbi C says

    Oops–“I don’t think bloggers have to be nice” should be “I don’t think the person who’s in charge of a blog has to be nice.”

  15. Stephanie Faris says

    Obviously this isn’t a problem anymore! Everyone seems to mind their manners now. Although I will say there was one time I was searching to see if a certain client was perpetuating a scam and a web search actually led me to one of your daily blogs. You’d posted the link and people in the comments had warned others that this was a scam. There’s no way you could have caught this one–it looked legitimate–and it really saved me an hour or so of work for no pay to read that. I now make it my steadfast general practice to never provide free samples to avoid being taken! If someone’s pay is way too low, I simply don’t bid. I can’t imagine complaining about it.


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