A guest post by Jered Slusher of Mass Influence Leadership.
“Criticizing my fellow bloggers!?”
I bet you’re as stunned as the baby in the photo, especially since Jean is quite possibly the nicest blogger on the planet, known for such posts as How to Grow Your Blog With Kindness.
Hopefully this article gets “past the censors” so I can show you how to increase bonding and trust with other bloggers, give immense value to them, and be respected for your perspective.
And I want to show you how to criticize the right way. Believe me, there is a right way.
What exactly do I mean by “Criticism?”
Okay. So everybody knows that criticism has become a dirty word. The very mentioning of criticism sends a chill down peoples’ spines.
I’m sure we can all remember back to a time in our life when someone criticized us unfairly, made us feel about two feet tall, and incited anger within us.
You know what I’m talking about: “Brutal Honesty” dished out by people who care nothing about the other person’s feelings.
These are the people who have to get it off their chest and tell you what you “need to hear” because they know what’s best for you.
Even with the best of intentions, this type of criticism erodes self-worth and causes resentment within other people.
The criticism that I support creates lasting results and helps all involved.
It’s called constructive criticism, and believe it or not, there is a 10-step formula that we can use to better our blogging relationships and help our fellow bloggers improve their blogging efforts.
Step 1: Create and communicate a strong purpose and vision for our blogs and blogging efforts.
Before we start giving our opinion on other peoples’ work, we should lay down a foundation for our blog.
We should include on our About pages a clear statement of our blog’s purpose: why does our blog exist?
What does this have to do with criticism?
It’s hard to provide perspective when a blog doesn’t have a purpose. How are we going to help someone else get to where that person wants to go if that person has no idea where we’re going or what we stand for?
It’s much easier to help others and be helped when we have a strong purpose and vision for our blogging.
Step 2: Contact other bloggers who are blogging with a purpose to say hello, and talk with them about their blogging efforts.
Every blogging contact we make must first start with the initial contact. We should make connections with our fellow bloggers by leaving useful and insightful comments on their blogs and e-mailing them our sincere appreciation and support.
Seek out cool people that will be able to offer honest feedback, and that are willing to help. It’s not hard to separate the generous givers from the takers.
Once we put ourselves out there and make the initial contacts, we’ll start to develop a list of people who know us and are interested in us. These are the people who will be giving us their honest perspectives on how to improve our blogging efforts some day.
Step 3: Develop friendships with our fellow bloggers.
Tess Marshall of The Bold Life blog wrote an excellent article called 14 Tips to Turn Bloggers Into Friends.
It goes without saying that being genuinely interested in other people and providing them with tremendous value will help you develop your friendships.
In terms of criticism, it’s much easier to accept criticism from someone you know, like and trust. When we provide value to others without expecting anything in return, we create lasting bonds with people. They know our true intentions.
So when we ask for or give criticism, we can trust that our friends have honest and pure intentions in helping us reach our goals.
Step 4: State our intentions and get permission from our fellow blogger to give criticism.
Alright, everything leading up to this point has been about developing our relationship so that the other person is interested in us and that they know and like us. Essentially, we’ve created a bond of trust.
Now, it’s time to offer our perspective on their blog.
We can just come right out and say it: “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that if you ever need my perspective on anything, I’m here to help.”
As well, we should state our intentions clearly: “I am 100% behind the purpose of your blog, and I want to help you and your blog succeed.”
And then, we should ask for permission before we give our perspective: “If you’re okay with it, I’d like to provide some feedback about what I think is going well, and a few things that I think could really help take your blogging to the next level.”
By asking for permission, we’re getting the other person to own the fact that they’re okay with receiving our feedback.
This way, we have a higher probability of influencing the person. After all, they made the conscious decision to accept your criticism.
Step 5: Instead of making direct statements, ask questions to understand our fellow blogger.
One of my favorite quotes from Stephen Covey is, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
The best way to understand someone else is to ask them questions and listen. Truly listen. Instead of casting judgment, asking them questions to lead them on, giving them solutions to their problems, or analyzing their motives, try to just sit back and listen to them.
We will get a much clearer understanding of the other person’s perspective if we’re willing to understand the other person first.
Oftentimes when we ask another blogger questions about their blog, it takes them through a process of self re-appraisal and they have an “a-ha” moment where they realize how they could improve their blogging. The new-found self-awareness spurs our fellow blogger on to make improvements that we didn’t even suggest.
Some questions that we might ask: “What do you think about your website design? What do you think about your blog content? How do you think your traffic strategy is going? What gets a response out of your readers?” and so on, and so forth.
Step 6: Give our perspective, and provide honest, personal feedback.
When asked to specifically do so, and when we understand our fellow blogger, we should give our honest, personal feedback.
The feedback should be personal in that our information should be presented through our own perspective.
Here’s what I mean: Instead of saying, “The header of your blog is too big,” you might say, “It seems to me that the header might be a little large. It feels kinda bulky to me. I wonder if your readers have ever thought about the size of your header…”
The difference in approach is monumental. In the first instance, we’re stating the criticism as if it were complete fact. In the second instance, we’re stating our personal perspective on the matter, and acknowledging that we could be wrong, that it may just be our personal preference.
By keeping our criticism honest, and personal, we have a better chance of avoiding resentment or making the blogger feel worthless.
Step 7: Provide proof and examples from our experience, and from other blogging references to back up our point.
Whenever possible, we should reference why we hold our perspective. Where does our worldview come from?
For example, if we state that we feel someone could benefit from catchier titles, we should reference resources to back up the analysis. We could give examples of articles that have strong headlines that catch the reader’s attention.
The more proof we can provide, the more easily the other blogger can understand why we feel the way we do.
Step 8: Listen, and understand how they feel about what we’ve shared.
Get feedback from the blogger to see what they think.
Listen to them, and try to understand why they feel the way they feel.
Above all, we should respect their right to decline any suggestions we give or disagree with any points we’ve made. Just because we gave our perspective doesn’t mean that they have to change their way of doing things for us.
Step 9: Help the other person make the change, provided that they want to.
It’s helpful to give the blogger resources such as articles or books to help them get the result they want, provided that’s what the blogger wants.
It’s one thing to offer our criticism to the blogger, it’s another thing to go above and beyond and help the blogger make a substantial and lasting change.
Step 10: Ask our fellow bloggers for their perspective on our blogging.
Ultimately, a fresh perspective on our blogs can go a long way to our success. When someone is genuinely interested in providing insight into what we are doing well, and what we can improve upon, we can learn from that person.
We shouldn’t be afraid to ask other bloggers for their perspective on our blogging.
Who knows the valuable insight that someone may provide for an increase in traffic, boost in content quality, improvement in the functionality of our web design, or a cool way we can make more money from our blogs?
Your turn: How would you feel about receiving constructive criticism on your blog?
Bio: Jered Slusher is the founder of Mass Influence Leadership, a community of leaders driven to gain control over their future, lead other people, and achieve massive amounts of success. Get your free “Stocking Your Leadership Super-Powers” e-book at http://www.massinfluence.org/free-book