Today I came across the results of a survey that showed “four-out-of-five consumers have changed their minds about a recommended purchase based solely on negative information they found online.” On the reverse side, the results also indicate that “positive information has a similar effect on decision making, with 87 percent of consumers agreeing a favorable review has confirmed their decision to purchase.”
So what does this mean for your content?
Given our always-on-mentality and ready access to just about everything, it’s doubtful that 100% of the people who read your stuff will like it without qualification. At some point, you will get a negative review of how you’ve written about something. So if the survey says that 80% of people change their minds based on a negative review, you can’t push the negatives aside.
You have to respond to the (valid) comments and make the improvements that enhance your work. The key is to remember that many times, how you respond to the negative can have as great, if not greater, impact than the positive. But when it comes to changing our words, it can be difficult.
Writers like their words, their sentences, and their paragraphs. Otherwise, in theory, they wouldn’t have written them. Few things seem to stir people up as quickly as a critique of their writing. I know. When I first started writing, my initial reaction to someone questioning my writing was to shoot first and ask questions later.
Over time, I’ve gotten much better at actually hearing/reading the comments and thinking through the intent. Most times the comments aren’t about me personally and do improve the overall quality of my work. But it’s not easy to fight the protective instinct that pops up. For the writers I know, their work is personal to them, and it takes time and experience to separate critiques of our work as being critiques of us individually.
Embracing the Negative
Since we know the risks of trying to be all things to all people, it’s worth remembering that negative critiques may mean you’re doing something right. It’s just a matter of putting it into context. If you’re consistently getting told that your explanations are confusing that’s clearly a negative to avoid. But if your feedback shows that people feel strongly one way or another about an idea you put forth, that’s a different, and not unwelcome, outcome.
Even though it may not feel good taking the hit, it’s worth remembering that the negative can be just as good for you as the positive. Keep that in mind the next time you debate watering down your prose to appeal to the masses.