Alright, first in a series on how to take some of the scary out of blogging.

Just so you know, I’m writing this with two types of people in mind.

It’s for those of you who are thinking about blogging — or at least about maybe eventually thinking about getting around to it later — and for those of us who are already doing it, but keep getting tripped up by some of the what-ifs.

Not planning on “solving” a “problem” here. Just to:

1. clarify the issue so that people who aren’t experiencing it can have some empathy for those who are. And then …

2. offer some useful concepts to help us talk about how to deal with this should you ever want to. Food for thought, at the very least.

Shall we? Yallah.

Aaaagh! What if people are mean to me?

Where this is coming from and what it’s about.

The sincere and scary worry that your blog will be trolled by some snarky, insulting jerk (or worse, a whole bunch of people like that) is pretty darn normal. It’s actually something that keeps a ton of people from even starting a blog.

And I know this to be true because they all email me about it. And because I also worried this to death before I started.

This particular what-if has been getting louder recently (at least in my inbox) ever since Naomi cut off comments on her blog.

Aside from the resulting general hullaballoo in the blogosphere (which I don’t feel like talking about at the moment), there’s just a lot of fear coming up.

Basically, people come to me, point to her situation, and say (I’m paraphrasing here):

“SEE? That’s why I don’t blog!

I don’t even want to think about having to deal with the kind of abuse that would make me need to shut off my comments. I don’t want those meany-pants trollface jerks on my blog and that’s that.”

Like with any fear, you’re absolutely allowed to have it.

You know, I really do get that this is a legitimate fear.

Obviously blogging is a pretty personal venture. It can be vulnerable and intimate. You share your thoughts and your words, and you don’t even know who you’re sharing them with.

It makes sense that you don’t want to get slammed for showing up and being who you are.

It makes sense that you don’t want to process criticism (especially the mean-spirited insulting kind) from random strangers. It just doesn’t feel safe or supportive.

Sounds like maybe you’re feeling kinda anxious because you really need to know that you can have a safe place to lean into, and you’re not convinced that a blog can ever be that place for you.

And that’s okay.

And at the same time, I really, really want to read your blog! And now I can’t — because you’re not writing it.

So if this particular fear is the reason that I don’t get to read it (yet), let’s talk about that a little, okay?

Some thoughts to consider …

1. Can I share my own personal experience with this?

This was totally something I agonized over before starting this blog, and you know what? There has never been anything negative on my blog.

Seriously. Tfu tfu tfu, spit three times to avert the evil eye, knock on keyboard, nothing.

Sure, it happens that people disagree with me, but they do it politely and respectfully, and we talk. That’s it.

The people who read and comment on this blog are the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful and considerate people ever. Just gentle souls who are also smart and funny and have awesome insights.

I’d been so worried about having to deal with energy-sucking duck-haters or something, and instead I found a whole community of people who draw strength from my writing and who show up just to cheer me on.

It has been one of the most awe-inspiring, humbling experiences of my life so far. And yeah, I was wrong.

Okay, a number of you are probably coming up with a thousand reasons of why you’re not me, and how you actually will attract all the mean, crazy people.

And anyway, what about so-and-so and all the horrible things that happened to them?

Okay, fine. So let’s say that for whatever reason you might get some jerks spouting off on your blog. In that case, please see the next point.

2. You also have ways of protecting yourself.

There are ways to diffuse this situation both in advance (before you even start the blog) and if/when it ever happens.

It’s all about boundaries. And the trick to boundaries, in this case, is getting clear about how you want to handle comments on your blog. Some structure. Some guidelines.

Not necessarily a comments policy. You don’t have to go that far.

Personally? I detest the idea of a comments policy because to me “policy” sounds very top-down and authoritative. And I have issues. Sorry about that. (You can have a policy if you want one).

But there are ways to get around this. For one thing, you can use descriptive language (“this is how we do things around here”) as opposed to prescriptive language (“you are not allowed to do blah blah blah”).

For another, you don’t have to call it a policy. Tim Ferris, with whom I disagree on all sorts of things, has something awesome called Comment Zen.

I love Comment Zen because — unlike a policy which I already want to rebel against even before I know what it is — it doesn’t sound like it’s wagging a finger at me.

And because its very existence inoculates you against criticism if you end up deleting stuff that’s mean-spirited. (And again, I’ve never had to do that).

And you don’t have to actually use your non-policy policy thing. It’s enough to just have it in your head. I wrote mine about a month before I started blogging.

Just in case. I’ve never had to use it. In fact, I’ve never even mentioned it before now. But because I know it’s there, I feel a lot safer and more comfortable.

And since you’re going to beg me to share, here it is. My non-policy policy.

Comment Zen: We’ve all got our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We try to respond to each other with as much, you know, compassion and respect as we can stand. Mensch-like: it’s how we roll. That’s it. Have fun and comment away!

3. Every blog has a personality.

And not just a personality, but its own energy and its own voice.

The persona of your website is determined by you, but it’s also something you get to play with. In other words, you have more power than you think.

Every single thing you do on your blog — the look and feel, the colors, the way you speak to people — it all comes together to create a sense of who you are and what you’re about.

In Naomi’s case — and I’m not in any way criticizing her because she’s my favorite everything and I’m completely in love with her — her persona is brash and loud and fabulously obnoxious. Which is totally greatl Because we’re drawn to it and we adore her for it.

But because not everyone is capable of differentiating between a persona and an actual human being who is behind it, apparently some people took this as an invitation to be rude and abrasive in her space. Which is not cool.

This is so not the case with the people who write to me saying “Oh noooooooooo! I can’t deal with some Meany-Pants McGee insulting my honor!”.

Seriously. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t have an abrasive tell-it-like-it-is persona. So the likelihood of your ever getting that kind of response from people who don’t get it is a lot lower than you think it is. Tfu tfu tfu!

4. Be prepared: have a way to respond.

It never hurts to be a good communicator. If you have ways to respond to people, you’ll be less frightened of what they can say.

I use compassionate communication (NVC). And a concept from the super genius linguist Suzette Haden Elgin called “Miller’s Law”, which I can talk about some other time.

For me, it’s all about remembering that if something I said triggered someone else’s stuff, it’s their stuff. All I can do is meet their hurt and find out what they need. And acknowledge my own hurt and state what I need.

It’s really important (and hard) to remember that it’s not about you. Actually, it’s never about you.

And if that doesn’t help? Well, the delete button is there for a reason. May you never have to use it, but it’s there.

Feeling a little better?

Good. Or maybe not good, because I’m about to freak you out again.

The truth is that the likelihood of this particular fear coming true is not especially high. What’s much, much, much more likely is that no one will show up at all.

But we’ll deal with that particular what-if (and what to do about it) next week. In the meantime, I wish you the kind of awesome readers that I have, and can’t wait to read what you’re writing!

The Fluent Self