Recently I was watching a short, information-packed video posted to LinkedIn by a CEO, who was sharing his expertise on a variety of leadership topics. It was short, maybe two minutes, tops, but it was good enough that I stopped to watch it a few times before diving into the comments. I wanted to come up with a worthwhile question or consider what thoughts I might be able to share after thinking about what the content creator had to say. I know it takes effort to produce that type of content — and guts to put yourself out there — so I want to put some effort into my response when I choose to comment.
After I posted my response, which wasn’t the first comment, I went back to look at what others had said and was dismayed by what I saw. Before nearly anyone else had time to get a word in, some hawk-eyed typo expert spotted a minor error in the spelling of the video’s title and chose to let the content creator know about it in a public comment. Maybe the person who made the comment thought they were doing the content creator a favor, or maybe they just wanted to take the opportunity to show everyone else how smart they were. Whatever their motivation, it rankled me. We’re sharing ideas, people, not having our spelling corrected!
Praise in Public — Criticize in Private
If you’re trying to be helpful, then there’s no reason to post something like that publicly. There are plenty of content creators who might appreciate you pointing out a minor error, but not if you turn it into a public spectacle. Why not make it a private message, point out some things that you really liked about the post, and then mention the typo as the minor issue that it is? We all spell things wrong sometimes. Welcome to the internet!
While the response to a simple typo is what set me off on this chain of thought, you can apply the same concept to most elements of the content that you consume. If you like the content that you see, but you notice that the content creator made any sort of superficial error, then you can either take it in stride or let the content creator know about the mistake in a respectful (private) way.
As a general rule, if you want to be able to #JustBeNice on the internet, then you need to be willing to engage people privately when the situation calls for it. That’s true if you’re talking about an important, personal matter, but it’s just as important when you’re chatting with someone and want to offer some constructive, well-intentioned criticism.
Do You REALLY Need to Go There?
How you respond to people ultimately comes down to your values, and what you hope to accomplish. If you want to be the smartest person in the room — and make sure everyone else knows that you think you’re the smartest person in the room — then the public, “look at me” response will seem appealing. However, think about how you would feel if the situation were reversed. Is it really that important to correct people’s grammar and spelling mistakes? Will it truly help them or is it an unnecessary distraction from the idea flow? How you respond is your choice. However, if you want to build relationships and help someone whose content you enjoyed, then stick to private constructive criticism — or just take a breath and let it go.