Praise in Public, Probe in Private

One of the most powerful blog post archetypes is the rant. Done well, it is extremely engaging, pulls at your heartstrings, and makes a compelling case. From the first sentence, you’re swept up in a wave of emotion, and by the end, you’re ready to co-sign a lawsuit with the author.

Good rants have a decent chance of going viral, and that’s why some writers aim to the master them. I know people who have. Personally, however, I’ve only posted a handful in my career — but not for a lack of opportunity.

There are countless things I get riled up about. Shady business practices. Being taken advantage of in a partnership. Pretty much everything airlines do. But if it’s profitable, interesting, and I have plenty of topics to be angry about, then why don’t I rant-post more often? The reason is twofold.

For one, there’s a real chance that mastering the rant will also make you a miserable person. I know people who have. Become bitter, always-angry folks, that is. If rant is all you do, your writing metrics might go through the roof, but at what cost? A corporation sadly can’t lose its soul by injecting emotional clickbait into its users’ veins, for it never had one to begin with — but you, the individual creator, definitely can.

For another, I have a philosophy I’m trying to uphold: Praise in public, probe in private. By and large, I’ve managed to practice this philosophy for almost a decade of interacting with hundreds of people, platforms, and products. The reason is as strong as it is simple: If it was me screwing up, I’d much prefer to be reminded in private so I can fix my mistakes without any public drama. In fact, plenty of times I have been, and I’m grateful for every one of them. Each confidential complaint was a gift, because it could just as well have been a widespread one, no matter how small the issue at heart. You know how the internet gets.

It’s hard to live this philosophy. Especially right when you feel slighted, the publish-button feels a lot closer than the inbox. It takes less time to fire off an emotional response than to craft a thoughtful email. The relief is stronger, too. But then comes the fallout — and what if you’re wrong? At the very least, it is almost always worth to probe in private first. You can still air your dirty laundry in public if you find the recipient of your complaint to already be combative behind the scenes.

We’ve all gone off track, and we’ve all experienced the power of thoughtful feedback and forgiveness. Even if they could be turned into serious coin or attention, shelve your rants. Praise in public, and probe in private. That way, you’ll spread sunshine wherever you go — and if there’s one thing that deserves to go viral more than even the best tirade, it’s a few rays of hope, always loaded with the potential to change someone’s life forever.