How To Deal With The Haters

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I have no idea how to interact with the haters.

I spent over a decade in the music industry reviewing artists for weekly and monthly magazines and newspapers. In all of that time, I rarely reviewed artists I didn’t like or albums I didn’t like from artists that I did like. Why? One, with the limited space that print offered, I preferred to use that space to talk about something that I thought the readers might enjoy spending their money on (something positive). Two, if something was so bad (at least, according to me), why even bother giving it any coverage or attention? I realize that some people may want to know why something didn’t work for me or why I thought something wasn’t worth the time or listen, but I guess I was subscribing to the old adage, "if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all."

Big time wuss.

I’ve been very public about the fact that I have very thin skin (and yes, I realize this isn’t a great attribution… I’m working on it). I have one simple and decisive way of dealing with the haters: no public attention or validation. I do not follow them, link to them, help them or anything else. But, here’s the biggest trick: they would never know it. I will still follow them in the online spaces, act cordial to them when confronted, but I then filter them out on my end (through the creation of lists or blocking). It’s my own, private way, of removing as much negativism as I can in my life without making another human being feel like they are being ignored.

It works for me.

I often Blog about my combatives training with Tony Blauer. Many people still misinterpret this training as being extremely physical. When you begin dissecting the dynamics of a confrontation, you learn that ninety-percent of a confrontation is psychological and you hope that it doesn’t lean towards that other ten percent – which is the physical. The training is all about the ninety-percent and being as prepared as one can be for the ten percent. My net learning from the years of training and coaching I took part in was that it’s very hard to have a confrontation (pre-physical) unless both parties take part (I am not talking about being attacked or ambushed). Think about the prototypical fight you see in a bar: one person shoves another, the other person postures back, there’s finger pointing and words exchanged… and we all know where this leads. The situation can (sometimes) be defused by simply not taking part in the antagonist’s "story"… by leading the antagonist to feel that it’s simply not worth it or that they have already won the fight. In some instances, this means acting submissive or by creating a pattern interrupt that changes their preconceived notions of how the incident would play out. In other instances, it’s about creating a scenario where if the antagonist persists, they will be either feel vindicated, embarrassed or feel the shame of the people around them (we see this a lot in movies). Yes, every instance is different and yes, there are many exceptions to every circumstance, but it’s a way of creating a scenario where the antagonist still feels vindicated while you can simply move on with your life.

People who have a bone to pick.

What is important to know about these haters is that is goes well beyond a personal feeling that they have to get their opinions expressed, heard and even have a sense of being "right." In watching a lot of the online discourse, you quickly learn that many of the more passionate haters (also known as trolls or as Christopher S. Penn calls them, "ankle-biters") feel like they are actually attempting to right a wrong in the world. When an individual takes something on like this, it’s going to be challenging (actually, nearly impossible) to have true discourse. Many people will tell you that you simply ignore them… it’s just not that easy. So, while ignoring is optimal, sometimes you have to let them think that they have your ear, when what you’re really doing is acknowledging who and what they are and compartmentalizing them into the back bottom drawer of your life. And, with that, you give it no attention: no links, no love, no comments, no feedback, no input. To them, they still feel heard and important. To you, their activities are acknowledged and put on your black list. Ultimately, it is – somewhat of a compliment – to even be in a position where individuals care enough to have a hate-on for you.

How do you deal with the haters? 


  1. Simple. I ignore them.
    While I feel flattered that they’re willing to spend so much time and energy focusing on what I do, I’m going to continue doing whatever it is that they’re so worked up about.
    After all, you only have haters if you’re doing something right… right?

  2. I have never figured it out. I can get 99 positive comments and the 1 angry person’s comment is the one that gets recycled over and over in my mind. I don’t like this, yet there is a part of me that seeks out the comments… At one stage I removed all data access devices from my personal space so that I could only check email, comments, etc at specific times where the negative impact of a negative email could be contained. This is getting less and less possible. Maybe it is time to learn a skill to allow the noise to flow through me without hitting me. But how? hmmm… we are on a common search. 😉

  3. Observe, don’t Absorb!
    Great advice from a friend that I totally follow. Learn from people when you can, but don’t absorb their toxicity- because an opinion can be helpful but negativity for the sake of it is the by-product of some people’s sad lives.
    Also, I try and use it as opportunity to practice compassion because anyone who is truly hateful is not a happy, healthy person and I wish them peace and am grateful I am not them.
    Best to you in 2012!

  4. I’d definitely agree on the thin skin as I remember giving you feedback about the audio quality of your podcast (you always sounding with a high-tone, almost echo). You tweeted back blaming it on Skype and that was it. I have to admit it was kind of short and felt like an “Oh, well, not my problem” whereas I expected more of you, like “I’d look into it”. Anyway, not a biggie, but that’s how it came across.
    But like Joy said, observe, don’t absorb. Looking forward to more of your great insights and advice in 2012!

  5. I can really relate to the bit about combative training.
    I spent 9 years training in martial arts (shotokan karate). It attracts, for the most part, like-minded individuals and you need to have a certain mindset to find value in these systems. One of the fundament precepts of the system is to “avoid”. I always took that to mean avoid conflict; physical, mental and spiritual. We were taught that the practitioner does not engage his apponent but defends against attack. This is a key premise when considering how you mesh this in your approach to your life.
    On one of your recent podcasts you interviewed Fred Reichheld. I think that his system is one that summarizes my feeling about how to “be” in this world. Treat others how you want to be treated. Pretty simple.
    Thanks for all the great content this year. I look forward to reading and listening to more in 2012. All the best.

  6. I have written about this before in your comments section Mitch. I try to teach my staff to be able to identify the haters before they buy and just say no thanks to a sale that can only lead to trouble. Some of them get through this filter of course and we always treat them well (sometimes our insisting on a refund is the best choice of action) no matter how unfair and vitriolic (you have no idea!) their requests. I recently sent an email to our list asking for help pushing down out of view a very negative google places review. It was a particularly unfair/slanderous characterization of one of my staff and our store. I asked for help, but also asked for honesty as I needed to know if this was who we really are and I didn’t know it. The help was immediately forthcoming and all positive.
    I can’t help but wonder what incident sparked this post?

  7. Yes, it is a compliment, no question. You’re pushing the way they think and they’re pushing back.
    I had no idea you were ‘thin-skinned’ Mitch. For example, reading your responses the other day on your Chris Brogan/G+ post, you were extremely cordial and kind to all, and didn’t seem to let the words of others get under your skin.
    So although you might be dealing with this problem internally, you’ve got me fooled man.
    But I have found I’m like you in many ways. I don’t attack the haters, but I’ll slowly filter them out if I find they’re ‘energy leaches’—sucking the happiness and inspiration out of my day with their actions.
    At the same time, I maintain a hope that some of the leading haters will ease back, look within, and try to learn from their mistakes like the rest of us….if that makes any sense.
    Anyway, thanks for this Mitch.

  8. One of my favorite Lil Wayne quotes: “Haters are just confused admirers, who can’t understand why everyone loves you.”
    Negativity’s just a waste of energy. I tend to welcome it, because it must mean we matter that much, or are doing something worth inspiring such strong feeling.
    Happy New Year everyone

  9. Totally agree with the philosophy here. Very few people follow it. Worse than the out-and-out aggressive are the passive aggressive, such as one of the comments above, where the guise is to be “helpful” and “honest” I usually ignore those people, too, unless it’s directed at someone else other than me.
    Thank for taking the time out of your life to write this amazing blog which I’ve found very helpful and worth passing on to my friends and my own followers. Best wishes for a successful 2012.

  10. Patricia –
    How is being “helpful and honest” ever a guise?!? That makes no sense, and to be honest your comment was neither helpful nor honest, but rather a sanctimonious critique of others’ passive aggression.
    To prove Mitch’s and my earlier point, perhaps it’d probably have been better to just ignore your haughty insights, too
    Brevity is the soul of wit

  11. Observation and compassion… I get it… I just need to practice it a lot more and get more used to it becoming a true habit for me. That being said, I do enjoy thinking and writing up retorts (some get published… most are just done as a cathartic exercise).

  12. Funny, I didn’t see that feedback as negative… more like I am trapped. I can’t control or fix Skype… so I just record the conversations and hope people enjoy them knowing my audio limitations… really sorry it came off that way (I didn’t intend for it to). And, this goes to show you that we all take information in and emotionalize it (I just made that word up!).

  13. I can’t even begin to tell you how much of my training with Tony Blauer informs my everyday life (from personal to business). I’m so thankful to him for everything that he taught me over the years.

  14. No incident in particular. I just watch a lot of the online discourse and have been noticing that a lot of times the discourse is not about the topic at hand but the person leading the discussion.

  15. I do attempt to keep the comments on the topic at hand and not the individual, so it’s harder for the discourse to devolve… but it does happen some time. And yes, I am very thin-skinned (or emotional). Much like everyone else, I’d prefer if everybody loved me and respected my opinion as much as my mother does 😉

  16. I think you win a prize for being the first person to quote Lil Wayne on this Blog 🙂 I’d like to think I’m above negativity, but it’s easy to get sucked back into the vortex (unfortunately).

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