I remember the early days of running my freelance copywriting business. I found the clients, I wrote the copy. Most liked it. Easy. Some didn’t, which made things a touch more difficult. But we always worked it out. During this time, I learned the importance of:
- Setting clear boundaries
- Communicating timelines and financial stuff well
- Not letting their drama become my drama
And most of all, separating the work from my personal self. Yes, they may hate the website copy. But they don’t actually hate me. But as my business grew, so did the number of customers, social media followers, email subscribers and event attendees. And as the number of humans grew, so did the number of haters. As I started to have (and share) a few successes, the backlash began. And as I dared to have opinions, the naysayers arrived. I’ve borne the brunt of nasty comments, spiteful emails, bitchy remarks, negative tweets and event hecklers. And honestly, it’s hasn’t been fun. But I’ve found a way to get through it. So in this post I’m going to tell you how to spot a hater, and how I’ve learned to deal with them.
Step 1: Remember who loves you.
The people who love your work and what you do will support you and sing your praises from the rooftops. They’ll toast your victories and be a shoulder to dribble and snot on in the tough times. These are the people who matter. But it’s all too easy to focus on the one negative person rather than the 99 positive souls. Remember who loves you, and if they hugely outnumber the haters then you’re doing okay.
Step 2: Separate the legitimate from the losers
There’s a big difference between an actual upset customer sending a complaint and some random loser leaving you a one-star review on Google. Genuine customer concerns need to be dealt with in a thoughtful and rational way. Take the ‘two ears, one mouth’ approach and seek first to understand. Most issues can be resolved if you take the time to truly empathise and take a step back.
Tip: This isn’t to say the customer is always right. They’re not. But if a genuine customer complains there’s often something there to take note of.
Step 3: Understand the jealousy
Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean that jealously goes away. We all feel a tinge of that schoolyard green seep into our eyeballs now and again. So, if you’re receiving unkind comments, take a minute to think about why the person is making them. Are they tall poppy snippers? Do they envy your success? Is their business going under while yours is going gangbusters? While it doesn’t make their snarkiness right, it does make it easier to understand and dismiss.
Step 4: Don’t engage
As George Bernard Shaw said…
“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it”.
Often the hater is prodding for a reaction. They want to get under your skin. Their win comes from you getting upset. And often responding in any form will just spark more negativity. Any time I’ve bitten back I’ve always regretted it. So instead choose to ignore and remember ignoring people is a powerful thing.
Step 5: Get practical
There are easy ways to resolve a lot of hater activity, or at least stop yourself from seeing it. You can block people on Facebook and hide comments so only the commenter and their friends can see. You can delete blog comments. You can block email addresses. You’re not powerless. It can be tempting to wallow in the hate, to reread that email again and again trying to find reason in it. Don’t go there. Double delete and be done.
Tip: And of course, if it gets really bad then don’t be afraid to take legal action.
Step 6: Learn to grow from negativity
Yes, I’ll admit I’ve cried myself to sleep after some of the negative stuff I’ve received online. But the next day I’ve gotten up, dusted myself off, and vowed to keep on keeping on. I’m so much more emotionally stronger than I was in the early days. Comments that would have slayed me three years ago now have zero impact. I can’t promise I’ll never cry again. But I get a little stronger with every passing month. Thanks for that, haters!
Step 7: See it as an indicator of success
If you’re attracting the attention of those who take a greasy pleasure in criticising you, it’s clear that people are starting to take notice. As Elbert Hubbard said (I’m all about the quotes in this article):
“Do nothing, say nothing and be nothing, and you’ll never be criticised.”
While haters are painful, they’re also a measure that your business brand is blooming.
Step 8: Don’t give it energy
As I’ve gradually grown into my business pants, I realise it’s important not to take the highs or the lows too seriously. If you’re someone who’s bowled over by compliments, you’ll be punched in the boob by criticisms. I feel another quote coming on … this time from Rudyard Kipling’s If: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same.” We don’t need to think about these criticisms if we don’t want to. We don’t need to form an opinion about why they’re being said. We don’t need to judge them as good or bad. It’s just noise—the general hub bub of having a business online. Handling haters and general criticism is one of the toughest parts of running a business, especially an online one where people can hide behind the anonymity of a screen. But we need to learn to endure their criticism, to rise above them, and see them as an opportunity for growth. I know it sounds woo woo. But it’s true. And of course, if all else fails we always have Taylor.