Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

How to Handle the Haters and Learn from the Naysayers

Don’t feed the trolls. Haters gonna hate. Forget the naysayers.

These are all terms used to combat the annoyances and bruised feelings you may experience when mean people set their sights on you. Or, more specifically: when you receive downright VICIOUS feedback on your work (whether from blog or social media feedback or in face-to-face conversations). I’ve got a few more tips for you, though. Consult these pointers when you’re targeted by someone who’s feeding into your bad day!

Stand up for yourself but resist the urge to resort to their level.

You know who retaliates with name-calling and insults? Grade schoolers.

There’s a difference between standing up for yourself and viciously going after the person who’s wronged you. Did someone call you an incompetent hack and insult your entire writing staff? It’s probably unwise to retaliate with similar insults. In an online setting, negative readers are only fueled by more negativity and they won’t miss a chance to attack you as long as you’ll allow it. The same goes for face-to-face or phone convos. If the issue in question is an addressable one, then rationally explain your reasoning and politely bow out of the conversation. Be the better person.

Personal example: I once had someone tell me that my blog posts are rubbish and that I should just stop writing. (There were a few more insults in there, but I’ve since blocked them from my memory). My response? I believe I said something along the lines of “I’m sorry you feel that way. It’s a shame that you have to result to name-calling in order to get your point across. I’m actually quite proud of my blogs, so feel free to sever any ties you may have with me if you can’t stand to read them.” I did receive one weak, forced “I didn’t mean to offend you” type of reply after that, which I ultimately decided to ignore (in what world would that NOT be offensive?) and I haven’t heard from that person since. Good riddance; I’ll never stop doing what I love no matter who has an issue with it.

Fume in private and then brush it off.

Fire doesn’t work very well as an extinguisher…

Whatever you do, avoid revenge schemes. Just as it would be counterproductive to fight fire with fire, it’s a bad idea to burn naysayers — whether in a public forum like the internet or otherwise. Did you vent your anger by composing a doozy of a tangent? Think long and hard before you hit the publish button or confront the offender in a public setting. Ranting is healthy, but libel or slander are no fun for anyone. No hater is worth your sanity — let alone your job — so sometimes it’s better to just let it go. Fume when you’re alone and then stop thinking about it altogether after you calmly address the problem. To quote one of my all-time favorite films, It’s a Wonderful Life, think of your naysayer’s feedback as the notoriously heartless Mr. Potter and say: “in the grand scheme of things, I’d say you’re nothing but a scurvy little spider.” (And what do you do with a spider that’s causing you trouble? You guessed it. Squash your trouble in one fell swoop).

Evaluate the experience. Is there anything worth improving for next time?

Is there room for improvement?

All is not lost! You can actually learn from the less-than-savory comments or feedback you receive. As much as it may pain you to do it, try to empathize with the naysayer. Why do you think they said what they did? Is there any truth to their feedback? Pull out any details from their criticism that may be relevant to your job. There’s something to learn from every Negative Nelly, even if you don’t have any luck empathizing with them. Worst-case scenario, you’ll be better prepared to handle personal attacks in the future.

Don’t let haters get you down too much. Even Fortune 500 companies’ employees receive biting criticism, and seasoned blogging/social media veterans still get flack every now and then! The key is to keep doing your job well and don’t let anyone sway you from your goals — negativity or not. Always keep your cool, while addressing issues as best you can, and you’ll make it out alive!

Do you have any more tips for handling naysayers, either in public or online? Have you had similar experiences? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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  1. Jenna Markowski

    Excellent post, Jill! I have always struggled with the first and second points, but I’m getting better now that I’ve learned that some people say rude things just for the sake of getting a rise out of you. I’ve learned to just ignore it, because that’s the only thing you can do, really. If you respond, the naysayers are getting what they want, and usually the situation will only get worse. The best thing that you can do is just brush it off!

    As Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) says, “These haters don’t talk that much s*** unless you let them. And I let them, cause they know if you reply, then you respect them.”

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Jenna! I’ve struggled with that my entire life. You can’t please some people no matter what you do. It’s a tough concept to grasp! The high road is the way to go, even if it does get lonely up there sometimes.

      Nice quote, too! It applies perfectly to these situations. Well said, Mr. Gambino. πŸ™‚

    • Amanda

      I love that this post includes a picture of a grade schooler. It’s true, some adults are just as bad, if not worse than kids sometimes. And I agree, Jenna, if you snap back, and lower yourself to their level, it’s like fueling the fire, but if you just ignore them, it makes the situation better most of the time. Yay for Peace! =)

  2. Scooby

    Jill- that person must have had their head so far up their own keester that he/she has never seen the sun shine. It’s funny how jealousy rears its head sometimes. Keep kickin it… hard core. More to the point on the post. A hater, is an opinion; and while no one likes to hear someone say something negative about them, when it boils down, it’s just an opinion. In life you can’t chase others people happiness because in doing so, you’ll never find your own. You are uniquely you… and that’s why bubba loves you. So to all those haters- it’s not my fault your miserable, go fly a kite, … I mean, thanks for your opinion.

    • Jill Tooley

      Aww, thanks for the kind words, Scooby. Looking back on it, that person’s comment hardly bothers me anymore, but it was a low blow at the time it occurred. I’m still surprised at how shockingly mean some people can be! But you’re absolutely right — if you compromise yourself too much in hopes of pleasing others, it’ll prevent you from finding your own happiness. πŸ™‚

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I’ve always had a hard time dealing with vicious criticism. And I’m not just talking about mean/lame criticism, but downright hurtful criticism. There have been many times where I’ve considered giving up things I love just because of one naysayer.

    But I’ve gotten better at it, and this blog post definitely helps. Like Jenna, I’ve learned to ignore it. It saves me the time of getting pissed off or emo or whatever.

    • Jill Tooley

      I’ve totally been there, Mandy! I’m thankful every single day that I didn’t let that first hateful person ruin my career path. I can’t even imagine how different (and unsatisfying) my life would be…

      Not to add another movie/song quote to this post, but here’s another one of my favorites: “Never give up, never surrender!”

      +10 points to the first person who names the reference without using Google to cheat.

      • Jen

        Buzz Lightgear!

        • Jen

          Well I had the actor correct…

        • Jill Tooley

          Who the heck is Buzz Lightgear, Jen? πŸ˜‰

          Haha! You were actually kind of right, seeing as how Buzz Lightyear (of Toy Story) was voiced by Tim Allen, who played the character from Galaxy Quest who said the line in the movie. πŸ˜€

      • Mandy Kilinskis

        Galaxy Quest, bien sur!

  4. amy

    Awesome post Jill! I’ve never been good at any kind of criticism, constructive or not. I prefer to vent to someone and usually that’s enough to get me past that low point. And just like you with that horrible jackass of a person you dealt with, after time you forget what they were even criticizing to begin with.

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks a bunch, Amy! I don’t usually mind constructive criticism, but it’s a different story the second it reverts to a series of low blows and name-calling without any valid reasoning. There’s absolutely no excuse for that! But hey, if we didn’t have these types of crappy experiences then we’d go through life never being equipped to deal with bigger problems, right? We’ve gotta turn lemons into lemonade, and all of that good stuff! Haha…

  5. Amanda

    Nice post Jill. I agree with Scooby–whoever said your blogs/writing was rubbish was clearly nutty! You are a great writer! =)

    I agree with what you said, “Don’t feed the trolls. Haters gonna hate.” It’s true–we can’t control others one bit, but we can choose if we react, and how we react. It’s hard, I know. But it’s almost never worth is to stoop down to their level.

    One quote/saying I’ve heard regarding this, that is so true is: “Hurting people hurt people.” It’s sad, but true. Hurt is the cause and effect of so much of the negativity we have going on in our world. That’s what I always try to keep in mind when someone says something negative to me, I try to think of what they’re going through to make them so hateful.

    • Jill Tooley

      That means a lot to me, Amanda! Thanks so much. πŸ™‚

      It’s a shame that some people go through life this way. Unfortunately for them, they’ll never fully escape that spiral of negativity…

  6. Joseph Giorgi

    My favorite tip: “evaluate the experience.” That’s excellent advice! If we don’t learn anything from the criticism we receive, then we won’t be able to prevent or avoid the same criticism in the future. After all, day-to-day living is basically just a big learning process. If we want our next day to be better than the last, then we have to know how to navigate through the problems we’ve faced previously.

    Excellent stuff, Jill! πŸ™‚

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Joe. It’s not easy to empathize with someone who tears you down, but sometimes you can learn from people like that. If anything, having a better understanding of the naysayer will serve as a sort of “what NOT to do” list for your own personal views. I’m not sure what makes people so miserable and hateful, but I’d NEVER want to be that way!

  7. BrandonS

    Good article.
    FYI, I am the naysayer where I work / the quality manager. I personally would like to see improvements, however without both monetary help and support from upper management, there have only been few improvements.
    Anyway, if you listen to negative employees’ feedback, I promise that you will learn something. If they say it can’t be dinner with the current process, then ask them how to improve it or even outsource it. By listening and actually valuing what someone has to say, your company could become innovative beyond your wildest imagination. If not, then maybe this negative individual will, out of spite, start a company of their own and put your business to shame…

  8. jasimsaab

    I was more than happy to uncover this great site. I need to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!!

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