Handling Haters

If there's one thing I've learned from publishing lots of content over the past few years, it's that negative comments are absolutely inevitable.


It doesn't matter if your message is positive, if your intentions are good, or even if your arguments are clearly based on facts.


If you manage to achieve any sort of scale with your work, there are going to be people who feel the need to criticize whatever you say in a very non-constructive way.


(It's important to note that the same is true for brands: for every person who absolutely loves Starbucks, Amazon, or Coca-Cola, you can also find someone else who think Starbucks coffee tastes burnt, Amazon's business kills local retailers, and Coca-Cola is obesity-causing crap. You become a massive brand by catering to a distinct segment of the population, but by definition, that means your brand won't be for everyone. And that's what you want: it's far better to have a brand that some people LOVE and others HATE than it is to have a brand to which everybody is equally indifferent.)


But what do you do when the critics come after you for no good reason? How do you handle the haters?


Here's a recent, personal example from a few weeks ago: Alex Lieberman, CEO of the Morning Brew newsletter, asked his LinkedIn followers to name the "coolest job in the world".


I responded truthfully, based on my experience:

As you might notice from the number of "like" and "loves" at the time I took this screenshot, my comment was generally well-received. Most of the replies were very positive too:

But as I said, negative comments are inevitable...

As far as negative comments go, this was admittedly pretty mild. But this person took time out of his day to read through all the replies and actively disagree with one of them: I didn't win with my comment, I lost. And he decided he needed to make that clear in a public forum.


There are a few different ways to handle the haters.


1. Ignore them. The first and most obvious approach is to simply ignore them, particularly if the person making the comment isn't a person of influence. If a celebrity says something negative about you or your brand, sometimes you need to diplomatically respond, particularly if what's being said is untrue, inaccurate, or could damage your reputation. But in my example, this person wasn't a celebrity. He wasn't even a connection of mine, and I don't particularly care what he thinks... so ignoring him was certainly a viable option.


2. Attack them. The second (very ill-advised) approach is to respond with emotion and force. Social media has a really bad habit of drawing people in to ever-escalating debates where hours are spent arguing passionately, yet pointlessly. Worse, these debates often move from attacking the arguments to attacking the people making them, and nothing good ever comes from that. To be clear, this isn't ever going to be a recommended approach for either a person or a brand... but I mention it as part of the list because it happens. A lot.


3. Offer a Rational Counterpoint. The third approach is to present a fact-based counter-point, without displaying any negative emotion. You correct the inaccurate statement(s) in a calm and rationale way, but you avoid any form of aggression or escalation. If the other person chooses the same approach, you end up with something that's increasingly rare these days: a really good debate that might actually serve to get someone to think about something differently.


I probably should have chosen Option#1 and just ignored him.


But I love to debate, and I'm pretty good at it: my debate-partner and I were two-time national "fun debate" champions at the Undergraduate Business Games. Plus, anybody who knows me knows that I take my job as "Father of Four" very seriously.


So I decided to reply in the style of P&G's renowned "Thank You, Mom" campaign:


If you're wondering, as of this writing, he has not replied.


- dp