Dealing With Haters

It actually started happening pretty quickly after I began Ask Leo!

“YOU SUCK!”

“You’re just a shill for Microsoft!”

“You don’t know sh*t!!!!”

“How much is Bill Gates paying you to spout this crap??!?!?”

Those comments, and much worse, began arriving when I started publishing online. They came as comments on articles, accompanying “questions”, or via direct email.

I’ll admit, these are somewhat out of the ordinary, but only in that the spelling and grammar is correct. The vast majority are not. But what they all share is an unbridled enthusiasm for telling me what an awful job I’m doing, and how wrong I’m getting it.

Here’s the bad news: it’s likely to happen to you too, to some degree. In fact, if you’re wildly successful, you’ll get a bunch of it.

And yes, there’s irony in that.

Haters and trolls and more

I don’t let it depress me any more, but at first it sure did. Some people didn’t like me! Why? Here I am, pouring out my heart, handing out my technical expertise for free, and some folks didn’t just disagree, they got downright nasty about it!

Again, WHY?

There are a bunch of theories why haters and trolls exist. Some may be frustrated with their own lack of success. Some may have actual psychological problems. For some, abusive communication might even seem the normal and appropriate way to communicate.

Some are simply angry, and choose the nearest target.

When you think about it, there’s no shortage of anger when it comes to technology, and I’m a pretty easy target, especially if I have to deliver bad news like “sorry, but your files are all gone forever”.

The fact is, it really doesn’t matter why haters exist.

What does matter is that you simply realize that they do, and prepare yourself for what I can only call inevitable.

Building that thick skin

Unfortunately, building a thick skin is an important part of publishing online today, no matter what it is you publish, or where.

Here are three strategies to help.

1: Remember: it’s not about you, it’s about them

It may be directed at you, but the more over-the-top feedback is, the more it’s really about them and not you.

Think about that for a moment. The more abusive or inappropriate a comment about your work is, the less it’s likely it is to actually have anything to do with you.

You can choose to feel sorry for them, or to feel nothing at all, but the one thing you needn’t feel is bad about yourself.

It’s not about you.

2: Don’t engage

It’s oh-so-tempting to engage when challenged – to defend yourself against inappropriate and incorrect accusations or language.

Don’t. Just … don’t. It’s a battle you can’t win. In fact, it’s a battle that can really only make things worse, particularly if it’s happening in a public venue like a comment stream.

Trolls are simply not worth responding to. If they leave abusive comments, delete ’em. You’ll be doing your other readers – your real audience – a favor by removing inappropriate content that adds no value.

3: Choose your venues

One approach I take is to publish on venues that allow me to set expectations and have some semblance of control.

On my own web site, all comments are read and moderated; the same goes on my Facebook page. In either venue, if something’s inappropriate, I have no hesitation removing it. I don’t remove disagreement, but I do remove abuse – especially abuse of other readers.

On the other hand, while I publish videos on YouTube, I completely disable comments there. YouTube, today, remains a cesspool of trolls and their ilk, and I – and my readers – simply don’t need that. Instead, in my videos I direct people to pages on my website where they can comment. I use the fact that I moderate comments as a selling point.

When people unsubscribe from my newsletter, they’re given the opportunity to leave a comment. After reading them religiously for years, I finally stopped. Not only were many of the comments not items I could act on, some were borderline abusive. I don’t need that. (And, for the record, never ever take an unsubscribe personally. It will happen, for a variety of reasons, and that’s okay.)

Thick skin is an asset

That’s not to say I never look at negative feedback, and I’m certainly not suggesting you do that. Disagreement and negative feedback can be incredibly valuable, if it’s presented respectfully.

And, I have to say, the vast majority of feedback that does disagree with me is presented in a way that is totally appropriate and frequently very valuable.

They say it takes something like ten or twelve pieces of positive reinforcement to overcome one negative one. Building up that thick skin, and realizing that negative feedback (sometimes extreme and even inappropriate negative feedback) is inevitable, actually makes it easier to more rationally deal with it all.

I learn a lot from the people who disagree with me, and I’d recommend you remain open to that possibility as well. I’m the first to admit that I don’t know everything, and I believe that’s true for any “expert”. The more “expert” you are, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, and the more open you are to understanding that.

Discarding the haters, and listening to more rational feedback – even interacting publicly with it – is a way to learn, a way to grow, a way to show that you’re open minded, and above all, it’s one more way to add value.

Loving the haters

I’ve come to love the people who disagree with me.

I not only try to learn from them, but I often use their comments as a way to add value to my readers. Not only do I encourage discussion in the comments on Ask Leo! articles, but I make a point of highlighting comments that rationally and respectfully present a viewpoint different than my own.

And the abusive ones? I choose to see their presence as a measure of my success – just before I otherwise ignore or delete them, of course.

Nothing attracts haters like success.

Not only am I OK with that, but it means I get to say something that might otherwise be taken completely inappropriately by itself:

May you have plenty of haters.

🙂

IMPORTANT UPDATE

This isn’t about me.

This is about you, your website, and what you should expect.

I absolutely do appreciate the comments of support for what I do (always, any time, anywhere 🙂 ), but as you can see by what I’ve written above, I’ve quite reconciled myself to the reality of haters.

This is about you being prepared when you inevitably (even hopefully?) get haters on your website.

21 comments on “Dealing With Haters”

  1. I’M sorry they exsist. Just to set the record straight, you have been a great help to me and my family. You help with all platforms and have always done a great job answering our questions. Thank you for the free time and effort of Ask Leo.
    If you make money at it, you deserve every penny. THANK YOU!!

  2. As you see daily, anger and hate have become increasingly worse — hey, there’s money to be made with inflammatory posturing, commentary and the like, especially on the abundance of media venues — and as the political season continues, we can expect no cessation of vitriolic hyperbole. Ignore it and remember one thing: The vast public audience for Ask Leo! really appreciates what you do and share with the world.

  3. I simply do not understand how someone can hate free help! Personally, I think it is an ego problem on their part. In any case, please know that this reader *really* appreciates your knowledge and insight. Keep up the great work, Leo!

  4. Ignorance is bliss. They’re blissful.

    If you only knew how many people really love you. …

    I’m really glad you can tune out their hate.

    Bill

  5. Thank you for reminding us not to take the “haters” personally. 🙂 I’ve been subscribed to your newsletter for many years and read them all faithfully. Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to do so.

  6. Great article, so well written and so true, imo. By coincidence, yesterday I shared a story on one of my sites that says basically says the same things, put in a bit of a moral/spiritual context. I am not a saint, but adapting this attitude toward criticism does wonders for my mental balance, and makes me a lot happier. Sharing:

    Right attitude to criticism

    Learn to live with criticism. You may be criticized for something you did or something you did not do. Here is an analogy:

    The Monkey and the Coconut

    A monkey was sitting on the top of a tree and he suddenly just picked up a coconut and threw it on the head of the person sitting below the tree. The person picked up the coconut, broke it, drank the water, ate the flesh, made a bowl out of the coconut and said thank you to the monkey.

    If he had hit back with a stone, it would not have been the right attitude. We should be able to say thank you for what is done to us. Criticisms hurled at you can be similarly used to your benefit. Instead of defending yourself, see what you must make of the criticism.

    The criticism could mean:

    1). The other person could be correct and justified in saying those things to you. Then do not react. Correct yourself and mend your habits. Tell yourself he was right, and I should mend my ways. You should be calm and not react at once. Be calm to take the criticism and analyze.

    2). The person could be partly right. Then ignore the part that is not correct.

    3). The other person could be completely wrong. Ignore the person, then bear with him. Justifying will not help–defending, making things clear, making the other person realize where he is wrong, teaching him a lesson, I want to show him his mistake.

    St. Francis says: “Learn to accept blame, criticism and accusation, silently and without retaliation, even though untrue and unjustified.” It takes great strength to show such virtues. That is why St. Francis is called a saint.

    Btw, like you, I make judicious use of the delete and ban options for truly abusive or otherwise inappropriate comments/posters, or in some cases disable the comment feature altogether, because comments can be made elsewhere. I do this not only to keep peace for myself, but for the sake of readers of my sites who don’t come there to be subjected to nastiness. I do feel sorry for those who, for whatever reason, make abusive comments. I think they must be very unhappy people.

  7. Haters hate for a very few reasons.

    There are a lot of nasty people out there and when they are wearing the anonymous mask of the internet, they become very brave. Allows them to throw f-words around and make themselves feel big, without fear of reprisal.

    But I also notice there’s very little middle ground. There’s either reasoned debate (even if it’s passionate and vociferous) or just simply hate speak trolling.

    1) Everything you say and do on this blog is wrong, you’re an idiot, I hate you and your family, but rather than ignore you as an idiot, I’m going to chime in, every single chance I get because I have no life and my time has no value.

    2) I disagree with you because my understanding and experience is different, I will express some reasons why, and create a discussion where I’m hopefully open to an alternate view.

    3) I have a question.

    4) you suck and I insult you.

    5) I like what you do even if I’m rarely ever spontaneous about expressing it.

  8. I want to thank you for all the help and advice you’ve dispensed over the years. You’ve helped myself and my household immeasurably with a variety of newsletters on computer safety, malware, problems, emails, slowness, etc., and I cannot thank you enough. Sometimes its a big “thing”, but more often than not, its a smallish issue that I might not even have recognized I had yet. You are a kind, smart, excellent person to get advice from, and I especially want to thank you for not talking down to us. While still easily understood, you don’t talk to folks as if they were kindergarteners, and that means a lot to me.

    Thank you for all your assisstance, and I hope you keep doing this for many years to come.

  9. Well said Leo!

    There’s an old country phrase: “Never wrestle with a pig in the mud, because the pig will enjoy it and you’ll just get muddy.”

  10. Thanks Leo…I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve come to the conclusion that trolls & haters have an anatomical issue…..there optic nerve has crossed their large intestine. Thus, their shitty outlook on life.

  11. Having been working at a call centre for the past six months or so, I have to agree with your comments about angry people, and call centre employees get more than their fair share of angry callers. Those angry callers utterly fail to understand that (a) you are not responsible for company policy, and (b), you cannot magically resolve a long running dispute or issue, with the click of a mouse, particularly if you’re seeing it (and associated notes) for the first time. Threaten to take your business elsewhere? By all means. Let me show you the door.

  12. Reading this article led me to wonder what you think of people (I may be one) who occasionally leave a comment that is not meant to be mean spirited but simply a clever or funny observation on the topic (not always succeeding, I admit). Do you appreciate their effort, or do you consider it a waste of yours and your readers time? Either way, let me make this perfectly clear — I do appreciate your articles!

    • I don’t think there can be a blanket yes or no. If it’s clearly clever and funny, sure, that’s generally a good thing. But if it’s subject to misinterpretation then – as someone leaving a comment – it pays to be well aware of that. As a site owner our job, so to speak, is to be aware of the possibility that the person leaving the comment might be misinterpreted. I deal with this a lot on Ask Leo! where a lot of commenters don’t speak English as their primary language. Sometimes I’ll let it be. Sometimes I’ll ask for clarification. Sometimes I’ll delete. It all really depends on the situation.

  13. Thanks Leo, I think this is a great commentary. May I suggest you submit it on ‘Quora’ or ‘Medium’ for further comments.

  14. Thanks for this article. I’ve been online on websites which debate controversial topics long enough now that I have become accustomed to the worst. I agree with your advice 100%, don’t respond. It is like driving and not engaging the road rager.

    If you are just a member of a site without the ability to remove comments or ban visitors, then don’t engage but report abuse. If you are a website administrator you hold the cards, just delete ’em and ban ’em because your other readers deserve better than having to read tedious posts from people who cannot behave like rational adults or have special needs issues.

  15. Kudos Leo. Your advice has always been golden to our family of computer users. This latest essay by Leo holds so much wisdom for coping with the hatefulness being expressed in so many web sites and emails flowing to us in this age of stressfulness. We will take a second breath and just “delete” and move on to better readings. Please know that thousands of folks love your generous nature for providing us assistance. ArtS

  16. Once again Leo you have written a fine message and once again I would like to say that your message applies not only to web developers, but to all sorts of communication between all sorts of folks in all sorts of situations. Like your last message on understanding your subscribers that I sent a copy my son who is in federal prison, I am going to send him a copy of this as well. He had just had a major communication issue with one of the guards out there and wrote me about it. I read his message just before reading yours and my God how it hit the nail on the head. I understand that you were not thinking about anything on this level, but there is nothing that I could say to him that would be more appropriate or helpful, so I really do hope that you don’t mind me sending him a copy of it. I just want you to know that I really appreciate all your great info.

    David

  17. If I disagree with you, I’ll let you know; politely and I’ll give reasons and (hopefully) constructive comments. Until that fateful day – Keep It Up!