Episode 227 | How to Deal With Haters

Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For the Rest Of Us, Mike and Rob discuss how to deal with haters, the different types of haters and strategies you can use to deal with them.

Items mentioned in this episode:


Mike:[00:00:00] In this episode of Startups For the Rest of Us, Rob and I are going to be talking about how to deal with haters. This is Startups For the Rest of Us, Episode 227. Welcome to Startups For the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products. Whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.

Rob:[00:00:23] And I’m Rob.

Mike:[00:00:24] We’re here to share experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’d made. How are you doing this week, Rob?

Rob:[00:00:27] I’m doing pretty good. And MicroConf, is five, six weeks away, and we have several new speakers who’ve come on board. I’m very excited to have Steli Efti. He’s going to be talking about inside sales and how to do it as a two-person team focusing on B2B stuff. Steli was on the show. He was on our podcast 20, 30 episodes ago, and a lot of folks liked his interview. He does a lot of speaking and is experienced, so I’m stoked to have him there. Sarah Hatter from co-support, she spoke maybe two or three years ago at MicroConf and had a very high rated talk. She’s basically a support expert and so she talked to really small companies and startups about how to handle support and how to make your customers really happy, and how to, even with a one or two-person team, how to kind of make this work. So I’m stoked about that. And then Jason Cohen is coming and he’s going to be doing Q&A. And he’s also going to be doing Smart Bear Live, so I’m stoked to have him on board.

Mike:[00:01:18] Well, last week I was on The Business Insights podcast answering some questions about starting a business. It’s more of a generic entrepreneur podcast rather than a lot of podcasts that we’re probably more familiar with that have a developer slant. So they have a lot of entrepreneurs on from various different types of businesses in different markets — so think from construction to physical products, all kinds of different things. It was a fun episode to do. I think they’re going to have me back on there at some point in the near future.

Rob:[00:01:43] Cool, what did you talk about?

Mike:[00:01:45] It was a lot of mindset stuff about starting a business and what sorts of things people make mistakes about when they’re thinking about starting a business, or what sorts of things are preventing them from starting, mostly mindset stuff though.

Rob:[00:01:57] Nice, are you starting your press tour for your upcoming book?

Mike:[00:02:01] Yeah, that was a little bit a part of it. I almost kind of viewed it as a practice run or a trial run for that sort of stuff. He’d sent me over something asking me . . . he’s like, “Oh, can you send me a bio?” And “Send me this,” and “Send me that.” And as I was writing it out, I’m like, “Huh, I should really take this stuff and send it to the side and polish it up a little bit. So that way, when people asked me for that stuff, I just have it all ready to go.”

Rob:[00:02:20] Yeah, that’s a good thing to do. I actually have a couple of different-sized head shots, and I have a bio, multiple different copies of my bio in HTML and in text. And it’s in a public Dropbox folder, basically, so when I get asked or if I do quotes for a blog post or whatever, I just right-click and do “share as” and kind of let folks have that. It’s just an easier way because I kept finding myself rewriting stuff and digging through text files and random directories for it. So it’s nice to have all of that in one place.

Mike:[00:02:44] I am totally going to steal that idea.

Rob:[00:02:46] Yeah, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good. So on my end, I have hired someone for a trial to help out with HitTail marketing. I mentioned this maybe a month ago that I was going to start looking for someone, and I was going to do a whole formal process where I send folks to a Google form and kind of did some interviews and stuff. But just casually mentioning on the podcast, it got several emails. It’s like seven or eight different folks who said that they were interested in helping. And so I had conversations with several of them, and I arrived at someone who I think is a pretty good fit and wants to do it longer than just a few months, right? Because I want someone to be around for at least a bit of time to make it worth both of our whiles. And so I have extended him an offer for a 30-day trial. He actually has a full-time gig, so he’ll be doing this on the side, and is going to be helping with a lot of pay per click and some content and stuff with HitTail. And then hopefully he can help me move into Drip. It’s a lot of tactical stuff because I’m kind of doing the vision and the proving these things out. But once I know something works, it doesn’t make sense for me to continue to do that process.

Mike:[00:03:46] Yeah, but that’s a matter of making sure that you’ve got the process down, or at least, not even recently documented, but like understandable to somebody else, like you need to be able to explain it to somebody.

Rob:[00:03:56] Exactly, right. So I either need a Google Docs with some steps or a Screencast, or probably both, to be frank. The Google doc will be the high-level thing, and then the Screencast will be kind of the button-clicking and the theories. The nice part is when I was doing this five years ago, I’d hire someone to help with some ad network and there was just no material on this. I mean, there weren’t good screen casts. There weren’t good videos you could buy. I mean, that’s one of the reasons I launched the Academy was because I couldn’t find any of this stuff. These days, I want him to get more experience with Facebook ads. He’s already run some, but I want him to get experience. So sure enough, you go to U-2-Me. You go to AppSumo. You go to Coursera, Udacity. I mean, there’s all these places. StartupPlace I think is another one. And you can find some pretty good courses on exactly what you need, and so that saves me so much time into having . . . and I can just spend $50 bucks or $100 and give it to him, instead of me trying to record all the steps, and then trying to keep that up to date. Now, that’s the other thing. This stuff changes so quickly that I’d rather find someone who’s good at it and then just buy their new course and give it to someone on my team, rather than me having to always know how everything works, because that just doesn’t scale well, right? It just isn’t applicable as where you get a little bigger. So what are we talking about today?

Mike:[00:05:06] Well, today what we’re going to be doing is talking about how to deal with haters. And I kind of got inspired by this from a tweet that I put out, and it just kind of came to me. I tweeted out and I said, “It’s rare to see successful people who are also trolls. Successful people know how hard it is to do what you’re doing.” And most of my tweets, they’ll get a couple of retweets here and there or they’ll get a couple of favorites. And this one ended up getting retweeted 16 times and got 25 favorites, and it went out to like 30,000 or 40,000 people, which is kind of ridiculous for a tweet like that. I’m sure there are certain tweets that you hit the right person, or it gets retweeted by the right person, and it can go pretty viral very very quickly. But it’s been a while since I posted one that was for myself personally that got this kind of response. So it got me to thinking about the fact that as you start doing more and more things in public, you have a tendency to attract people who are going to talk down about whatever it is that you are doing. So I kind of wanted to talk a little bit through what different types of haters there are and what sort of strategies you can put in place to deal with them.

Rob:[00:06:04] When you did that tweet, did you get a bunch of trolls who responded to it?

Mike:[00:06:07] I got one.

Rob:[00:06:08] Did you?

Mike:[00:06:09] It’s awesome.

Rob: [00:06:11] The irony is so thick.

Mike:[00:06:12] I know.

Rob:[00:06:15] I’m glad you bring this up because as soon as you start doing things in public, there’s just going to be negative comments about it eventually, right, the more things you do. And I think what’s interesting is the term “haters” might be too strong in a lot of cases. Sometimes it is actual constructive criticism. Sometimes it’s meant to be destructive criticism. And sometimes, it’s just someone who’s off the deep end or not on their meds, or something is really obnoxious about them. So there’s a lot of levels do it, and I think that’s what we’ll be talking about today.

Mike:[00:06:43] So kind of in preparation for this episode, I went out and did a little bit of research. And I found somebody by the name of Dillon Forrest. He’s got website dillonforrest.com. That’s where his blog is, and he has a full blog post article about all the different types of haters. So I thought what we would do is we’d start by going through his list of haters, and then I thought we’d go through a different list, which is the ultimate cheat sheet for dealing with haters. So to start off with, the first type of hater is bean counters. And these are the people that Dillon says they’re the ones who are always counting your expenses for you and is trying to make you afraid of the things that it is that you are doing. And he kind of relates it more to the financial side of things, but I think that it also applies to anything, whether you’re doing AdWords, which is kind of a financial transaction. But if you’re spending time on different things, and they’re saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,” but they don’t have a good reason for why you shouldn’t be doing that other than you’re wasting your time and you’re being dumb about it.

Rob:[00:07:36] So is this more someone inside your own company then who has insight into exactly how you’re spending your time? Because if it’s someone on Twitter, right, they wouldn’t typically know exactly what I’m up to.

Mike: [00:07:45] Well, that’s the thing. It’s more for people outside of your organization, so just people that you don’t know, especially on Twitter. Facebook, I think a little less so because obviously, you have a little bit of flexibility with saying who is kind of in your circles and who can see it and everything. But obviously, with Twitter, people can call you out randomly, and you have no idea who they are. So I think that this is much more applicable to people who are looking at what you’re doing from an outside point of view and they don’t know all the details. I think that’s one of the hard thing about these things is that you’re doing stuff, and they’re seeing this really tiny snapshot — that happens to be public — of what you’re doing, but there’s all this stuff that’s under the surface that they have no idea what’s going on, or what it’s about, or what you’re doing. They don’t look at any of the details because they don’t see them. And they just see this one little thing. And it’s almost like taking a comment out of context and they use it to attack you over.

Rob:[00:08:35] Yeah, it’s interesting. If we are going to talk about this type of person, or a troll, or hater, or whatever you want to say… if someone I don’t know starts commenting that something I’m doing with my marketing is incorrect or stupid or it’s not going to work, I don’t know this person, right? I have no idea if they know anything about what they’re talking about. And that’s the problem is if you’re unknown — at least in my eyes — then you don’t have the credibility for me to listen to you. At the same time, if a friend of mine, or a colleague, or someone that I trust, even if they don’t know exactly everything I’m up to, if they made the exact same comment, I would be much more likely to listen to it and engage because I know where they’re coming from. I know their experience level, and I know that I can engage them in a conversation, right? I can actually reply and say, “Oh no, you’re misunderstanding. This is what’s going on.” Or I can say, “Huh, I hadn’t thought about it that way and you’re right.”But again, if I don’t know that person, then more often than not, I find that people who are doing this kind of bean counter attitude, they kind of don’t know what they’re talking about. Like as soon as you push back, you find out oh, the person has never actually launched anything in public. And so why would they know that my AdWords spend was out of whack or that I shouldn’t be creating content? It’s like they haven’t done it.

Mike:[00:09:43] Yeah, I got one when I was running ads for my book. And it was funny because it was very early on, and I was running one of the Twitter ad campaigns. And I forget what the headline I had used was, but it was something along the lines of “Do you want to start a business? Click here to learn more about the Single Founder Handbook.” And somebody had actually tweeted to me, “Step one: Don’t advertise on Twitter.” I was really pissed off for like 30 seconds. And I was just like, “Yeah, you probably have never done this before so you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Rob:[00:10:09] Right.

Mike:[00:10:10] And I think at that point, I’d had something like 80 or 100 emails that have been given to me so far. So I was just like, “Yeah, clearly you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. So thanks, anyway.”

Rob:[00:10:19] Yeah. Unfortunately, it’s all too common. Because I’ve run ads on reddit, on Facebook for multiple products, and you get a similar response of like, “I don’t like your ads,” or, “There shouldn’t be ads on this platform,” or “Your ads aren’t working.” That’s the one I love where it’s like, “Well, how do you know they’re not working? I’ve gotten a bunch of trials out of this. They are working. That’s why I’m paying the money.” But the funny thing is, folks who complain about your ads, but then not realizing that if you weren’t advertising, reddit and Facebook would have no revenue model aside from raising VC funding. That’s how they make all of their money. There would be no reddit and no Facebook without this, so it just doesn’t make any sense.

Mike:[00:10:56] And on that note, I do have to call you out on one of your recent Facebook ads. Because I was looking at Facebook, and over on the right-hand side, I see this giant picture of a snake. And I’m like, what the hell is that?

Rob:[00:11:06] I’m getting quite a few comments about that one.

Mike:[00:11:11] And then I saw that it-

Rob:[00:11:11] It’s the highest click-through rate of all of my ads. It’s crazy.

Mike:[00:11:14] Is it?

Rob:[00:11:15] I know.

Mike:[00:11:15] That’s hilarious.

Rob:[00:11:16] I know, and it was purely on a whim. It was a stock photo that was in something and I accidentally clicked it. And I was like, “Oh, that’s a terrible ad.” And I was like, “Why don’t I just…” Anytime I think something is a terrible idea, I test it, and that’s what that one was. So yes, I have received tweets and emails about it. And I would stop doing it. I wish that it hadn’t worked. It does get some clicks.

Mike:[00:11:34] But that’s the thing. It’s like it goes back to these people who are making comments about stuff that they think they know your business better than you do, and that clearly there’s things that will happen that you don’t expect. And without looking at the data, you wouldn’t know. And of course you’re not going to share with these people anyway.

Rob:[00:11:49] So that was bean counters. We have four other types of haters. What are they?

Mike:[00:11:53] So the second one is expert spectators. And essentially, what these people do is they look at the things that you’re going through and learning, and then they dismiss them and say, “Well, that should’ve been obvious to you. I don’t know why you wasted all your time and effort doing that.”

Rob: [00:12:07] This one used to make me really mad. When I was blogging once or twice a week, I would spend eight hours plus on each post, and I would think through all the lessons I learned. I would do research. I would talk to people. I would what I considered crafted a very accessible and teaching blog post. It didn’t always happen, but every once in a while, I would get someone on Hacker News or Digg or something who would say exactly this, right? “Well, obviously,” or they would say, “Yeah, this whole post breaks down to this one sentence: ‘You should never do this with your customers.'” or, “They are toxic customers. Stay away from them.” And I always felt like, well, of course, you can summarize any blog post — any blog post — in a sentence, so how is that helpful to anyone? Like the actual post itself had all this information, and it felt like I’ve invested all this time and put in essentially hard work to communicate this message, and then somebody comes by and spends 30 seconds writing some obnoxious sentence trying to show how smart they are. And I don’t feel like it benefits anyone. And the first time it really pissed me off. And then, over time, I just learned to kind of let it go.

Mike:[00:13:05] Right, but I think there’s these expert spectators that they almost feel like that’s their job is to look around at what other people are doing and just comment on it without having any basis for teaching other people. It’s really what it amounts to. It’s like they’re not interested in teaching other people because they want to teach you what you have done wrong. It’s really what that comes down to.

Rob:[00:13:26] Right, which doesn’t tend to be helpful. People who are kind of self-appointed police of the internet to point out how everyone else is wrong, and it’s like, “Yeah, that’s helpful.”

Mike:[00:13:33] Yes, I think the quickest way to get attention anywhere is to spell something wrong on the internet. Isn’t that how the saying goes?

Rob:[00:13:38] Yeah, something like that.

Mike:[00:13:40] So the third type is of hater is club members. They make it clear that startup founders are an elite species of humans and you’re not good enough to join them. I don’t run into these types of people too often. I think that I used you on occasion, but I don’t know how many of these people that you run into. And I wonder if that’s because we don’t necessarily dwell in the funded startup circles. I mean, maybe it’s more common there, but I don’t seem to run into this very often.

Rob:[00:14:03] Yeah, I haven’t either. It doesn’t ring true with my experience.

Mike:[00:14:07] Well, number four is academics. They have no practical experience, but they read up on all of the entreporn and they tell you exactly what you should be doing.

Rob:[00:14:15] This kind of reminds me. I think we lump these guys in with bean counters. But probably a couple times a week, I get either an email or a tweet or something pointing something out about something I have done wrong in essence. And when I actually engage and say, “No, here’s why that’s not wrong,” or I’ll say, “Okay, what would you do?” I find out that they really don’t know what they’re doing. And oftentimes, they’re not actually haters. They were genuinely trying to help, but they just aren’t experienced enough to realize that it’s not helpful. And when I reply to them, they’ll actually be like, “Oh, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the tip.” And so it really is just a conversation, but it’s almost like that first email comes off kind of like offensive or like, “I’m smarter than you and you’re doing this wrong.” When I get that, I’m like, “Really?” But the nice part is if you do engage in like a meaningful conversation, oftentimes it just turns out to be kind of a misunderstanding.

Mike:[00:15:04] Yeah, there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to deal with the people who come in either with an email or a tweet or something along those lines. And I don’t necessarily like seeing this stuff from Twitter just because of the fact that you’ve only got 140 characters. But I guess in some ways that is helpful to know that there’s only 140 characters. You know that they have to keep it short. But at the same time, there’s no room for that extra explanation that might push the conversation in a different direction. So the fifth type of hater is snipers. They always look for the best angle to shoot down your ideas, your efforts, and anything else that you are doing. I think with the sniper, most of these people are probably not going to be either your customer. Maybe some of them don’t even necessarily realize that that’s what they’re doing. I know that when that I first started business, I was talking to people — friends and colleagues and stuff like that — and they didn’t really understand what I was doing. And they would come up with all these different reasons about the things I should and shouldn’t be doing, and it almost fell back to like the academics where they didn’t have the practical experience. But at the same time, they were shooting down my ideas as invalid or, “You shouldn’t be doing this. You should be doing this other thing over here.” And it’s demoralizing, I’ll say. Like it has a combination of the no practical experience, but also it’s a just a demoralizing factor to have those people come out and say, “Oh, you shouldn’t be doing this,” or “That’s going to fail. Don’t go in that direction.”

Rob:[00:16:20] Yeah, and I think there’s a continuum here because those people who said that, I wouldn’t call them haters. I would call them maybe friends of yours who are critics, and they’re critical of your stuff. And they’re discouraging you because kind of their mindset is limited. And that’s where I think there’s this whole continuum. And it can start… maybe on the left-hand side it’s someone who emails you and they just don’t have a lot of tact. They’re actually nice, but they’ll send you an email that comes off like they’re really being a jerk, but they’re actually a nice person. And then in the middle, maybe someone who’s just critical of a lot of things. Again, they’re not a bad person, but their mindset leads them to believe something that is different than yours. And they have a limited mindset, and so then they say things that are discouraging. And then I think there are people who are kind of just intentionally, all the time, kind of ragging on everyone around them for whatever reason, if their life is bad or that’s their view on the world. That’s even where this term “haters” feel strong. And there’s this whole continuum of sometimes the feedback or the criticism can be constructive, assuming that it’s communicated well and that you are actually trying to help someone out. So I think that’s probably an important thing to keep in mind as we’re talking about this is this isn’t just people who are being belligerent on the internet. It can be friends and family, right, who are discouraging you and who are trying to kind of tear down your dreams because they don’t understand what you’re trying to do.

Mike:[00:17:33] Especially when it comes from friends. I mean, they’re concerned for you. They don’t want you to fail. In some ways, they see themselves as trying to protect you from harm, and that can be more difficult to get around because if you’re really committed to moving forward and trying to start your own business, you’re going to have to ignore some of those people and you’re going to have to do things your own way. You’re going to have to go out and make mistakes. And if you happen to fail, the response can turn out to be, “I told you so,” which of course is not going to be helpful for whatever relationship you currently have. But at the same time, you’re going to have to go against what their advice is. You’re going to have to sit there and say, “Yes, I’ve heard you. I hear what you’re saying, but I’m going to ignore you and go down this other path that you just told me that I shouldn’t even though I trust you.” So now that we’ve looked at the different types of haters, we’re going to look at an article from James Altucher, and he has the ultimate cheat sheet for dealing with haters. And he has ten different ways to deal with haters. He kind of lumped haters, trolls, and people who are kind of concerned about your overall general well-being and welfare together, but this is a cheat sheet for how to deal with them and some of the different ways to deal with them based on what it is that they’re saying. So the first one is that whatever they’re saying or whatever is being said, it’s about them. And there is a little bit of truth to this, I think. Because especially when you start relating it back to jealousy, if somebody comes in and says, “Oh, you shouldn’t be doing this,” then it’s possible that it’s because they want to do it or they wanted to do it, and they just have been never been able to get the willpower to do it, or haven’t overcome their fears, or basically made excuses to not go through and do that. And I think to a certain extent, the jealousy is a little bit part of it. But I don’t necessarily think that it’s all that either. I think some of it is just they want to project their fear on other people.

Rob:[00:19:14] I think sometimes some people are just having a bad day. And I think sometimes people are having a bad year, and other times, people are just more critical and judgmental than other people. It’s a personality thing or the way they were raised. So I would agree. In general, the churlish behavior or the extreme criticism that’s not constructive and not helpful, I think tends also to stem from that person.

Mike:[00:19:35] The second part of the cheat sheet is to realize that in some ways, it’s also about you. And one of the examples he gives is there are certain people out there who it almost feels like their sole purpose in life is to push people’s buttons. I’m sure people have kids like this. Mine certainly get on my nerves sometimes, and they definitely know how to push my buttons. But some people just get a little bit defensive when people push their buttons, and that’s going to happen, especially when people are out there and that’s what they do. They want to kind of provoke a reaction because some of it kind of boils down when you were kids, and to get somebody’s attention, you’d hit them and say “Oh, why did you hurt your friend?” “Well, he wasn’t paying attention to me.” And some of it is just about getting that attention from other people.

Rob:[00:20:15] And the third point that James makes, he calls it the 24-hour rule. And he basically says that if someone attacks you — whether it’s office politics, whether it’s someone in a relationship with you, or if it’s more of an online thing — he says the 24 hour rule tends to work, that if you never respond to the initial attack, it goes away in 24 hours. And if you respond even once, then go ahead and reset that clock. And especially as things get faster and faster online, this clock has, I think, has gotten shorter and shorter. I think maybe it used to be multiple days, even a few years ago, but now, in general, again, if it really is non-constructive feedback that you’re getting and it’s something that just feels like a blazing attack, ignoring it tends to be the best way to handle it. And in some extreme cases, it doesn’t work, and people seek out other means if they’re attacking you directly. But if it’s just kind of a drive-by or something like that, it’s almost never worth engaging in the conversation.

Mike:[00:21:06] Yeah, I’ve definitely found the 24-hour rule helps. I don’t think I’ve heard it called that before, but sometimes just ignoring those things can make them go away. Sure, it’ll maybe hurt your productivity for a little while, but you look at the other things that are going on, and it’s just like I could spend the next two hours worrying about this person who tweeted something at me, or I can get the work done that I had laid out for me because I’ve got six or eight-hour day ahead of me because I’ve got a ton of things to do. So which is it? Are you going to waste two hours thinking about that, or are you just going to brush it off and move on? I think the point about that clock getting reset is a really important note because I have seen places where like if you reply to somebody’s tweet or you email them back, it opens up the door for that continued conversation, versus if you just don’t touch it, then for whatever reason, it just seems like it goes away. The fourth one he has is the one-third rule. I think he calls it the 30/30 role. This is essentially there are three different types of people. There are people who they love you, they hate you, or they won’t care. So where do you want to spend your time? Where do you want to allocate the mental resources associated with the people who are sending you messages, whether it’s email, or tweets? Where are you going to spend the time that you have available? And you can either spend it on the people who are trying to drag you down, or you can spend it on the people who love you. And “love you” is — put that in quotes — the people who respect you and admire you and are looking at what you’re doing and saying, “Hey, that’s really cool that you’re doing that.” There’s also that subsection of people that don’t care, but those people that don’t care are probably not going to be interacting with you. So it almost really boils down to that love you-hate you thing.

Rob: [00:22:40] Yeah, it’s amazing that once you start blogging, or you have an app, or you sell books or something, if you’re doing a good job, you get a ton of positive feedback and it feels great. And then you’ll get one person or two people over time who make comments that just are kind of off-the-wall. Someone like disagreeing with the font choice you used on your blog, literally like a line height. I got an email about that one time. And the person was really upset about it. I had never heard about that. I never have thought about it and no one had ever mentioned it for years, and then someone writes in and like, “Your font and your line height are way off and it’s impossible to read,” blah, blah blah. And he was very [pained?] about it. It was just like, “Wow.” It’s crazy like certain people just have very strong opinions about things that you may not, right, and most people may not. And so you have to decide how you’re going to deal with that. If you’re going to say, “Okay, thanks for the feedback. I’ll address it.” Or just say, “Okay, thanks for the feedback,” and not address it, or if you just kind of brush it off. It depends I think on how attacking it is and what exactly it’s attacking. I think the other thing though is its easy to get that email and then stew on it for a day or two and kind of let it distract you and let it be a background process. Someone emails you and says, “Oh, I couldn’t use your app because the design is so awful.” And then they send you screenshots and they have all these things circled and, “This is wrong. This doesn’t work with the UX? Principle,” or just some crazy feedback about it. You can get hung up on that, right, and you can carry that with you if you let that person have power over you. The choice you have to make is, again, am I going to brush this off and delete it? Am I going to address it and say, “Thanks for the feedback.”? Or am I going to carry it around and let it distract me for a few days? Because it’s amazing the amount of time and energy that you can allow someone to suck from you if you let them, and that’s your choice. And that actually leads us to the fifth point here that James Altucher makes. He basically has a phrase that just says “Delet.” And he says, “I’m always happy when someone disagrees with me. I don’t mind that. But often, people are incapable of expressing disagreement and having it not come out in a way that is obnoxious or hateful. And when I can, I delete them.” I put “delete” in quotes. He says, “Sometimes it’s not a blog commenter but it’s someone in real life.” But even then, he says he deletes them. He doesn’t speak to people who are just toxic, right, who are bad and who are always… sometimes when the feedback itself comes across, and it’s like,”Well, that’s actually legitimate feedback, and it’s an opinion of yours.” But the way that it’s expressed is just very like he said. It’s obnoxious. It’s hateful. It’s rude. And it’s really hard to take feedback like that and not be offended by it, frankly.

Mike:[00:25:03] Yeah, you definitely have to take steps to cut toxic people out of your life. There’s definitely people I’ve done that with, whether it’s friends, colleagues, family, what have you. Everyone has to take those steps on occasion. And it’s not pleasant sometimes, especially if you do know the people. But then there’s other times where it’s a random email and honestly, the delete hotkey in Google is pretty easy to learn. So you can take those things, just flag them as spam or what have you. You don’t have to listen to them. You don’t have to let it affect you, but you do have to make the conscious choice to not let it affect you because the things that you are doing are important to you. The sixth point he has here is that hate is contagious. And he has a tweet here that somebody had put out that says, “James Altucheror = #humangarbage.” And he says he has no idea why the person tweeted it or who it was, but he got really angry about it because it didn’t follow any of these other things. It wasn’t about them. It was really about him and it was a personal attack. And your natural response, in many cases, is to attack back. And his argument is to not do that. Because as soon as you start that, it essentially becomes a never-ending path. There’s always going to be this back and forth. So if you can essentially restrain yourself, if you can go back to that 24-hour rule and not go back and start that clock over again, you can hopefully break that cycle. But at the same time, as Rob just said, you have to make sure that you’re not going to let those people have power over you because it will affect you.

Rob:[00:26:27] If you’re the type of person who struggles to let things go, and I think most of us are probably like that, that when someone attacks you that it feels harsh and that you carry it with you for days, there’s a book called “A Guide to the Good Life.” And actually, I want to give a shout out to Travis Jamison from supremacy SEO for pointing me in this direction when he and I were hanging out. But it’s basically kind of a summary of Stoic philosophy. But there’s a really good chapter in here about dealing with gossips and people who are toxic in essence. And the Stoic philosophy talks a lot about how to let this kind of stuff go and how specifically to do that, and why it’s worth doing that, and even ways that you can… like actual phrases you can use if someone insults you to your face, and what you can say to kind of exaggerate it or make a joke about it or whatever. And since I read that, I’ve used a ton of those techniques. Some of them are ignoring. Some of them are “deleting” — in quotes — like James said. And then some of them are engaging back, but with a joke, even when someone says something hateful. So you have to use your judgment on that, but I would recommend A Guide to the Good Life — I listened to it on audiobook and I’ve relistened to it once — if you need more practice of learning to let this kind of stuff go.

Mike:[00:27:36] Another tactic that James points to is that they look stupid. The idea behind this is that you can imagine that whoever this person is on the other end, especially if you don’t know them, that they grunt, they drool, and they look stupid. And it makes it easier for you to deal with them and kind of mentally relegate them to the background because they grunt, they drool, and they look stupid. I mean how could they possibly have an intelligent conversation with you or have a legitimate beef with the things that you’re doing because they simply can’t understand it? And maybe they had a good point, but if it came across wrong, you can use this as essentially a mental defense to help put you in a frame of mind where you can just ignore whatever it is that they have to say.

Rob:[00:28:16] The last point that James makes is he says, “Time heals all wounds.” In essence that he just starts and he says, “Hate can’t last forever. Often, it turns into a dull simmer.” And that’s really maybe the best lesson of all this. If someone posts a rude comment about you or says something that you find critical, it’s not going to be around in five years. This is a very short-lived type of thing, and that learning to shake it off quickly and kind of move on… because frankly, you have better things to worry about. And you have more important ways to be spending your time than going back and forth with someone on Twitter 140 characters at a time for two or three days and thinking about your next retort, and thinking about this and that. You know what I’m saying? One of the best pieces of advice I heard about it is Scott Hanselman, and he said, “I just don’t engage.” He says, “I get feedback and I just don’t argue with people because I found it’s a tremendous waste of time. Because, A, you’re never going to change anybody’s mind. And B, I have all this other stuff going on. I’d rather spend time with my family than be sitting there hacking away at my phone trying to prove someone else wrong. It just isn’t that helpful.”

Mike:[00:29:21] I don’t know if this is a function of age or not, but I definitely remember when I was younger, I would think to myself, “Oh, this person’s wrong, and I have to explain to them why it is that they’re wrong and why that I think that they’re wrong.” That probably boiled over into places of my life that it probably shouldn’t have, but at the same time, it was whenever when somebody was issuing criticism as well. And you’re absolutely right. If engaging them is really putting your energy in the wrong place because you’re not going to change their mind. It’s hard to accept that you can’t do certain things, and changing some people’s minds is going to be one of them, and it maybe something that you just have to get over it. It’s not necessarily easy, because it’s something that I definitely struggle with a little bit. But at the same time, you can’t do everything that you always wanted to do.

Rob:[00:30:03] I think this is a good reminder, too, to kind of temper your own feedback of people and to reread that critical tweet that you’re going to send or that email that you’re going to support to someone’s support queue, or when you’re giving someone feedback, and think about it from their perspective. Are you going to come off as a hater? Are you going to come off as someone who’s being obnoxious or not communicating your thoughts, your preferences with care? But you’re just firing off an angry email because you’re so angry about something when in fact, you’ll probably be taken as more legitimate if you temper your words and you’re more thoughtful and careful with them.

Mike:[00:30:38] Yeah, I think we’re all guilty of kind of going on Twitter and venting a little bit here and there. I know that I’ve been guilty of it in the past week. There was something with Google Docs, where like it popped up a message from the calendar, and every single tab in Chrome just stopped working. I don’t know what was going on. I had to flip over to that tab, click the OK link. And somebody tweeted me and said, “Well, that’s by design that way.” And it’s like, “All right, it’s by design, but it shouldn’t impact everything else that I’m working on.”

Rob:[00:31:05] That wraps us up for today. If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690, or email us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for “startups,” and visit us at startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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One Response to “Episode 227 | How to Deal With Haters”

  1. Guy Lewis says:

    Hi guys, a great roundup of thinking about dealing with troll like behaviour. One thing if like to add (I don’t think you mentioned this) is that when you see harsh comments from others is that the person who has written it maybe just having a bad day, has little patience and is just lashing out because they are mad at someone else, are frustrated with their job or feel their life right now sucks.

    This of course doesn’t really give them the excuse to lash out, but I think it’s what sometimes we see when we can’t work out why someone has such a big deal with some of our work .