How To Deal With Haters
WHERE I AM: Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO: Bright Eyes — First Day Of My Life
Today was a magical day. I’m on Maui with my parents and my big sister on vacation. I know everyone in my family is getting older (including me!) so I’m really trying to cherish the moments we have together. We spent the day with the legendary Steve Sargenti, listening to folk music, jumping off of cliffs
… and hanging out in places like this:
It was a full, amazing day and I was tired when we returned to our rented condo. I checked my Slack (what my team uses to communicate internally instead of e-mail) and found messages informing me that Swedish singer Zara Larrson had written this about one of my songs:
Did reading this make me feel shitty? Yes.
Did I google Zara Larrson to brainstorm possible comebacks? Yes.
Were some people I trusted encouraging me to demolish her in a barrage of witty, erudite online jabs? Yes.
Did I fantasize about this situation somehow playing out with me becoming the Eminem-esque bad boy of 2016? Yes.
So why did I not engage in a Twitter-feud with Zara Larrson?
It wasn’t the right thing to do.
In REAL LIFE, if a young woman tells me she doesn’t like one of the lines in one of my songs, I don’t berate her with insults in order to get more attention. So why should I behave any differently online?
I have my dream job, I’m healthy, and I’m on Maui right now for crying out loud. So why did this even bug me at all?
All human minds come equipped with a negativity bias. This means that we automatically put more weight on negative events than positive ones. I’ve been reading tweets all day about how awesome I am, but one negative tweet from Ms. Larrson cancels them all out and I’m in a bad mood. Why do the bad things seem like they’re worth more? Well, when we were evolving, only the most neurotic humans, the ones who considered a blade of grass blowing in the wind to be a threat, survived. The early humans lost in meditation, watching the sunset were all eaten by saber tooth tigers. So, all of our modern brains are still engineered to notice the negative. This is great for survival, but terrible for happiness. Am I geting too deep into the science for you? What the hell do I know about evolutionary psychology? Dr. Rick Hansen has my back:
For me, when my work is touching a lot of people (for example through a hit song, which I’m blessed to have right now), the amount of hate I get increases proportionally, as you would expect. More people are hearing my music in general, so it would make sense that the same percentage of people in the larger pool would be haters. The number of compliments increases at the same rate as the number of insults. The only problem is, because of the negativity bias, it doesn’t feel proportional. It just sort of feels like more people hate me. So the question is, how do we deal with the negativity bias? Here are my guidelines:
How to Deal With Haters
1. Don’t DO ANYTHING
… at least until the initial sting wears off. Doing nothing until you calm down is a powerful move until you can calm down. Let’s go through the time frame with my experience with Zara’s negative Tweet.
- 9:31pm Mike Reads Zara’s Tweet.
- 9:31pm Mike Feels Shitty, Insulted, and Hurt.
- 9:32pm Mike Considers Firing Back, But Remembers a Quote from Oprah Winfrey: “Doubt Means Don’t.”
- 9:40 Mike has considered some things he’s grateful for and cooled down a bit.
- 9:56pm Mike Calls Tom Gates for Advice.
- 9:59pm Mike decides to RT Zara and keeps it positive:
2. Start a Hate Mail Page.
I got this idea from listening to Amanda Palmer. On my website, there is a page solely devoted to the terrible things people say about me.
…Instead of letting it fester in my mind, it helps me to process the hate. I know creating a Hate Mail page sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. By sharing the hate mail, my mind goes from viewing it as offensive to viewing it as hilarious. Once while going through the list with my mother, we both began laughing so hysterically that tears were pouring from our eyes. The Hate Mail Page helps me not take myself too seriously.
3. Be Grateful.
Be mindful of your negativity bias and counter it by making a short list of things you are grateful for. Don’t dismiss this as new-age nonsense; this is a brain exercise and it works. Tonight, mine looked like this:
- I am so grateful I am in Hawaii with my family. I know most families don’t get to spend time here.
- I am so grateful I am healthy. I am truly blessed to have a body in good condition.
- I am so grateful I have a song on the radio right now. I know this is to be cherished and is rare.
- I am so grateful for all of the food I got to eat today. I am so blessed to have food to keep me alive and nourish and energized.
4. Do what feels right.
Would engaging in a Twitter feud with Ms. Larrson make me more popular? Perhaps. But at what price? I don’t want to be popular for being mean to young women. I want my music to be popular. I also don’t want Zara to feel the shitty, insulted, hurt feeling back because of something I wrote. I’m sure she already has to deal with her own haters. I don’t want to be one of them. Listen to Auntie Oprah Winfrey:
“The trick is to learn to check your ego at the door and start checking your gut instead. Every right decision I’ve made — every right decision I’ve ever made — has come from my gut. And every wrong decision I’ve ever made was a result of me not listening to the greater voice of myself. … If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. That’s the lesson.”
— Oprah Winfrey (Stanford Commencement Speech 2008)
DISCLAIMER: Doing the right thing is scary. It’s lonely. I’ve written about this before in my post “Why I Stopped Wearing Makeup.” Sometimes the only one to congratulate you is your own heart. In fact, that’s part of the reason I am writing this article RIGHT NOW. I want someone to tell me “good job,” and I know some of the comments that will flow in from writing this piece will read, “Great piece Mike,” “You’re so mature Mike,” or “bla bla bla bla” Am I writing from a place of ego? Partially. I enjoy getting compliments like anyone else. But I also genuinely hopes this will help you deal with the hate you will inevitably encounter while chasing your chasing. God speed.
When in doubt, you can never go wrong listening to Oprah :)
Remember, you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Don’t forget it. Let me know if this helps at all. All my love,
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