How to Talk With Haters


There is an issue with the Internet. It has been said that anonymity brings out the worst in people, that the Internet has a blanket of “invisibility” that allows people to be mean to each other. However, in most cases anonymity is not the issue. When people post negative comments on Facebook, everyone can see their first name, last name, and photo. Your detailed information is available for everyone to see.


Why, then, are they doing it? Because the issue is somewhere else.

The real issue

The problem is truly in ourselves, not in that mean person online. The commenter is frustrated and is projecting his or her frustration onto you. Maybe it was a bad day at work or school, a fight with the parents, loneliness, depression, or one of a million other issues that a human could have or experience. In such a state, a person doesn’t think straight, and most likely doesn’t care if his or her name is publicly available.

You, on the other hand, take the attack personally, and you get angry. This situation creates a vicious cycle of hate.

How to understand and approach the problem

You need to calm yourself down and be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You need to put yourself in a mindset in which you want to understand the other person.

You can’t take the mean comment personally. To the commenter, you are a just a random punching bag. The reason for this person’s actions is that he or she is truly frustrated by something, and it very likely has nothing to do with you. You’re the easy target.

How to approach a frustrated person

First of all, you need to understand that these people are seeking attention, meaning that if you reach out to them, they are very likely to respond. This makes it easy for you to start a conversation.

Of course, the beginning won’t be pretty. They will be snarky and mean. But if they understand that you are actually taking the time to get to know them, that attitude will change. Some will take less time, others will take more time. But it is doable, if you want to make the effort.

What can you get out of the time you spend?

If you are able to make peace with such a person, you will soon have a friend or ally who now respects you professionally, and — who knows? Maybe that person will now help you spread your message or will defend you against other negative people.

An example

This would be the section where I provide an example to back up my theory. But, sadly, I can’t. The person in question was so mean to others that his Twitter account was removed. But I can at least tell the story and you can believe me or not. :)

While working at NVdrones as Director of Developer Relations, I was attacked on Twitter by a hacker who specializes in finding vulnerabilities in drone technology

His objective is to break the wireless connection between the control station and the drone itself.

In doing so, there are two options:

  • The drone will stop working in mid air (depending on how well-designed it is, it may fly back to its home base).
  • The hacker takes control over the drone itself.

His work, and the work of other hackers, is a great reminder that security should be a very important part of our everyday lives, especially now that drones are becoming more and more popular.

Going back to the hacker: This hacker started harassing us on Twitter. One of our employees replied with a generic answer that just fueled his frustration.

When I saw our company’s reply, I decided to see who this person was. On his Twitter profile, it was obvious that he hated the company 3D Robotics. This made it very clear that he had some issue with this drone establishment. It was also very clear from his Tweets that he was projecting his frustration with 3D Robotics onto us, since we are both drone companies.

It was clear that he had no real issue with us. He couldn’t have; he doesn’t know us. With this understanding, I started a conversation with him on the public stream, and then switched back to private messages.

After 20 minutes he came to respect me, and even wanted to hop on a Skype call to have a chat. Why? Because I wasn’t a typical marketing or PR person who was clueless about the technical aspects of drone technology. And I wasn’t giving him some blunt reply that sounded pretty but had no meaning. I took the time to understand what the real issue was, and once he understood that I was genuine, it was love at first sight. :)

He did rethink who I am and what our company represents.

I’m really sad that I can’t retrieve the private discussion. It would be something else entirely for you to actually see the exchange for yourself, instead of trusting me. But at least the suspension of his Twitter handle should tell you that he wasn’t the nicest person on the Internet.

Conclusion

If someone attacks you on the Internet, don’t take it personally, and don’t get offended. There is an issue on the other side, and it is not you (if you didn’t do anything wrong). Try to reach out to that person, understand what is going on there. You will resolve the anger, and you will gain a person who respects you more than ever.


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