What is the meanest thing someone has ever said to you? Maybe it was something cruel, attacking your hair, skin, weight… Maybe it was something snide, some underhanded comment that was meant as a dig at you. Maybe it was said by someone to your face, subtweeted or in a super nasty comment via social media.
Probably the nastiest thing ever said to me was said by another woman (no surprise there, sadly). I was in college. She asked to talk to me about an issue, which I graciously obliged because at 21 years old, I felt confident we could resolve the problem through honest conversation. Nay. As soon as we sat down, she looked right at me and said,
“Nothing would satisfy me more than to slit your throat right now.”
Whoa. Like…whoa. Looking back, this girl was obviously suffering from some serious issues that had very little, if at all, to do with me. It wasn’t the first or last mean thing someone has said to me, but it certainly takes the crazy cake in terms of insults.
Unfortunately, we all have to deal with haters in our lives. Maybe you serve in some role in your community – through government, in a community service role, or maybe you’re a small business owner – that garners you lots of (and, sometimes) negative attention. As a blogger, I purposely share parts of my life and work and thoughts on the internet and that, naturally, generates haters. I have people who religiously creep my blog just because I piss them off. But why? And what do I do about it?
Let’s talk about dealing with haters, wherever they may be trollin’.
1. Hear it, feel it. Whenever someone subtweets or says something super hateful to/about me, no matter how untrue or ridiculous, I allow myself to read it/hear it and feel whatever emotions come next. If that means going on a cussing, ranting tirade for 20 minutes to my mom or husband, or doing the super ugly cry, or whatever…Whatever it takes to work through those gut reactions to meanness. Feeling angry or sad about it is natural and okay. Until I confront those emotions, I cannot really move forward.
2. That’s on them. Take a deep breath and realize that, most often, what is underneath someone’s meanness is really fear. When people feel threatened, they kick into fight-or-flight. Today’s version of this evolution-based reaction is fighting via the internet. If something I say or do threatens another’s ego, sense of self, view of the world, value system or comfort zone, that person often reacts angrily. Something about me challenges them and their thinking. And instead of engaging in honest, respectful conversation with a “agree-to-disagree” attitude, they act hatefully. I have great compassion for these people…I sincerely hope that, in the future, they can replace their defensiveness with a willingness to learn, grow, engage and tolerate those who are different than themselves.
3. Create boundaries for moving forward. Because we know that the hateful tweet or comment really is about the other person, and not ourselves, we feel no need to return defensiveness with defensiveness. Fighting fire with fire will burn the whole house down, y’all. Instead, create boundaries for moving forward. Delete the negative comments/tweets immediately. If you need to block that person from your Facebook, blog or Twitter, do that. Your space on the internet is YOURS and you are in control. In the same way we control the music that enters our ears and the food that enters our bodies, we control whether positivity or negativity lives in our space on the Internet.
It has taken me years to accept these truths, and I am still working everyday to put them into practice. It takes thoughtful, conscious intention to not let our negative thoughts and feelings – and the negative thoughts and feelings of others – to reign over our days, weeks and beyond. After the last super meltdown I had, I proceeded to spend the next FIVE HOURS on the phone with mentors and my parents, crying and really, generally, losing my shit. At one point one of my mentors, in an effort to gauge damage, asked “…..Jessica, do you have pants on right now?”
“NOOOOOOO!” I wailed and burst into more tears.
That’s how she knew it was serious.
Which leads me to my last and final tip….
4. Let yourself be loved on. This little nugget comes courtesy of a conversation with Kathleen Shannon, and she was totally right. When I’ve been hurt I allow myself to lean on those who really love me. I want to, of course, be tough and suck back the tears and insist I’m okay but in the long run, taking the time to be cared for, emotionally, will do far more good for me and those in my life. And, often, it makes those we love the most feel good to swoop in and wrap their arms around us, literally, or through their prayers, encouragements and love.
If you have a super hard time dealing with haters, I suggest Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. In the meantime, here are some great reads on dealing with haters, courtesy of Gabrielle Bernstein and Peter Bregman.
P.S. If you’re feelin’ sassy, I love this temp tat by Tattly.
P.S.S. This is my favorite hater confrontation OF ALL TIME. Watch it here.