Haters: How to Deal with People Judging You

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It doesn’t matter how you choose to live your life — whether you build a business or work a corporate job; have children or choose not to have children; travel the world or live in the same town all of your life — whatever you do, someone will judge you for it.

For one reason or another, someone will find a reason to project their insecurities, their negativity, and their fears onto you and your life, and you’ll have to deal with it.

Here’s what I’ve learned about dealing with the people who judge you, your work, and your goals.

The Biggest Critic in Your Life

It’s easier to complain about the outside critics, but the biggest critic in your life usually lives between your own two ears. Working up the courage to move past your own vulnerability and uncertainty is often the greatest challenge you’ll face on the way to achieving your goals.

When I started writing, it wasn’t the hurtful comments from readers that prevented me from getting started. It was my own fears about what they would think if I wrote about the things I cared about. I wrote my ideas in a private document for a year before I worked up the courage to start sharing them publicly.

It can take a lifetime to learn that just because people criticize you doesn’t mean they really care about your choice to do something different. Usually, the haters simply criticize and move on. And that means that you can safely ignore them and continue doing your thing.

I know that whenever I choose to take a risk and share my work with the world, I wonder about what my friends will think, what my family will think, and how the people around me will see me because of that choice. Will this help my reputation? Will this hurt my reputation? Should I even be worrying about my reputation?

The Truth About Criticism

Apparently, the tendency to hold onto negative criticism is natural for most people. According to Roy Baumeister and researchers at Florida State University, we remember negative emotions much more strongly and in more vivid detail.

In a research paper titled, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good”, Baumeister summarizes academic studies that prove that we are more likely to remember negative criticism than praise. Baumeister found that even happy people tend to remember more negative events that positive ones. In fact, Baumeister and his team say that it when it comes to your brain, it takes about five positive events to make up for one negative event.

Pour Me a Glass of Haterade

Each month, there is usually someone who whines about how my articles are totally worthless. For example, one reader recently left a comment saying, “I should have known better than to waste time reading this.”

Another reader so eloquently wrote, “What’s interesting here is the author firmly believes that there are millions of dumb people in this world who believe in this crap.”

At least those people commented on the actual article. Hate mail gets even better when people start ignoring your work entirely and make judgements about you as a person instead…

Earlier this month, someone said that I was clearly, “someone with a job with limited travel and without a busy lifestyle. Oh, to have no responsibilities…”

Another kind gentleman just got straight to the point and said, “This author is a waste of skin.”

All of this hate for someone who writes about building better habits, being healthy, and living an adventurous life. Could you imagine if I wrote about something that was actually controversial like politics or religion or sex?

Focus on the Road, Not the Wall

Criticism and negativity from other people is like a wall. And if you focus on it, then you’ll run right into it. You’ll get blocked by negative emotions, anger, and self-doubt. Your mind will go where your attention is focused. Criticism and negativity don’t prevent you from reaching finish line, but they can certainly distract you from it.

How to Respond to Haters

Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.
—Bob Goff

In rare circumstances, you may want to respond to the people who dish criticism your way. If that’s the case, then I think Gary Vaynerchuk provides a good example of how to do it.

When Vaynerchuk published his best-selling book Crush It, he received dozens of 1-star and 2-star reviews on Amazon. Negative reviewers claimed that the book was “absolutely awful” and called it a “piece of crap with no value whatsoever.”

And this was for a book that was a best-seller!

Rather than fight back and justify his work, Gary decided to respond to many of the negative reviews with a sincere apology. For example, a reader named Frank left a 1-star review for the book in which he complained, ”How did this book ever get published?”

Vaynerchuk responded to him by saying…

Frank I am so so sorry I under delivered for you, I hope to meet u and spend 15 minutes apologizing and answering any questions u may have, I guess I needed more details in there for u, I am so sorry.

Despite using grammar from a high school text message, Vaynerchuk ended up getting Frank’s number and called him to talk things over.

After their conversation, Frank wrote a followup comment on his book review saying, “If Amazon had a people ranking system, I’d have to give Gary 5 stars. One can not help being impressed by someone who gets back to you so quickly and handles criticism so graciously.”

If you’re going to respond to your critics, then getting a response like that should be your goal. Rather than beating the haters back with insults, win them back with sincerity. Most people don’t want to be convinced that your work is wonderful, they just want to know that you care.

James Clear

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