I haven't always had thick skin. When I was young, like many others, I was bullied. I moved around a lot as a kid. Being a new arrival and awkward looking while I was growing up (who am I kidding? I'm still awkward looking) didn't earn me any hall passes from the bullies. But as hard as it was, I wouldn't trade my upbringing for anything. Without the lonely lunches in cafeterias, being picked on during recesses, and mockery from insecure and unhappy people, I wouldn't be who I am today. This Walt Disney quote sums it up pretty well:
All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
So how do my childhood and Walt Disney relate to dealing with haters and negativity as it pertains to business, social media, and life in general? Well, first and foremost I began developing a strong sense of self and a thick skin at a young age. And as I got older, I began to understand that negative people are simply unhappy with their own lives and circumstances. That's a great step in helping put their comments or criticism in perspective.
Now, I'm not going to lie and say it's easy to ignore these people. I still get an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when someone sends me an angry email, tweet, YouTube comment, etc. I'm not immune to it, but I also don't let it ruin my day and you shouldn't either. Here are three ways I deal with haters.
1. Type a response and delete it.
When someone sends me something hateful I compose an email, tweet, or FB comment exactly as I'd like to reply, completely unfiltered. Once I finish, I take a deep breath and then hit the delete button, erasing my response, and continue on with my life, ignoring the negative comment/message. It's surprising, but it works. Try it next time and I promise you'll feel better a few minutes later. Please make sure not to send your response!
2. Respond to see if you can get to the root of the issue (kill 'em with kindness).
This one is tricky, I'll warn you up front. I've had success asking people why they were actually upset or what caused their negativity. It can take asking multiple questions and lots of patience, but it works with some people. Often when they realize they're talking to another human being, they take a step back and apologize. It's rare, but this has worked for me and has turned a few angry people into fans. Tread lightly here and make sure you don't poke the hornet's nest.
3. Forward the comment/email/whatever to a friend and laugh about it.
This one takes a friend who you know will reply quickly. Text message or email the hateful remark to your friend and add a snarky comment about it. A true friend will always have something to say to build you up and reinforce the fact that you should ignore the negativity. Typically this works best with someone who knows you well and always has your back.
Lots of people will tell you just to ignore the comment or person, and sometimes that works. But sometimes you just need to do something to feel better. If ignoring it still leaves a crappy feeling in the pit of your stomach, try one of the three things I mentioned above.