The next time you get hated on, I want you to ask two quick questions. You have to ask them immediately before the hate has time to settle in your head and confuse you into thinking it’s criticism. (Hate and criticism are completely different. One leads to wounds, one leads to growth.)
Who said it?
Was it a close friend or a complete stranger? A business colleague or someone driving by you on the highway? It sounds ridiculous that you’d need to ask this question, but you do. Most of us receive all hate as if we’re receiving it from someone who knows us deeply. In the heat of the moment, we act as if this person can see deep into our soul and that their words carry truth.
Case in point, a few months ago, I got some hate mail. Instead of stopping to ask “Who said it?” I immediately wrote a long response. I wrestled with it emotionally for hours, never once answering this first question. If I did, I would have quickly realized a stranger said it. Someone who has never met me, had a conversation with me, Skyped with me, or had any interaction with me. So why was I giving their words such power?
When someone leaves a hateful comment on your blog or tweets about you, that’s the equivalent of someone driving by your house and yelling, “I hate your yard! Your heart must be horrible too!” You’d never listen to that person in real life. Don’t listen online.
If on the other hand, my friend Grant had called me with some criticism about something I did, I would listen in a different way. Grant knows me. He cares about me and wants the best for me. His criticism would come from a place of relationship. And that’s different than hate. But unless I ask “Who said it?” I tend to give anonymous hate and friendly criticism the same weight.
Why did they say it?
What was their motive? Were they exposing a blind spot in my life so that I might improve something I was doing? Or are they mad about something completely else and just looking to lash out at anyone who gets in their path?
Pausing to ask why gives you time to reflect before you act. I once worked with a guy who was really angry and combative. It would have been easy to label the way he acted as hate. But when I stopped to ask, “Why does he say the things he says?” I learned his wife had breast cancer. That wasn’t hate bubbling up, that was hurt. That was fear and hopelessness. His hate didn’t have anything to do with me and, instead, had everything to do with a terrible situation he was facing. Once I knew that, he became invisible as a hater and visible as a guy who needed a friend.
Asking why works at work too. Sometimes your boss will hate one of your ideas because she just got back from a meeting and her manager hated one of her ideas. Once you learn about her motive, you can help her fix her idea instead of lashing back about the feedback she just gave about yours.
That’s all it takes to make 99% of all haters invisible.
Six simple letters.
Next time you get hate, make sure it’s not valuable criticism from someone who is trying to help you get better. Once you’ve identified who said it and why they said it, chances are you can stop worrying about it and brush the dirt off your shoulder.
What’s your first reaction when someone criticizes you?