Dealing with Negativity Online (& in Life)


Abby Johnson from WebProNews scored a great video interview with Bloggess Jenny Lawson during BlogWorldExpo a couple weeks ago. If you haven’t watched it, you should. Not because Jenny is adorable and hilarious (though she is), but because she shares her secret for dealing with haters, trolls, and those absolutely set on trying to ruin her day. And it’s Friday. You could probably use a double dose of awesome.

Jenny’s secret is to choose to find the humor and to laugh. Because, as she so eloquently puts it, if you can’t find a way to appreciate the people who love you AND those who love to hate you, you’re missing out. It’s a lesson I’ve continually learned, accepted, and epitomized over the past year. I now find people who hate me HILARIOUS and I’ve come to find that the critics are often wrong.  You’d be surprised what that does.

The Internet gives you license to be and do whatever the hell you want. You’re given that free of charge at sign up. What you have to bring, however, is the strength to be it.

Jenny could probably waste a lot of time apologizing for offending those who prefer stereotypes. She could probably bite her tongue and be less clever and less who she is. She could probably be softer and not quite as ‘outspoken’.  But then she’d probably suck. She wouldn’t be delivering keynotes that induce giggle tears or working on a new book.  Instead, she’s chosen to say, “screw the haters” and to find the humor when people take time out of their obviously not-so-busy schedules to fling misspelled insults at her. You always have a choice – to take it in and let it affect your business or to laugh it out.


Sure, it’s not always easy, but the haters were never your audience. They’re not who you’re after. Do not let them affect or alter how you’re talking to that audience. That’s who you focus on, no matter what.   Success happens when you stop caring about the peanut gallery and bleed every ounce of what you have on making things better for your audience.  Everything else is your comic relief. It’s not your fault they’re too sensitive for the Internet.  The best way to deal with unprovoked criticism and haters is to say, “thanks”, giggle, and to realize they don’t matter.  They never did. Opt out.

Your Comments

  • David Zemens

    Good advice, of course. As individual we cannot many external situations. Online critics are no exception.

    What we can control, however, is our reaction to their attacks. Our reaction is ours and ours alone. We can choose to become embroiled in their self-generated controversial discussion. Or we can choose to laugh at it. Or ignore it. The choice, however, is ours.

  • Ramkarthik

    Every decision we take is in our hands and no one can push us. We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be sad. There are always haters. But they hate you because you are doing something which they can’t or they are jealous.

    But I do have to say that in some cases, you have to listen to your haters. We are not always right. Sometimes we make mistakes and it is our readers who point it out.

    So every time a negative comment comes our way, we should read it, analyze it and if it is something true, take it. If not, move on.

    Good read and a nice video.

  • Lisa Barone

    David: I think a lot of people don’t realize it’s a “choice”. You choose either way – whether you’re going to get caught up in something that’s not productive or if you’re going to use it to propel yourself forward. There are a lot of bitter and pissed off people who will take complaint with anything that doesn’t fit in their box. That’s cool. They’re just not your problem.

    Ramkarthik: You have to listen to your haters when it’s constructive and when they have a point. I totally agree with that. I get lots of people who email about things they like/don’t like. I enjoy engaging in those conversations. But you can’t engage with someone who drops by your blog to say “your retarded”, as Jenny noted. That’s not a person who wants to talk to you. They just want to be an asshat. Let them be an asshat. I’ll find humor in your attempt.

  • Stuart Foster

    God do I love that Godin snub. Props.

  • Stuart Foster

    I can haz reading skillz better…

    Jesus. Not a snub. But an artfully placed link. CLICK LINKS STU BEFORE POSTING.

  • Lisa Barone

    Stuart: Ha, no snub. His link is there. DO NOT CAUSE SETH DRAMA! :p

  • Michael D

    The best thing about haters is they focus all of their attention on you, unaware that they move you forward in greater productivity and sharpening of your message. At the same time, they get little to nothing productive accomplished in their own day to day activities, since they’re so consumed on hating. In the end, it’s their constant grind that polishes your stone, allowing you to shine.

  • Rob Woods

    It’s definitely important to at least listen to the haters, some of them are going to have valid reasons for being upset and you can learn from that. It’s equally important to remember that “the haters were never your audience” or “the haters were never your customers“. What’s true for your audience when writing is equally true for dealing with customers. While an unhappy customer will tell far more people about you than a happy one, after you have made a reasonable effort to solve a situation, don’t be afraid to cut a customer loose. Some customers will never be happy no matter what you do and at some point you can do more good spending your time on the happy, reasonable customers than trying to satisfy someone who has no intentions of ever being satisfied. I spent plenty of time chasing the haters before I realized that “maybe you should just shop somewhere else” is sometimes the best option.

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    I don’t accumulate haters. I’m not as popular as you, so I don’t have that kind of traffic. :-) Seriously though, when someone really slams me, I’ll ignore it. If they keep at it (typically because I ignored them / they didn’t get the reaction out of me they were going for), I’ll continue to ignore it.

    If they push too hard though, I like to take one moment in time to psychologically rip them a new one so bad, so intensely, in such a NSFW kind of way, that they go wimpering away. But OMG that’s sooo rare simply because most get frustrated at my ignoring them that they go away long before that.

  • Marnie of Crescendo Photography

    Timely advice, especially”a lot of people don’t realize it’s a “choice”. You choose either way – whether you’re going to get caught up in something that’s not productive or if you’re going to use it to propel yourself forward.” In my industry so many choose to be negative and pass blame rather to to reflect on what they can control and strive for positive change. Again, thanks for the reminder!

  • david lee king

    Just wanted to say this is a VERY timely post for me (just posted a video project that people either love or hate). So thanks! It’s giving me the perspective I needed, and reminding me to smile and remember that even the haters took time out of their day to pause and say something about the project.

    So thanks!

  • Todd Mintz

    Which makes today’s CNN article on social media rejection sound all the more stupid:

  • Lisa Barone

    Michael: And that’s the best way to use them, unfortunately, a lot of people get caught up in it. They internalize it and they change what they’re doing or how they’re interacting with people. And when they do, everyone loses.

    Rob: Unhappy customers and haters are not the same, in my opinion. Unhappy customers have an experience with you that they wanted resolved or at least aired. Haters just want to be assholes. And like you said, it doesn’t matter how much time you invest trying to please them — it’s never going to happen.

    Alan: [backs. away. slowly.]

    Marine: I don’t think that’s specific to just your industry. I think it’s specific to humans in general. Thanks for the comment! :)

    David: [high five]

  • Nathan Hangen

    Jenny is hilarious. Loved her at the closing Keynote.

  • Derek Bullard

    I have found it beneficial to engage with negative feedback. It is an ideal way to decipher individuals that hate your product and the ones that were simply rubbed in the wrong way. This really goes back to the old saying ” any press is good press ” which has been proven time and time again.

    I like Jenny’s style – confrontational

  • Rebecca Kelley

    I love this post so much, I want to take it back behind the middle school and get it pregnant.