A hateful email hits your inbox.
A surly comment is left on your blog.
A nasty response is added to one of your Facebook posts.
What do you do when someone online misbehaves?
I’m not talking about negative criticism because that could be constructive. I’m talking about destructive comments by trolls.
First, let’s consider what inflames this behavior.
Why Are People Mean?
I’d guess that 98% of my followers are lovely and appreciative. But about twice a year, it seems the Grinch has furrowed his brow and poked his spindly green finger over my heart.
It’s amazing how easy it is to forget about all of the wonderful people when there’s one, big meanie trying to steal your Christmas.
Here’s what I’ve come up with as to why people are cruel.
They are having a bad day.
Everyone is entitled to a bad day. Okay, fine. And … everyone should understand that they shouldn’t whip out hotheaded comments on those days.
They are lacking in social skills.
Truly. Many people just aren’t socialized like others. They weren’t taught about manners and courtesy.
I know. It was a shock to me, too. These people get a brief pass, and then they need to go learn how to behave if they’re going to interact in the 21st century online world.
There are just mean people in the world.
They are unhappy in their own lives, so they try to bring others down to their level.
Haters gonna hate hate hate hate, and it’s hard to shake it off.
They don’t know you.
Let’s face it: many of your online friendships are far from real friendships. They’re superficial.
When people don’t know you, it’s easy for them to misunderstand your posts. Still, it’s no reason to be mean.
How Do You Respond to Mean People?
I have plenty of experience with this and confess that I’ve used all of the following suggestions (except perhaps #2) at one point or another.
Your response to malicious words will depend on the level of wickedness.
If there is any question of intent in the language, make sure you’re not misreading their words. It’s easy to misunderstand email, so ask for clarification if there is any doubt.
Try this -> “Hey, Rex, I’m not sure if I’m reading this correctly, so please help. Did you mean to imply that … ?”
Armed with your answer, you can move on to any of these responses.
1. Call them on the phone.
Sometimes, when emails or comments are only a little mean, I’ll pick up the phone and call that person.
You want to talk about someone freaking out?! They think they are safely hiding behind email, but I am confronting them. They answer, I announce myself, and then say, “Let’s talk about this email you sent.”
This action hastens the entire process since there are no back-and-forth emails that leave room for misunderstanding.
2. Have a little fun with it.
When you really want to make the villain feel as bad as you do …
I’m sorry you feel that way. Hey, my dog just died, my husband is in the hospital, and our basement flooded. Would you mind if we talked about this later? What’s your number so I can call you?
This is most often the best response to hateful email. Delete. Delete. Delete.
There is usually nothing you can say or do to change someone’s opinion.
Wipe them from your database, remove them from people you follow, and block what they are allowed to see from you.
4. Send love and light.
My friend, Kelly, taught me a version of this.
Stand with two feet firmly planted on the ground, shoulder-width apart. (Think Mountain Pose in yoga.)
As you stand there, envision sending love and light (for me, it’s a warm, glowing orb) to the mean person. Hold the vision of the orb in your outstretched hands and slowly deliver it upward so that it floats to connect with the mean person.
I love this not only because it’s the most positive step to take, but also because it’s a little devious. Have you noticed how mean people just get meaner when you start being nice to them? They don’t know what to do with kindness.
5. Let it stand.
My favorite thing to do with mean comments on my blog or Facebook is to leave them so that others can see them.
As long as they’re not anonymous, I want the commenters to reveal themselves in all of their Technicolor glory.
6. Cut them off.
If you’re feeling feisty, a simple “Thank you for your opinion” might do wonders. This is pretty sassy, but it also recognizes that the commenter is only one of many opinions. It should quickly end the conversation.
7. Draft your dream response.
Let it all out! Write down every single thing you’d like to say to the meanie if you weren’t so nice and had the guts to say it.
But don’t send it. Nooooo. Don’t ever send it. That’s stooping to their level. It’s best to write your response in a document rather than an email program to make extra sure it’s never sent.
Optional: Print out the document, tear it up and burn it in the center of the room. For added effect, dance around the fire naked.
How do you deal with mean people?