I have a friend who is exceedingly nice. She once listened to me tell her all about a person that I considered to have behaved inconsiderately. In response, she asked me why I thought that person had acted in that manner; I told her I didn’t know. She advised me going forward to “be curious, not furious.”
Dealing with detractors is par for the course when you participate in public forums, whether online or offline. Jason Falls offers advice on how to handle different types of people including “offended publics, disgruntled stakeholders, competition, trolls and turds,” with the additional insight that
The difference in a troll and a turd is that a turd identifies him or herself with a name and/or email address. They’re accountable, but still being a pain in the ass, mostly likely just because they like being a pain in the ass.
I’ve dealt with a lot of turds over the past nine years. Time and time again I see individuals attempt to build themselves up by tearing other brands and people down. These detractors seek attention and validation. They exhibit low self-esteem and will take whatever feedback they can get, positive or negative. Comments like “you’re so smart” are what they expect. Comments like “you’re wrong” are often interpreted as a lack of intellect of the commentor.
When you set raw emotion aside and think through a situation, sometimes surprising outcomes emerge when dots start getting connected. I’ve seen:
- A blogger who publishes disdainful criticism of a company’s social media campaign, who then contacted the firm in private to be hired as a consultant and fix the “problems.”
- An individual who applied for jobs multiple times and was never hired, writing positive content about a company prior to asking for a job and then negative/critical content about the company after it declined to hire.
- A person who believed him/herself owed money in a business deal, despite having no documentation. S/he was not simply handed payment of an arbitrary sum and has since taken to acting as a subtle detractor of the company.
We’d all like everyone to be positive all the time, but the halcyon days of riding the social media cluetrain are long over. I don’t know if money is the root of all evil, but it quite often lies at the root of why detractors behave the way they do.
Next time you see a heated online exchange — whether you’re directly involved or not — be curious, not furious. What you discover may surprise you.