How do You Handle the Haters?

You look over in the middle of your speech and notice someone who has their arms folded and a major scowl on their face.

What do you do?

I call these “haters”. But that word is probably a bit harsh, but “mildly to moderate dislikers” doesn’t have the same ring to it, now does it?

About 6 times a year I speak to groups of professional speakers. You’d be hard pressed to find a more warm and generous audience. But awhile back one of my audience members was sending me some pretty negative vibes. And when she challenged something I was saying, I felt daggers coming from her tongue and a particularly nasty tone.

(Perhaps I’ve exaggerated this in my mind, since it’s so rare something like this happens).

I responded with my counter argument, and we moved on, but it was hard not to notice her sour look for the rest of the hour.

When you write a book, a blog or give a speech, you are opening yourself up to a certain level of criticism – I guess that’s why more people don’t do it, eh?

So what can we do?

1. Develop a thick skin. I have a feeling that time and experience is the best way to develop this. (Would love to hear your techniques, please comment below, I know you trainers and bloggers have a million stories.)

2. If you get a negative evaluation, look for a lesson in the criticism, if there is none, move on. Let it go.

3. Focus on the percentage (usually 95%) of the people that did like your work. Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay.

4. And my lesson with the woman a few weeks ago – don’t assume that you know what the person is thinking. Rosita Perez, one of the legends of our industry, had a great story about a woman scowling at her and it turned out Rosita looked like her ex husband’s new wife!

See you soon Wealthy Speakers,

PS: I’ve had a wait list going for my group coaching, so I just added a new Club starting in April, check it out.

  • Hey Jane

    I had a “hater” last week. He sat there with his arms folded and expressionless the whole time. He got in line to speak to me at the end of the presentation. When it was finally his turn, he blew me away. He loved me and everything I said. I resolved to stop trying to figure out what other people are thinking! I will wait for them to tell me and deal with it then.

  • Great topic. I used to try and win over the haters in the room as it used to bother me, but then someone gave me some advice. He said something to the effect that, true confidence allows others to live out their own dramas. In other words, don’t take it personal, and take the view that “Wow, they seem to be having a bad day, I wonder what happened?” and then you move on to the 95% that are digging your message.

  • I strongly believe in what a Broadway actress once said when asked if she was worried about the sure-to-be-negative reviews that would appear in the next day’s Variety. She said: “I never pay attention to the negative reviews…but I never pay attention to the positive ones either…lest I start to believe either one.”
    Personally, I am only interested in evaluation comments, not invested in them. That coupled with the fact that approximatively 4% of the population are diagnosed or undiagnosed, with anti-social personality disorder. In other words, they are sociopaths. I just figure one of them got into my presentation and presented those symptoms. Then I just say to myself: “Bless and Release”

  • If audience members could really see what they look like from a speaker’s point of view, many of them would truly be shocked. What amazes me further is this.. when someone who has been really looking totally bored, uninterested and totally unmoved comes up to me after a presentation with a huge smile and says how much I motivated them and how they really enjoyed everything about what I was talking about! I guess the lesson here is to never assume that the way you think people look from your audience, really look the way you think they look! -Robert Landau

  • I never forgot a very successful entrepreneur told me last year. There will be 80% that love you and 20% that do not like you. “Focus on the 80%”. Great wisdom Jane and great advice Laverne! Our potential is just to “amazing” to allow a small percentage to limit it.

  • Jane, I think that “haters” is too strong a word. I prefer the kinder, gentler term of “stupid people”. That way I can feel sorry for them but not waste energy or emotion on them. Hate conjures negative thoughts. Stupid just is – or in the words of Forest Gump “stupid is as stupid does”.

    Crossed arms does not necessarily mean they are blocking. They could be cold, in pain or tired. I can’t read their minds and they can’t read mine. Good thing for all of us.

    And I always count on 10% of my audience to be stupid.

    George Torok

    PS: Some days I know that I might be the stupid person in some one else’s audience. 🙂

  • Jane , I call these my ” dead fish “. When I begin my presentation , I can spot the dead fish after about 5 minutes. I note where they are and I don’t look at them again. At the same time , I also note the people who are ” into ‘ me. I often look at these people to boost me up during my talks. I totally agree , though, after the speech it is the ” dead fish ” who come up and gush all over you. I then think ” It would have killed you to smile “.

  • As ‘The Queen of Rejection’ I’ve been presenting programs and providing consultation on how not to take rejection and disappointment so personally – especially audience rejection!

    Here are a few ways to handle yourself:

    First of all, how much are you presuming about someone’s tone of voice or body language? Are you filling in the blanks?
    I’ll never forget when I was presenting a Learning Annex program and one woman’s body language seems so negative. “She just hates me, I told myself over and over during the three hours. Well, she was the first person to approach me afterward about engaging me for workplace consultations!

    It helps a lot if you go through a checklist.
    Ask yourself:
    Am I taking this personally?
    If so, What part of me is feeling rejected?
    What am I telling myself?
    Is this an old message?
    Where might it come from?
    Walk along side yourself: What do you notice about your reactions?
    Remind yourself you can make a choices here.

  • Hi Jane,

    Sometimes I am an attendee in a seminar. I’m deep in thought or I ate too much and feel lethargic, feel sleepy and

    At the end I LOVED the speaker. My face would never reveal that. That happened once when I started my business. A gal showed up (we’re business professional women for the most part, well dressed) in my workshop dressed in torn shorts, a big sloppy t-shirt (she was pretty huge on top of it), messy hair, no makeup, head on desk, and I knew she absolutely hated the workshop. Three weeks later we were posting things on Compuserve (yes, this was in 1994), and she raved about the workshop. I emailed her and told her I remembered her, etc. and I was shocked. She said she had 7 of her people in the training, had a flu, 102 fever, felt horrible. We NEVER know. She turned out to be a huge supporter of mine.

    When I speak, I like to assume that people are getting value. For those that truly don’t like me, hey. My best friends
    experienced the same things — friends like Lincoln, Princess Di, ML King, etc. I walk with them silently. It’s
    about building our inner strength, doing what leaders do.

    It’s part of the lesson of allowing the world to be what IT is and my focusing on who “I” am, and I know I’m a good,
    decent, caring person. Period. Of course always open to constructive guidance, etc. and I know that some folks will
    just not align with my way of being. Hey, I don’t like Charlie Sheen!!!! (some do)

    I loved your comments and of course Rosita’s story.
    Anita Paul Johnston, CSP

  • I actually learned my lesson about this years ago from a friend’s experience. A woman in the front row was her “hater,” just as you described, and my friend spent the entire time unconsciously trying to win her over. At the end of the day, she sorted through the evals to find the one belonging to this sourpuss. (She knew it would be obvious – the only negative one!) In utter disbelief, she howled as she read this woman’s hateful rant about the color of my friend’s fingernail polish. (It didn’t match her dress or her hair or her jewelry. Horrors!) In that moment, my friend realized just how much energy she had invested in her interpretation of the woman’s scowl. And all the time the woman was stuck on her fingernail polish. Now whenever is spot a “hater,” I remember this story, smile inside and move on down he road!

  • Ken Stevens

    Thought provoking question. Certainly one that opens a new door to discovery technique and self awareness or self discovery.

    One technique I saw that was very effective during the speaking engagement is : Good question…. Hold that thought…. we will come back to it. then continue on with your speaking …. If you care to, acknowledge them afterwards, and most likely, they forget what question they were asking to begin with.

    People came to see you speak and engaging with someone that you feel is taking the stage or going outside the scope of your
    experience or just plain going off track, Knowing when to not engage and then take the question off line, helps you to maintain your purpose.
    I know you do this well on your phone calls, so it probably is not a new concept to you…

    From the self awareness side, how did I attract this? What in that person is a mirror to my self?

    My daughter for instance is 18 and comes home from school and starts talking trash about a teacher…. it gave me pause….

    I hate that teacher… with out responding , I said… If I am completely honest with my self, have I ever exhibited the
    same behaviour anywhere before in my lifetime…. You guessed it, when I was in high school a few favorite teachers came to mind. I never resolved the hate. Under it all
    I was operating with that piece of stuff floating around in my brain. So, no problem, it is time to confess and be honest …they were great people….

    So the best way to keep the haters away, is to make a list of all the haters you can think of in your life, and put them on a piece of paper.

    Then, You can individually look at each name, and state 5 or 10 good qualities about the person. They were thorough, persistent, made me stretch…etc….Find the good or the God in them if you are more religious.

    then, using a hawaiian spiritual technique, say….

    Insert their name here, I love you as a person. (while feeling the hate you may or still have in present time)
    Please forgive me
    I am sorry,
    Thank you .

    In a food analogy, a confession sandwich… bottom bread is Gratitude, the I am sorry mayo, the Please forgive me meat, and the top piece of bread..I love you….

    Say it as many times as needed to reduce the emotional charge to zero or neutral. Feed your ego, and

    Over time, You will start attracting more loving people and freeing your heart of the “hater” that we have forgotten about in our own lives.

    I can say, I had a similar experience this week, and came up with a list of people that I had not seen in many years of my youth and now
    feel some relief there. In the process of healing yourself, you help them as well as you no longer hold anything against them.

    Keep loving everyone…

    Best regards,

  • Moira Dann

    I had a young woman in a talk/workshop the other night who was disruptive to the point that I called for a break, approached her and asked if she were okay. She assured me she was fine. She then left noisily 10 minutes after we resumed. The group collectively shrugged, I took a deep breath, re-focused, and we did some great work before the workshop ended. This was the most illustrative example of the need to focus on the participants who are engaged and not on those who might just not like you or what’s being offered (the 80/20 rule cited above). It’s often more about them than it is about you.

  • Great example of a great comment-inducing question, Jane. Yes, we all have them. I learn, but rarely till after some reflection so in sessions I try to avoid looking as others have said and I try to remember about 5% of any audience will dislike SOMETHING about you. I just hope they’ll write or talk to me so I might learn… or finally feel OK ignoring it entirely. On blogs I immediately draft a response (unless it’s so like spam I just delete it)… and then don’t post it till the next day so I can reconsider, which I often do. There’s usually some way to ‘make things better’ (not so much for that person as for the readers) – and a lot has to do with ‘rising above’ to a higher level of discussion.

  • Wow! I love what Laverne said.

    So much of the negativity we experience is our internally crafted response that’s based on what we “know” about ourselves, not what we know about the person to whom we’re responding.

    It’s really a simple mind game, one way we convince ourselves the “hater” is holding up a scary monster mirror, the other, really, is to not even see a mirror.

    When that gets difficult for me to muster, the tool I use is to think of my wife, or kids, or my mom, all people who think I’m pretty cool, or at least okay. Which I am.

    Do I make mistakes? Absolutely, but the blaming and shaming from within, even if triggered externally, is completely self-generated and a waste of good energy.

    Too heavy? Maybe, but way too real.

  • Do you remember reinforcement and reward from college psychology? You get more of what you reward and reinforce. A speaker’s attention is the reward to the audience. So if someone is actively engaged and you want more engaged participants, focus on them. I focus on the ones who are actively engaged. Just remember, there are quiet, thoughtful people who just don’t make a lot of facial expressions. They’re definitely engaged. They’re showing their attention with little nonverbal communication. Jane, for the ones actively scowling like you experienced, it’s probably something they ate or they had a fight with someone they worked with. It couldn’t have been you!

  • Jane, Always love your posts and especially enjoyed points #2 & #4 in this one. While I love my work – the “5% haters” can really bring me down. So I try to remind myself that I speak, write, and teach because I want to share information that helps others… and that means any data I can collect, even data that’s painful to hear, is useful. I also loved Laverne’s & Anita’s experiences which are great reminders that you never know what people are REALLY thinking simply from observing their external demeanor. Last but not least, if you ever offer a seminar on how to more quickly grow that thick skin you reference in #1, sign me up… would love to have more of that asap :). Thanks for highlighting an under-discussed but important issue for anyone engaging in public discourse! Warmly, Manisha

  • Thanks for the update. I had seen a speaker named Sally Hogshead and also read her book which is called, “Fascinate.” Sally basically says that you have to have “haters” if you’re going to be fascinating. If you don’t have “haters,” you’re probably not being as effective as you can be. (greatly paraphrased, of course).

  • Hi Jane,
    You may have heard this somewhere in your experience with Co-Active Coaching/Leadership.
    I credit Karen Kimsey-House for this gem.
    The best way to handle any form of negativity or challenge is to lean into it with curiosity.
    Maybe even be fascinated.
    Works every time.
    And it happens extremely rarely because I’m not resisting it.

  • Hi Jane

    You and your readers might enjoy reading the following analysis of an experience I had 18 months ago and my only real personal experience with this, as fortunately for me most of my audiences are listening intently to my every word. It was when speaking to a group that I had travelled halfway across the world from Australia to share the ABC of Feng Shui with. In addition to consulting work I was asked to present workshop material on the first evening and for the following two days. I have a training program and this request fitted well with my existing material. 3 days before I flew out (and when the final payment was due) I received a call asking me to speak until midnight. I explained that this was not part of the agreed schedule and that I didn’t utilize this technique when training.

    For anyone reading this and not aware, the theory is that when we get brain overload then our message slips past our critical/judgmental mind and more easily into our sub/un-conscious one. Personally I think that this technique is all too often used by unscrupulous presenters looking to maximize their ‘take’ from the room, without due care for their audiences, whom I’ve even witnessed being insulted during the presentation, queuing at the end to spend ‘000’s of dollars maxing out their Credit Cards and sadly these monsters are so skilful their audiences don’t even recognize it. Often they will appear to be in support of Charity, thus throwing in ‘Guilt and Obligation’. In my opinion many of these presenters actually don’t offer value to their audiences, primarily because the underling principles, values and ethics of the presenter is vastly different to the majority of those in their audiences and the ‘product’ whist it may work and be effective will in the vast majority of cases never be implemented by the buyer due to conflicting values. Anyway enough of that!

    I politely declined to speak until midnight, although I did agree to add in an extra segment after supper. I duly arrived and delivered the opening session which was well received. The segment I added in was on creating tension between where you are and where you want to be. You could call it goal setting. Not long into the segment I noticed that almost my entire audience were tuning out, this was a new experience for me (and I consider myself a seasoned speaker, at that time I’d been presenting and speaking professionally for over ten years)! I decided to use audience participation to get them back, and asked them all to stand, at this point I knew I was in trouble, about half the room reluctantly stood and the other half remained firmly seated! The leader (who had instigated my visit) from her seated position, was extremely angry with me for my positive attitude, recommendation of work by Louise Hay, author of “You can Heal Your Life” and for encouraging my listeners (her group) to think about what changes they would like in their experiences of life and she concluded had nothing to do with Feng Shui.

    What I hadn’t picked up was that this session challenged a fundamental belief of the group that this leader was teaching, that processing the sadness and going into all the negative emotional experiences was the way to improve ones experiences of life. My bad. Had I been more sensitive to this I could have selected another topic or structured that session differently. I also realize that as the first external presenter ever in the history of the group (and sadly also likely the last) I was never going to walk away from this group without any wounds. It would have upset the balance of control.

    I’ve done a lot of Speaker Training and my immediate reaction was to listen. Next I expressed regret for introducing a conflict to their teachings and beliefs and we all went to bed, and continued with the program as planned the next day. I’d like to say the remainder of the sessions went well and predominately they did. Before each session I was required to brief a committee on the material to be covered in the next session (and have it approved).

    My message is arguing doesn’t always reach the best outcome, and this one person may reflect what others may also be thinking. We can remain true to ourselves and our beliefs and values and allow others to express theirs. I would like to suggest that sometimes people only need to be heard and acknowledged, and their ‘hate’ is really a cry for attention.

    Obviously not the solution in every instance, perhaps worth remembering thou.

    Yes I did get paid before I left Australia and as there were a few other challenges with my boundaries I’m damm glad I made that part of my initial terms and conditions.

  • For the most part, I’ve found that the angry, or hostile look has little or nothing to do with the speaker. Most often it has more to do with something that is going wrong in that person’s life.

  • The best and easiest way to deal with your Haters……is to LOVE them 🙂 they despise being LOVED, and they cant get away from you quick enough LOL…SO that is a really good way to send them back some friendly fire 😉 But also, sometimes..crossed arms and a scowl is a negative sign..but that person could be deep in thought about a personal problem…and it may seem like they are looking at you…..but in fact…they are looking *straight through you*.

  • Oh dear!

    In my line of work (I conduct Laughter Yoga seminars and workshops) I see that every single time! I would say that in a group of 20, there will be at least one or 2. People doubting what I am saying and NOT wanting to perform the exercises with the group, looking at me like I was out of my mind, stupid or weird! HAHAHA!

    And every time, I feel like these people are judging me – and I start to judge myself as well. Not good.

    But after many years of practice, I now see these people as “challengers”, not ennemies. And quite frankly, I turn my head and focus on the ones who are enjoying what I am offering them: a precious and effective tool they can use as often as they need and want so they can feel better, more relaxed and happier.

    There will always be one who is going to hate what I am doing. So what?

    The sky is a big place and all the birds have enough space to fly together!

  • You can’t make everyone happy.

    Be sure your points and stories are up to date so you have “confidence in your competence.”

    Find those friendly faces in the audience and deliver to them.

    The haters – maybe they just have indigestion!

  • Pingback: Professional Speaker()

  • Bio Foam 2.1 Biological hazards bubble Biological foam problem would seriously interfere with the operation of sewage treatment plant control and maintenance management. Home buyers into such properties are so assured of terribly high standards that transcend the standard promoting claims and are, in fact, additional tied into the qualities that the celebrity stands for and believes in.