How I Overcome Haters, Death Threats, And The Offended Internet

The internet is a scary place. The global stage where the voice of the people does not have a reputation for being friendly. If you have an opinion, be prepared for someone to twist your words, misunderstand you, and fire back with hurtful comments and a hateful heart.

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To make matters worse, the reality that what you post could become national news or viral content without your consent is a bit intimidating. We see stories like Jason Russel of Kony 2012 or my wife’s article on leggings or even my recent Facebook post about vacations spurring MASSIVE conversations around the world within 24 hours.

With this reality, comes an extreme level of responsibility. For most, it scares them to the point of silence. They retreat to private profiles and believe a small voice is better than public confrontation. The truth is, having an opinion these days is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re one of the bold entrepreneurs, thought leaders, or bloggers prepared to brave the fiery darts of the adult bullies of today, then here are my tips on how to handle the haters while maintaining your message.

I’ve broken my points down into two categories. The first is for responding. I’ll share my top two tactics for handling the heat from haters not only on the internet, but inside your mind. The second category is for writing. These two points speak to the art of defensive communication and the strategic anticipation of the offended internet.

1. Your Silence Is More Powerful Than Their Noise

Over the past several years, I’ve had two death threats and probably 5,000-10,000 hateful comments on social media. I’ve received emails, physical mail, and even voicemails from people telling me how stupid, ignorant, disgusting, and appalling I am to them.

And while I’ve been told I have the skin of a rhinoceros, these vicious statements have left scars of my emotions. As I said earlier, online influence is not for the faint of heart.

But over the years, I’ve learned the best way to respond to such people, is to not. To remind them that I am bigger than their hurtful immaturities and I will use my silence as an instrument of purposeful avoidance of their poor character.

Because if you give them anything, they will take everything.

Haters are like great white sharks, and their targets are like chum (shark food), the more chum you throw at them, the more worked up they get. Stop throwing chum, and there is no reason to stay.

2. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control what happens in us.

The internet is the wild west. There are no “nice police” or even honorable algorithms protecting our emotions from the attacks of others. But even in a seemingly ungovernable arena, we must remember the power we hold. While anything can happen to us, we get to choose what happens in us.

For me, that’s been based in empathy for those who say hurtful things. For example, when I see a driver become so frustrated in traffic they begin to yell, raise their hands in the air, or flip off another person, my only emotion is empathy. I think to myself, “Wow… their life must really stink.” We must remember that in most cases, negativity is a projection of their story. And whether it’s online or in the car, hurt people hurt people.

But I want to take a moment to look deeper into our internal reaction of opposition. I want you to understand the big picture. In reality, haters are actually your heralds announcing that you have arrived at the main stage. Because in my experience, if you’re not upsetting someone, it’s likely you haven’t stood for something.

Playing in the middle is safe. It’s where everyone agrees, and nobody needs to lead. It’s where people go to make noise at no cost. But push the boundaries of any topic, and the alarm will sound. The key is how we view it. Or more importantly, how we internalize it.

Option #1: Allow their comments to validate your fears. To create a nasty mix of positive and negative that develop a schizophrenic self-esteem and tosses your ability to navigate who you are, what you stand for, and where you’re going out the window.

Option #2: Realize that opposition is the sign of influence. And while you thought mountain lions were prowling in your backyard, in reality, they are squirrels and raccoons. The internet can make three critics seem like 3,000. But the truth is, it was three hurt people with too much time on their hands.

At the end of the day, next time someone sends you some hate, don’t internalize it. Instead, send them gift card thanking them for signaling that you are accomplishing your mission and that your voice is not in the middle, but out in front.

3. Aim for respect, not recognition.

For Writers: The devil is always in a hurry, and rushed writing is almost never a good idea. As I mentioned above, our words come with immense responsibility. For into today’s world, when there are published, they are permanent.

Because of this, I’ve learned to write with anticipation. To build in clarity, disclaimers, citations, and scapegoats in the event someone tries to twist or misuse my words.

A good practice is this: Write your article as if tomorrow you would be asked to explain it on CNN. This shouldn’t change your message, just your approach.

But more importantly, let’s discuss article ambition. For me, I aim for respect over recognition. While many people might not agree with me, or even like me, if my words are crafted carefully they often respect me.

But when an article comes from a place of striving. Where the writer “needs” to make a point. Where they must win the conversation. And when they speak with a self-righteous authority that offers no room for rebuttal, it is the kindling to a roaring fire of heated conversation.

Freedom of speech is a great thing. But how we use this gift will determine not only the pace of your influence but the frequency of your backlash. By crafting your words and aiming for respect over recognition, you’ll find your message reaches further and your impact is greater.

4. Define Discuss, debate, division, and death.

There are some topics not appropriate for the internet. Throughout history, we’ve seen conversations occur anywhere from the public forum to the dinner table to behind locked doors. The danger comes when we don’t recognize the difference.

As writers, we must define two things: What we stand for and where we should tell people about it. For me, I’ve made it a rule that topics that cause harsh division or issues I would die for, are typically not best discussed in the open forum with strangers on the internet. I’ve decided to reserve those conversations for the dinner table, the in-person meeting, or maybe even a small gathering.

I relate it to pre-internet thinking. If you’re unsure if the topic should be discussed online, ask yourself, “If I was in 1995, would I be willing to pull out an ad in the newspaper, be interviewed on a large radio show, or appear on national TV for my view on this topic?” If the answer is no for then, then you probably shouldn’t post it on the internet today.

The success of this point lives in maturity. Do you have the discernment to orchestrate your message in the appropriate arena? Are you capable of restraint when necessary? Or do you post your dinner table topic in the public forum?

We all have things we care about. And the internet makes us feel as if they should all be shared in the feeds of our social profiles. That just isn’t true. There is a time and place for everything. And just like the points we have discussed today, our content decisions have the power to spawn productive conversation or destructive opposition.

What about you? How have you dealt with the haters and offended internet? Any good advice? Let me know in the comments below.

Want to learn how to turn your passion for blogging into a profession? Consider enrolling in my 12 month step-by-step coaching curriculum on how to start a business.

Author

Dale Partridge
Dale Partridge is the Founder of StartupCamp.com. He's also a keynote speaker and author of the Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling book People Over Profit.

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  1. Dale,

    Thanks for this piece! I’m getting ready to leave my job to pursue my business full time (whoo!) and posted a little “hooray for me!” post on reddit and was summarily torn to shreds, told that I was not ready. “Just look at your past posts! You’re a total amateur” type of thing.

    This reminded me that I am, indeed, on the right track.

    And more importantly…at least in my space…public opinion (and more realistically the opinion of a few) does not pay my bills. Happy clients do, and I have plenty of those.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  2. Natalie says:

    That is sound and encouraging word, Dale!

    Reply
  3. I teach women to be submissive to their husband and be keepers at home as stated in Titus 2:4, 5. I have been blogging for 6 years and in this feminist culture we live in, you can bet I get many mean and nasty comments. In fact, they have tried to destroy the selling of my book on Amazon. At first, they frightened me but my husband did some research and I ignore them now. I aim only to please the Lord and not be intimidated by them since their goal is to close down bloggers who teach the truth of God Word. Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. Blessings!

    Reply
  4. Jaimie says:

    I have been threatened and treated badly for something I didn’t write and don’t even believe. It is scary and confusuing. People can be scary
    THANKS for sharing

    Reply
  5. I just found myself responding to a hater online earlier today. I aimed for respect and chose my words carefully as I usually do when I post anything online. I explained the situation using a rule I have for some time I call ‘facts not feelings’ that I borrowed from my wife. My usual response is to not respond, as you have noted, but sometimes a response also puts out a fire if handled correctly. That you for giving me confirmation!

    Reply
    • Yes, sometimes silence is perceived to be peace-making, but that isn’t always the case. Thanks for sharing!!

      Reply
  6. Silvina says:

    I have experienced the internet’s judging whip a time or two. People always want us to be nice and please everyone, but there is a difference between nice and kind. Nice is pleasing people to our own detriment and being trapped in that cycle, kindness is politely stating our opinion and standing behind it, no matter who wants to be offended by it, because being offended is a choice. I agree that there are some topics not worth throwing out in a public forum because we never know where people are coming from. You are wise beyond your years and glad to see that has not gone to your head. Keep up the good work.
    Cheers
    Silvina

    Reply
  7. I found your article very helpful and very a propos for the times. There is so much being shared presently on social media by individuals and the emotions are high. I tend to put myself out there and there are times when people take an approach of attacking or ridiculing right away, and I feel myself downshifting into n emotional mode, and have to remind myself that I must not REACT, but upshift to my thinking part, and RESPOND in a calm way, while trying to avoid being defensive or become snarky. At times and depending on the content of the comment, I may ask the commentator to “say more,” and or ask some clarifying questions. I also put it on them: I repeat or paraphrase what they are saying so that they may hear themselves, own their statements or clarify them for me. “What I hear you say…” “So it is your opinion…” But, if the commentator comes across as rude and only hurls insults or one-liners, I may ignore or delete their comments. Thanks again for some ver helpful tips. Trino

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing this, Trino! I love the verbiage of downshifting and upshifting, and how that visual really plays out. So cool, so honest. Appreciate it!

      Reply
  8. Paul says:

    I appreciate these word, as a leader and one who too often cares far too much what the haters think. Thank you!

    Reply
  9. So much wisdom!

    Reply
  10. Michelle says:

    Hi Dale,
    I was wondering wether or not you remove nasty comments from your blog? Or does this fuel the fire even more?
    I will definitely keep this post in mind for when I receive the first nasty comment on my blog.
    Thank you,
    Michelle

    Reply
    • I typically remove them. It’s my blog. Meaning… If someone came to my house and wrote nasty stuff on the wall I would remove it and kick them out. Same logic applies. We have freedom of speech but that is different that freedom of placement of that speech. Hope that helps.

      Reply
  11. I’m wondering what your stance is on deleting comments. I understand that you do not respond and do not add fuel to their fire, but do you let the hateful comment remain? Thanks for discussing this helpful topic for other bloggers.

    Reply
    • We have the freedom of speech, but we don’t have the freedom of where the comment left. If someone writes a negative comment on the wall of your coffee shop are you just going to leave it up? I think you would remove it. If it’s my blog that I pay for I have the right to remove the comment.

      Reply
  12. I began blogging in Sept but one small post got its share of attention. Mostly positive but some attacking. This is certainly a less lovely aspect of my desire to write. If someone disagrees with my ideas, that’s fine, but if they attack me personally then I delete and move on. A little shaken, perhaps.

    Reply
  13. Jas says:

    Thank you for your expressing your courage and knowledge and sharing it. Cheers to contributing to a world where differing views are respected. The force of love is profoundly more powerful than anything else. Blessings to you and your family. 🙏

    Reply
  14. Katie says:

    Hi Dale! I just discovered you and your work yesterday. Actually, I’ve purchased numerous Sevenly products over the years but just now connected you with that company. (Apparently, I’m a bit slow…) Anyway, this post was incredibly helpful to me, a highly sensitive soul. I especially appreciated option #2. Thanks so much for all the thought that you put into your words and for sharing them with the rest of us.

    Reply
  15. Louise says:

    This was an awesome post – thank you! I have found you very inspiring and I do not think any of your ideas are idiotic at all. For some people it is really hard to see things from other people’s perspectives so they just go on a crazy rant to feel better about themselves. Anyway, thank you for all of the time and effort you put in to helping people with crazy dreams succeed – like me. I really appreciate it!

    Reply
  16. Dale, This was a great article and exactly what I needed this week! I was so happy to release my new line of products on my store this week and the first comment I got was, “This is BS” from a complete stranger. At first I responded nicely trying to validate what a good person I am and where my heart is, but then I thought this person is not worth my time, so she was deleted and blocked. For a split second, it took the wind out of my sails, but the orders coming in resolved that 🙂

    Reply
    • Glad it was helpful. Not always easy to take those comments. I’m glad you were able to work through it.

      Reply
  17. Vijay Govind says:

    Dale, thank you for your insightful post. I have a long way to go… Most valuable lesson for me is – (electronic) silence is golden.

    Reply
  18. Dale,

    I loved this post because I think everyone who has any kind of social media presence on the internet is going to face haters at one point or another. If they don’t, then like you said, they’re not standing for anything. When people want to argue/fight on posts I’ve made I usually (not always because I’m still a cocky human) will choose silence as you recommended. It’s nice to hear someone like yourself validate that stance because so often it feels like by choosing silence I’m actually not standing up for my beliefs/point of view. Thanks for this post!

    Reply
  19. Hi ther Dale. Fantastic article beginning to end. I especially love your point that 3 critics can feel like 3000. Even though we may have 3 critics, there is a great chance that a well-crafted and truthful article with have 3000 quiet fans. Thanks again, love your perspective each and every time!

    Reply
  20. Scarlett Hoxie says:

    I recall the article on vacations and I also recall a lot of mean comments! I actually read through many of them. Haters —- I have alwaulys had haters ppl say this and that about me or I can just feel it in their presence. O well you just forge on! You have a right to your opinion. If they don’t like it or you or whatever than why are they looking you up and reading your message? Ha! See they are scared!!!

    Reply
  21. Ferdinand Onandia says:

    Dale-

    Thank you for the wisdom, as you pointed out, it truly comes down to our maturity level, either we respond or we react.

    Blessings!

    Reply
  22. Dale,
    Thank you for posting! I have just started my blog and I haven’t even made it public yet because I didn’t know how I would handle negative comments and haters. This is a great roadmap for me. Thank you!
    Megan

    Reply
  23. Vanessa Baird says:

    Wow, this was really awesome Dale. A super hard topic for me to face, and such a killer time to read. This is a really deep thinking topic, I reflect often about what the basis of my fear is, beyond to obvious abuse, and realize the potential identity crisis that I would have triggered by someones opinion about me. To me, a great step forward is to really give grace to others and ourselves, and be our number one supporter when we believe in what we speak. Thank you for a powerful read.

    Reply
  24. This came at the perfect time for me! Literally, after so many negative posts this one came scrolling up. THANK YOU! I need to adjust my own approach and this is a great guide to help me with this.

    Reply
  25. Dale – I wish I could’ve read this last week! I wrote a blog post last week titled, “The Silent Killer of Relationships,” and it went viral! Over 1 million unique visitors over the last week! Crazy! With that came an immense amount of comments and emails, Facebook messages, etc. Most of it was very positive, but there were some hateful comments. The lens I had to view them through was, “Are they intentionally trying to be hurtful to me or other commenters?” If so, I deleted the comment. If they simply disagreed, I tried to engage with them and make sure I was being crystal clear about what I was trying to communicate, while also finding a point of agreement. I actually had a commenter thank me for being civil!

    Thankfully, at the end of the day, I decided, just as you wrote, to ignore the haters. Thank God I did! I want to engage with as many people as possible, but I’ve lived long enough to know that, some people just simply want to pick a fight.

    Thanks for your writing. I really appreciate it…and it’s inspiring!

    Reply
  26. Phoebe Adams says:

    Dale, I’ve been following you on pinterest for quite awhile now and I remember when you posted on Facebook about your insight / epiphany about vacations. I remember you telling your viewpoint on how silly it is and wasteful of your everyday life to simply live for the weekend or the next vacation. You felt that we should strive to live our lives as if we were always on vacation by living for today and enjoying every moment as best as possible. The backlash that struck that post was simply put, ridiculous and nasty. It’s easy for humans to be mean when they aren’t face to face. I was very proud of how you handled that matter and happy to see people backing you up. There will always be haters, but your advice is splendid! Thank you for what you do… Inspire. Phoebe Adams

    Reply
    • You’re right. There will always be haters. Thanks for the support Phoebe!

      Reply
    • Jennifer Lee says:

      That post literally changed my perspective and my whole life. I practically smacked myself on my forehead and thought “How amazingly simple and obvious and yet how stupid we all are to get sucked into society’s materialistic rat race of not just relishing every moment each day and only anticipating future things to come!” What a novel idea- don’t work yourself to death towards a few weeks of enjoyment and sanity, be sane and enjoy every minute of life. This change in perspective has me working with completely different goals in mind. Thank you Dale, and if people are uncomfortable it’s usually because there is some truth inside themselves that they haven’t dealt with and lash out instead. Call it avoidance, conscious or conviction, it’s their issue, not yours!

      Reply
  27. Hi Dale,

    The internet is a scary place and when people lash out, you just never know what they’re up to. It is most of the time, people who have too much time on their hands. I had a situation recently with a book critic of my book and he said my book was a real disappointment. I wasn’t sure what to make of it – if it was SPAM or a legit reader. I then emailed him back to find out what I could’ve done to make it better. He replied back to let me know what he had expected and we both realized he was never given a description of the book. Of course he was expecting something different! If I had been silent, I would have never known it was a misunderstanding. However if the comment was really nasty then I would’ve been silent.

    Sometimes it’s hard to know if someone is giving critical feedback or wants to give you a hard time online.

    Love this post! Really great tips on handling haters and other disrespectful people.

    Thank you,
    Lillian

    Reply
    • Thanks, Lillian! It really can be a scary place sometimes. Great point!

      Reply
  28. Thanks for this article Dale. I learned a great deal.
    As a healthcare professional I addressed a group of individuals on an online forum in way that I thought was helpful but the leader made it known that I didn’t. He made a public example out of me and did not hold back. I took the route of apology and stating my heart behind wanting to help. I also asked how I may appropriately address the group so that I may learn better for the future. The individual was very appreciative and gave me some tips and boundaries. He also deleted the public reprimands from the forum.
    So I am still a member of the group but I stick to my boundaries!

    Reply
  29. Q says:

    Dale, this was awesome and right on time. God bless as He uses you as a vessel. This is one of things I fear…especially as I make decisions to build my business and include my children. This will definitely be a piece I will come back to often. Thank you!

    Reply

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