People Hating on You? Here Are 4 Ways to Use That Negative Energy to Your Advantage.
He's a well known entrepreneur. His products have changed the world. He created the world's largest personal-computer software company. He's written more than 10 books, built a Fortune 100 company and fought to eradicate poverty and disease. Yet people hate him. He's a regular recipient of hatred on the internet and in his public life. That hatred is often times brutal and uncalled for.
But Bill Gates continues to excel. He doubled his wealth from $40 billion to more than $82 billion after becoming a part-timer at Microsoft, right in the middle of the Great Recession. While others are crushed under the weight of hatred and criticism, Gates thrives. Here's what so many entrepreneurs fail to understand about hate.
Entrepreneurs need hatred.
Related: 3 Reasons to Thank Your Critics
If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you need a way to harness the inevitable hatred you'll receive. A way to turn the criticism, envy and jealousy into fuel you can use. You need all of the negative emotions and pain it brings. Not because you're a masochist, or because you want to wallow in self pity, but because of the incredible growth opportunities it brings with it.
Here's what I mean.
Illegitimate hatred loses its power when you see it for what it is. It acts as a vaccine, building immunity against emotional and mental toxicity. Instead of being crushed by the shame and doubt hate creates, you begin to see that it won't kill you. You see it as the self criticism it is, and you realize it gives you a chance to offer empathy and understanding to your harshest critics.
On the other hand, hatred that's legitimate and well-deserved is painful. That's also beneficial, because it means you have a chance for growth and improvement. If you've screwed up, that hatred is a helpful cue -- you know you have something to fix. Both give you opportunities to improve your business.
Ask successful entrepreneurs about their experiences with hate, and you'll find something interesting. Instances of illegitimate, undeserved hate outnumber the times we deserve it. If you're on the receiving end of illegitimate hate, it feels terrible.
Here are four ways you can use hatred -- legitimate or not -- as fuel to grow.
1. Expect hatred and criticism to get worse.
Success provokes all kinds of emotional reactions. Feelings of envy and jealousy, fear, insecurity, contempt and even rage are all typical reactions. Melanie Greenberg lists more than 30 reasons people will lob hatred and criticism your way as you move toward success. A quick look at her list, and you'll see that the vast majority of causes have something to do with what's going on inside your critic.
For example, Anthony Bourdain hates Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking. Here's what he had to say about her: "All you have to do is waddle into the kitchen, open a can of crap and spread it on some other crap that you bought at the supermarket. And then you've done something really special."
2. Expect hatred if you don't give customers what they want.
Customers are wonderful. The right ones push you forward. They validate all of the blood, sweat and tears you've poured into your business. They're grateful, patient and understanding.
But some customers want more. Some customers feel entitled. These customers want much more than we can give. They expect you to bend the rules for them. To make exceptions. To give them everything for next to nothing. They believe they're in control of you. If you can't give them what they want, they'll hate you for it.
Then, they'll punish you. They'll do their part to put you out of business, using weapons like Yelp, Amazon, the Better Business Bureau and their credit card companies. They'll tell everyone, in an effort to destroy you.
For example, Alamo Drafthouse has a simple policy for moviegoers. No talking or texting in their theaters. They regularly post warnings before each movie. This customer believed she was the exception to the rule, so Alamo kicked her out.
3. Prepare for three deadly reactions.
Researchers, Sarah Hill and David Buss found that jealousy and envy -- precursors of hate -- create three specific reactions: submission, ambition or destruction.
- Submission could be a simple as people avoiding you because of your dominance. This seems harmless on the surface, until you realize it can lead to a loss of opportunity, difficulties forming new relationships, creating connections, etc.
- Ambition could lead to intense competition -- a key employee leaves to start their own competing product or service or get a better job. Ambition becomes deadly when it motivates others to do whatever they have to do to get the results they want, regardless of who may be hurt.
- Destruction is exactly what you think it is. The person you've interacted with feels offended that you've gone against them, and they look for ways to destroy your business, reputation, opportunities -- anything they can get their hands on.
For example, it's no secret that small businesses hate Yelp. Customers use Yelp as weapon to punish businesses who refuse to do what they want. Advertise with Yelp, and they can help you make them go away. Refuse, and they'll hide or filter any positive reviews you receive.
Davide Cerretini, co-owner of Botto Italian Bistro in Richmond, Calif. decided to fight back.
They asked their customers to "Hate us on Yelp." He offered customers 25 percent off a pizza if they wrote a negative review. Today, he has more than 1,000 one-star reviews on Yelp, not counting the ones Yelp took down.
4. Remember: Hate feeds on emotion more than facts.
Studies have shown that love makes us dumb. We're far more likely to focus on the good things we love about our significant others more than the bad. Researchers found that love seems to deactivate areas in our brains reserved for judgment.
Hatred does the opposite. Hatred activates your frontal cortex, the areas involved with evaluating people and predicting behavior. But here's the strange part. Hatred encourages us to look for ways to justify our desires, thoughts and actions. It fosters an irrational mindset where reality and facts don't matter. It encourages groups to tow the party line and stick with the accepted narrative, regardless of the outcome.
- Has a company offended you? Leave a nasty review, even if you didn't buy their product.
- Did a company executive go against what you felt was "right?" Flood them with hate mail.
- Waitress not giving you the service and attention you expect? Get her fired.
These are the irrational messages hatred fosters.
For example, remember the band Green Day? While their album Dookie put mainstream punk rock on the map, they struggled for years with substance abuse and personal issues. They finally got their big break with Dookie. Things took off... only to have their fans -- their customers -- turn on them. "Green Day is a sellout. Green Day isn't real punk." It seemed they achieved commercial success at the cost of their reputation.
Fast forward to today, and that hatred is irrelevant.
See the theme with each of these examples? Bill Gates used the pie-in-the-face to portray himself as a "regular, easy going guy who can take a joke". The Alamo Drafthouse uploaded an ex-customer's angry voicemail to YouTube after they kicked her out for texting. Each of the entrepreneurs in our examples turned the hate they received into fuel, whether it was used for marketing, motivation or something else.
The secret? Consistent, positive action. As we've seen, this works wonders when you're the target of illegitimate hate. But what if you deserve it? What if you've done something that's legitimately hate-worthy? Some mistakes can't be undone. As Jared Fogle will tell you, there is a point of no return.
Consistent, positive action is not likely to undo behavior that's criminally or morally reprehensible. But it works great for the routine mistakes. Face them, own them and in time, you'll recover. There's no time table, no set requirements to follow until trust is restored. Just keep going until you arrive.
Success definitely breeds hatred. You can't control what other people think about you; but you can control how that hatred is used. Convert that hatred into fuel and continue to grow. Continue to excel like Bill Gates, and one day you'll come to find...
Hate stops mattering.
Andrew McDermott is the co-founder of HooktoWin and the co-author of Hook: Why Websites Fail to Make Money. He shows entrepreneurs how to attract and win new customers.