Whenever you try to start something new or do something different, you’re going to run up against resistance. People who say it can’t be done or that you’re not good enough.
“Be realistic,” they say.
There’s a convenient term we often apply to such people: Haters
And yes, some of them certainly are. Haters can manifest in the form of online trolls commenting that you’re fat or that you’re stupid or [insert ethnic slur]. Unfortunately, haters can sometimes be very close to you — jealous friends or family members who secretly wish they also had the courage and the motivation to pursue their dreams.
Nonetheless, I don’t think we should always be so quick to label someone a hater. Before we dismiss someone as simply “hating” or sipping the Haterade, we should consider their perspective.
Now, certainly, if it’s just a troll on the Internet or the like who insults our looks, intelligence, or background or offers nothing of value, we can safely place that person’s comments in the Hater bin. Their comments are irrelevant and we shouldn’t lose sleep over them.
But, what if sometimes the criticism is constructive? What if it’s coming from someone who we know has our best interests at heart? Does this mean we have to accept it or heed the advice? No, not at all. But, we don’t have to necessarily accuse them of being a hater either. Sometimes their negativity stems from genuine concern. They don’t want to see you hurt, disappointed, or face the sting of failure and rejection. They may indeed be wrong to discourage you, but their misgivings may be coming from a good place. In that case, you can simply hear them out, but then do exactly what you were going to do anyway.
In other cases, the criticism they’re giving you may be constructive. Perhaps, your product really does have some kinks that need to be worked out. Maybe after ten years of waiting tables and trying to make it in Hollywood, it’s time to reconsider making a full-time living from acting. Perhaps, your business model could indeed use some improvement. Maybe you’re not charging enough. Maybe you’re charging too much. Maybe you’re not really as funny or charming as you think you are. Maybe your presentations could use some work and you would truly benefit from a public speaking course.
Before going off on someone and accusing them of being a hater, stop and consider a) if their criticism is coming from a good place or b) if their criticism is valid. If their feedback meets either of those criteria or both, then you may want to consider it, or at least not dismiss the person as a hater.
If you’re trying to build something bigger than yourself or do something most people wouldn’t dare to attempt, then you’re going to have to get used to hearing some nay-saying. You’re also going to have to deal with haters.
An entrepreneur or anyone else trying to do something difficult needs to develop a thick skin as well as a filter that allows one to not care or take to heart what people think on the one hand, and on the other, be able to listen. Knowing when to listen and when to tune out is an important skill that will serve you well in entrepreneurship and in any higher pursuit.
It’s important for an entrepreneur, or anyone else for that matter, to be able to handle constructive criticism. It’s all too easy to be sensitive and react defensively when we think our abilities, ideas, or ways of doing things are under attack. And, it’s far easier to dismiss someone as a hater than it is to look in the mirror and examine our own flaws or the flaws in our business and discover that we may have to some changes to make that are difficult or uncomfortable.
If you don’t handle constructive criticism well, you won’t be able to grow. The big businesses that failed were often ones with a culture of “yes-men” and “yes-women” where dissent was crushed and the top ignored problems or refused to listen to criticism from customers or other members of the team or organization.
Having a thick skin doesn’t only mean letting the hate and the haters roll off your back. It also means being able to listen to and, sometimes, act on constructive criticism, rather than get upset. Use it to get better, pivot, adjust, or improve. Because not everyone’s a hater and not every hater is completely wrong all of the time.