Handling the Haters

midweekmadness Jun 23, 2021

     It’s the nature of humans to encounter those who feel they need to criticize, condemn, or complain about others. These are known as haters and critics, a special breed who seem to thrive on putting others down. Sadly, it seems like for women in STEM these folks are all too common.

     I’d love to say that at some point this will end, but it won’t. The key to staying excited about your career it to learn to handle them without destroying your self-esteem. This is hard, and well worth the effort.

     To get started pay attention to your thoughts and feelings around the situation. If you are finding yourself stressed, angry, and demoralized it’s time to get to work on gaining control again of your responses. Here three steps that will help you get started.

  1. Know your triggers. What is it about this person or this situation that is pushing you to despair? Are their comments feeding your doubts about your abilities? Are they hitting on fears you have around failing or making mistakes? Does it feel like they are out to get you or take your job? Once you know why the hater is getting to you so much, you can start to prove them wrong in your own mind. It will help you gain perspective on their comments.


  1. Seek to understand. Before you lash out or quit take some time to figure out why they are being so critical. What is going on in their role or life that is driving them to be critical. Often critics are acting out due to their fears or concerns instead of anything you did. Some are so afraid of looking stupid, or being wrong, they are quick to point out what others do incorrectly. They believe they look better when others look worse.


  1. Assert yourself. Once you learn why their comments bother you and you see what might be driving them, you can effectively stand up for yourself. If you are dealing with someone who constantly questions everything you say, you can ask “Joe what concerns do you have that you feel I am not addressing?” This isn’t saying you are wrong; you are giving them an opportunity to state their concerns in a way that indicates you’ll listen. They may have legitimate concerns that need to be out on the table, or they may have nothing specific which they have to then admit. If they say there is nothing specific you can respond with “Okay, I’d appreciate it if you would hold your comments until you have a specific concern that I can address.”

     Dealing with critics and haters is a part of working so learning how to handle them can reduce stress, build confidence, and grow your credibility. When someone is a vocal critic, others see the behavior and are watching how you respond. Responding with professional, assertive techniques shows that you are aware of yourself, other’s behavior, and can respond appropriately.

     Another benefit of paying attention to the criticism is that you can gain perspective that you wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s possible that something you have done had an unintended impact on the critic. While you didn’t intend harm, it may have been perceived that way. This is good to know so you can improve your performance. No one truly works alone; we all have interactions with others at some point in our day. How we handle them is key to our success and this includes the haters.


Reference sources:

Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Dr. Travis Bradberry

Confessions of a Condescending Colleague


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