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How to Spot a “Hate Screener” (Haters Masquerading as Nice)

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A few years ago I hosted a telesummit (an online conference around a certain theme).

This was a huge step into the discomfort zone for me.

It required inviting a bunch of people I admired and interviewing them while thousands listened in. Enough said.

As if that wasn’t painful enough, I actually LOST MY VOICE during an interview.

It went from raspy but recognizable to, I shit you not, completely indecipherable. All over the course of an hour-long “interview” that felt like an eternity.

Humiliating.

I got an email shortly after from a listener.

“I was just listening to the call. It was great… Some heart-centered feedback for you, I really felt you spoke too much on the other calls. I am tuning in to hear your guests.  I love you, and think you are doing such an awesome job, but I really have been wanting to hear more from the speakers and letting them have a bit more free rein, and less about how your experiences relate. This interview was so great. So I hope you are okay with my gentle feedback.”

Wait…

She loved the interview because I couldn’t talk? I talked too much on the other calls? I shouldn’t share my experiences? But she loves me…? I’m doing an awesome job…?

I was so confused.

Now I finally know WHY I was so confused:

There’s a splinter group of Haters who have the clever talent of disguising themselves as nice people while simultaneously hating on you.

I thanked her for her “heart-centered” and “gentle” feedback.

But in the pit of my stomach I felt like I’d been punched.

Likewise I got a comment on my blog the other day… The reader “sincerely” wished me peace, a cup that runneth over. She even called me “girlfriend” and “honey.”

But she also referenced my brain… That it stirs with acidic trivial crap. She finished it off with a compliment, she thinks I’m beautiful…

I realize that we live in the same country and we speak the same language. We probably watch the same television shows and read some of the same books. But we are galaxies apart in what we deem important. I *used* to be something like you–worried about the climb, the intellectual and monetary status markers, what shoes to wear and what bag to carry and how my hair looked while I carry my overpriced latte’ to work. But girlfriend, now things are really different for me. I’ve been taken down quite a few pegs, and I am grateful to just pay my bills at the beginning of each month. I sincerely wish ONE THING for you, and that is–that you someday have enough. That your cup is someday full. That you can sit back and feel peace and never have that knot in your stomach or a worry line on your forehead. I sincerely do. Because honey, it’s nice to have ambition and drive and to strive for your dreams, but when it’s stirring your brain into an acidic whirlwind of trivial crap like this–time to re-evaluate what’s truly important. and PS–your hair doesn’t look like shit. You’re beautiful.

“She’s being mean, right?” I was so confused. I had to have my husband read it too.

“Hmm. No, babe. You’re just being too sensitive. I think she’s trying to be nice.”

WTF?

Okay people. Here’s how you can tell a hater from a well-intentioned person (it’s tricky!):

I don’t care how many times they tell you they’re “your friend,” or offer some kind of pet name like “honey,” or “sugar,” or “girlfriend…”

I don’t care if they claim their feedback is “heart centered” or “loving…”

They might even compliment you.

BUT a well-intentioned person’s feedback…

Doesn’t leave you sick to your stomach,

It doesn’t make you want to crawl out of your skin and into a hole with a fifth and stay there indefinitely,

Or leave you feeling confused and mildly guilty because, once again, you’re probably being “too sensitive,”

A well-intentioned person’s feedback…

Might make you cry because the truth sometimes does hurt (well-intentioned people tell you the truth even when it sometimes hurts),

But a well-intentioned person’s feedback doesn’t leave you…

ASHAMED

And it doesn’t make you want to…

GIVE UP

Right after you’ve done some big, monumental, out-of-your-comfort-zone thing.

So if you’re cowering under your desk right now in a drunken shame spiral, you may have just been “hate screened,” a word I just made up for…

A Hater masquerading as a well-intentioned person.

Like a smoke screen. Get it?

These are the most insidious kinds of Haters because, a lot of times, you can’t actually tell they’re haters.

So you feel guilty because, once again, you’re being too sensitive. Other people – even your husband — accuse you of misconstruing their feedback.

Shame on top of shame, people. If you’re not careful, a self-described “loving” comment by a hate screener can shut you down faster than the meanest of meanies. TWEET THAT

Here’s what these Hate Screeners have in common:

They create false intimacy.

They give you gifts, offer complements, call you their friend, even tell you they love you (but wait, you love me? We just met).

They “say” they want the best for you.

YET their “heart centered” feedback often comes after you’ve done something totally outside of your comfort zone. They love to squash you when you’re vulnerable.

They prey on approval addicts.

Like bees, Hate Screeners can smell fear. We approval addicts are terrified of any kind of criticism, rejection or judgment. Hate Screeners love this because the confusion they invoke in us — we can’t tell if they’re being nice or just acting like an asshole – allows them to control us. We either bend over backwards to do their bidding or let them completely shut us down.

They use “feedback” as a weapon (and it usually works)

All haters, not just Hate Screeners, know that criticism is a weapon that unfortunately works most of the time. Criticism especially when you’re doing something that puts you into the discomfort zone WORKS to shut you down because this is precisely when you are at your most vulnerable. When you are doing something new or uncomfortable, maybe even daring, you are THE MOST likely to BELIEVE the bullshit from haters then go into a shame spiral never to be seen again.

So here’s what to do when you think you might be “hate-screened”

  1. Ask Yourself: Is This Person “In the Arena?”
    True “heart-centered” feedback can be amazing but take Brene’s advice. When you’re in the “arena,” (as in doing something vulnerable) you get scratched, your clothes get torn, you break a rib (or lose your voice). When you’re stretching, expect to get dirty. When it comes to criticism, listen IF the other person is “in the arena” with you.
  1. Do a Gut Check
    If you got some “gentile” feedback but you feel sick to your stomach, it might be a hate-screener. Especially if the feedback came after you did something vulnerable and the feedback left you feeling ashamed. Unfortunately there are people out there who like to pounce when others are vulnerable (and disguise it as “love”).
  1. STEP AWAY from the Hate Screener.
    Do yourself a favor and remove this person from your orbit. For me, most hate screeners come from my email list. I unsubscribe them immediately. I used to have some friends like this. Now I know they were never real friends. Disengage with anyone who leaves you feeling bad about yourself.
  1. IMPORTANT: DO NOT LET THEM SHUT YOU DOWN
    I rarely get into a tet-a-tet with a hate screener. But I’m no longer that girl who says “thank you for your feedback,” either. I see too many amazing people get shut down by hate-screeners. Do NOT let them win. You are far too vital to let some disgruntled phoney take you down. Keep doing your thing.
  1. Surround Yourself with Reinforcement
    Hate Screeners suck. The good news is for every hate screener, there are 50 people who will go out of their way to really support you. I got an email once from someone who thought I was “too much.” I was too “unprofessional,” they said… “I would never hire you as a coach.” I considered toning it down a bit…until my real friends reminded me of how much they loved my work. Find your tribe. They’re out there, I promise.

YOUR TURN

Ever been “Hate Screened?”