Before I begin, I’d like to preface this column with the fact that I am not a psychologist. Yet, I’ve noticed something over the years that seems universal to the majority of the human race. It doesn’t matter how many rave reviews or praise and applause one receives, because the second they receive negative feedback, the good no longer matters. We remember the bad.

I have a good friend who is an author and her work is usually always met with positive reviews. However, one particular time she received a negative comment that really ate at her. She could not let it go no matter how much we reassured her of her talent. We sat in disbelief at how much it impacted her. How can one bad review wipe out dozens of good ones? Then it happened to me.

What Did You Hear?

Throughout my time in the industry I have done a number of presentations and webinars. I often get a lot of questions and comments, which I don’t mind at all. One particular time after I had concluded a webinar, a viewer was confused by something he had heard. He had thought maybe he heard me wrong. I assured him that he heard me right. I even went into greater detail with some independent data to help explain what I had said. But, he wasn’t happy. He responded with, “You are an idiot, a dinosaur and deserve to be extinct.”

At first, I was certain that I had read his response wrong, but I did not. The comment burrowed under my skin and began to fester and like a mosquito bite, I could not resist the urge to scratch. Which in turn just made it worse. That was when my author friend laughed and said, “Not so easy to just let those comments go is it?” I had to acknowledge that she was right. We both agreed that ignoring it is best though it is difficult to do.

Jimmy Kimmel Live has a reoccurring segment called “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” in which Kimmel invites celebrities to read aloud to his audience the mean tweets about them. Most are funny and the celebrities for the most part just laugh it off. But I wonder how many of them were actually hurt by the tweets?

One of the celebrities featured on the segment was actor Benedict Cumberbatch. The tweet he read about himself said, “If you think Benedict Cumberbatch is attractive, I’m guessing you’d also quite enjoy staring directly at a cat’s anus.”

Cumberbatch laughed it off and said “Well someone did, and she put a ring on it,” and then he stuck his ringer finger up displaying the wedding ring. It was funny. Yet it was also sad because something about the way Cumberbatch responded showed me that he was actually a little hurt by the tweet. I suspect the mean tweeter was pleased that Cumberbatch seemed affected.

Not Everyone Agrees (the Same)

I recently did a program, and again the reviews were mostly positive. Then I got one that was not positive as the person misinterpreted what I had said. I replied and tried to be civil. Unfortunately, he had other plans and I had to resort to telling him to just not contact me anymore.

At this point, you may be asking yourself what the point of this column is. As contractors, it’s inevitable that one day you’ll have a customer that won’t be pleased, even if you did everything right. So it’s important that in this industry we take the negative feedback and learn from it, but we don’t allow it to overshadow all the positive work we have done, and all the positive reviews we’ve also received. We have to prepare and be tough.  

The other and more sobering reason is our teenagers. We hear about cyberbullying all the time. This is not something we had to worry about when we were teenagers. The young people today are more vulnerable to bullying than ever before, and there are multiple mediums now where bullying can occur. A lot of these young people don’t have the life experience needed to recognize, that just because someone says something about you, it doesn’t make it true. Many of our teens today may not have a support system they can turn to when times get tough or when people get mean. So, it’s our job to help guide them through this crazy little thing we call life. If you have or know a teenager, talk to them and point out to them the people who are there to help.

If this editorial helps at least one person understand that even us older, seasoned pros have to learn to ignore the cruelty of the world, then my time writing “Up Fronts” has been worth every second. Be safe, be well, and be decent to each other.