How to Respond to that Negative Person
Letting negative in with the positive is part of doing business.
Of course negativity is a fact of life with all interactions but when it is tied to your solopreneurial business, sometimes it takes on monster proportions. Responding in a positive, professional way is the key to making sure that you don’t let it shut you down, that you keep your bridges open for future work and that you listen to what is really being said.
When the negative comes in and I have to respond, here is what I do (or try to do, because sometimes I don’t do it well at all):
Assess the damage
Sit on It
Silence is Golden
Let me explain:
Step 1. Assess the damage
Is the negativity generic or specific-but-professional (rejection letter, poor rating on Amazon, or Etsy). In this case, though I’m disappointed, I don’t allow myself to feel attacked. Important to note: It’s not personal. And - there might be a golden nugget of great advise in the review. In this case, I take note of how I might improve next time.
Then put on my big girl hat and respond in a positive, professional way: “Thank you so much for your [consideration][constructive feedback]. I hope we can work together in the future.”
Is the negativity personal or spiteful? Or seriously damaging to my business? This is different (but can happen) and I go to Step 2
Step 2. Sit on It
If the negativity feels too close to home (cutting down my work or attacking my abilities), then I resist responding to the person immediately. Ideally I wait 24 hours, and definitely (this is really important) I don’t respond to them while I’m still feeling angry, hurt or defensive. What I do instead is:
Step 3. Release Tension
When I receive (what I perceive to be) personal attacks, I am NOT calm, cool and collected - I’m furious, and hurt and feel very vulnerable.
But the mud-slinger doesn’t know that - and I don’t intend for her to ever find out!
Privately (key word here), I share the mud with someone close to me, someone who I know will take my side. (Don’t feel the people in your life will do that? Sometimes I actually have to tell my friend/husband what I need them to say: “Those comments were un-called for”, “You have a right to feel angry, hurt, disappointed!”). When I’m by myself, I tell myself those things in the mirror!
If the negativity is really tearing me up inside, then I write a letter to myself (or keep talking into the mirror) about how it really makes me feel. I let out all of the feelings and words I would secretly love to say out loud - not holding back and not editing myself. This is great for diffusing the angst inside my own head. NOTE: this release is ONLY into my private journal or to my reflection in the mirror.
This is about getting it off my shoulders, so I DON’T EVER SHARE this with anyone!! Afterwords, I like to tear the page out and have a little burn ceremony (fire pit at the beach, glass of wine, good friends - you get the picture)
Now that I’ve acknowledged my feelings and released them, I’m ready to put on my big girl hat and mind my manners:
Step 4. Miss Manners
I forgive the mud-slinger before I write. (Yup, this is hard).
I take a deep breath and resist my natural tendency to take it personally. Instead I remind myself of reasons why the mud-slinger is so negative and have compassion (she feels threatened, he is having a horrible day, etc). Because, of course, negativity is almost always rooted in the issues/vulnerabilities of the one slinging the mud.
I then compose with as much grace and positivity as I can muster (not perfect here), re-reading to make sure the writing is not defensive, passive aggressive or hurtful.
Golden Rule here: I try my hardest to never, ever, ever, stoop down to the level of the mud-slinger.
There are times when I ultimately have to call out bad behavior in order to maintain the integrity of my business, (though most of the time, the best thing to do is Step 5 - but we’ll get to that). So, without making it personal, I let them know how their action made me feel and unemotionally state my intention in as few words as possible. For instance: ‘After our meeting, I felt patronized and micromanaged. I believe now is not the right time for us to work together.’
Then, I Self Check by turning the table as if my letter was addressed to ME. This helps me re-assess how it sounds and adjust if the words are below-the-belt, defensive, passive aggressive or hurtful. It also helps to have someone else read it before I hit ‘Send’.
However, I always keep in mind…
Step 5. Silence is golden
Remember the old adage ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything!’.
I give myself permission to walk away, ignore, delete, toss away, burn on the fire pit… if the negative comment, or rejection is nasty or personal, or if responding does nothing but fuel the fire.
Also - Silence is absolutely the best way to handle mud being slung by a narcissistic who HAS to have the last word - I let her.
Silence IS golden.
Most importantly in all of this, I don’t let someone else take away my creative spirit! Click here to find out the 4 practices I do to Thrive Despite Negativity!
I’d love to hear how you respond to negativity!
Do you have special steps you take to respond to negativity?
Please share your advise in the comments below!
Remember - you deserve a colorful, vibrant and creative life - and what you create is beautiful!
All my best,