When Hate Turns to Apathy

The only thing worse than haters is silence.

In the attention economy, losing wholesale support from vocal minorities as a result of shunning them — even publicly mocking them — is a worst case scenario. Isn’t that what companies and bloggers are asking for when they coldly dismiss disagreeing voices wholesale as haters?

Certainly, to some extent, the “Haters Going to Hate” concept is true. Some people will never agree. In fact, if everyone agrees with you, you’re not talking to enough people. Everyone with some level of online success has kvetches and trolls.

Yet, simply dismissing whole vocal minorities as haters seems like a dangerous proposition for a brand. Lack of responsiveness, and worse uncaring public refusals risks turning upset customers and advocates into the apathetic and the disenfranchised. All because the heat of criticism was too strong to bear. How much churn can a brand sustain?

This is particularly ironic for the social media expert who preaches listening. What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. Ah, the hypocrisy.

Perhaps in the end, it is better to acknowledge the differing voice, and respect the right to a minority opinion. Let someone else have the last word, and listen. Maybe, just maybe, they possess an element of truth.

And when we fail (and we all do), go back and own it. Sometimes the apology is well received. It is always a good personal reminder to keep our sides of the street clean in business, and in conversations.

Otherwise, enjoy the silence.

19 Replies to “When Hate Turns to Apathy”

  1. Even if they don’t possess an element of truth, let their voices be heard. Interesting how this Webinar started something much larger than itself.
    I always thought that when you react with threats or ignore the naysayers it’s simply because you don’t have anything to say.

    Sometimes silence says a lot more about a brand or a person than their words

    1. Ha, I was basically reminded of my own behavior with last week’s incidents, and it reminded me how telling people to go pound sand never really works out very well.

  2. The problem with ignoring detractors (especially very vocal ones) is that you’re missing the fact that they have a point. You might disagree with their perspective, but if it has any traction it’s useful to understand it. 

    And, sometimes, if you actually listen, you might learn something.

    I was taught early on that to argue passionately about something, you have to be able to acknowledge the “other side.” That’s served me well…and helped me win an argument or two over the years.

    1. Good points, Daria. I think by doing this we allow for compromise. And that in the end is what we all want.

  3. It is OK to be wrong every now and then. Even if you have a strong opinion no need to be a prick about it and box out any other options.

  4. One of my favorites quotes from Meg Wheatley relates to this: “We don’t have to let go of what we believe, butwedoneedtobe curious about what someone else believes.”
    Margaret Wheatley,Turning To One Another

  5. A vocal minority of detractors could be an opportunity to address a need that your product or service lacks and, perhaps, you might even identify a new niche market. It’s worth listening to evaluate and assess!

    1. And while it may not make sense now, that criticism could ring true later. One only knows what one knows at that time.

  6. It’s crucial to listen to your audience, both positive and negative feedback.  The positive affirms that we are creating value.  And the negative helps us grow as people and professionals.  If it wasn’t for the negative feedback, we would have a much harder time taking our biz to the next level.

  7. It’s crucial to listen to your audience, both positive and negative feedback.  The positive affirms that we are creating value.  And the negative helps us grow as people and professionals.  If it wasn’t for the negative feedback, we would have a much harder time taking our biz to the next level.

  8. I agree with the sentiment here, but what about true hate? Vile, destructive, personally-attacking, character assassination? Does that have a place in your comment section? Does that voice have a “right” to be heard? I know I’m in the minority on this but I don’t think that it does. Sure, constructive criticism, and even destructive criticism should be listened to, absorbed, and used to improve upon the product. But true hate? I don’t think any brand or organization needs to provide a platform for that.

    I view it as the living room rule: If I would have to kick you out of my living room for saying something, then I’d kick you off the platform for saying it, too. Lively debate and outright disagreement is totally OK. But hate and cruelty don’t deserve a platform. I don’t think brands need to embrace that.

    Maybe I’ve missed the point. Am I way off?

    1. No, I think you’re right. There’s a need for civility. I was playing off the haters going to hate meme.

  9. Makes me wonder just how often we get it all wrong because we swing too far toward this extreme or that. Baseless, ignorant hate which brings nothing to the table really has no place in the conversation, but there’s this twisted, growing pressure to dismiss even the slightest disagreements as hate and therefore not worth considering. On “Everyone Gets a Trophy Day,” nobody actually wins.

    Social media has grown exponentially as it has in recent years not because everyone has a smart phone, but because everyone wants their own voices heard in the global conversation. It is the embodiment of “Hello World,” here I am, and it’s unfortunate we’re willing to censure ourselves in order to be accepted by others.

    XKCD: Dreams (Possible NSFW due to inclusion of 4-letter word in large print.)

  10. This is so true!  the political debate, in particular, is filled with these ad hominem types of arguments.  In personal and professional debate, hearing that you are a “whiner”, a “complainer”, “don’t understand”, “hater” has an effect of silencing and shaming– stopping honest debate cold!  It is really a rhetorical devise purposely meant to silence, as far as I’m concerned, that dismisses other points of view.

  11. In life the opposite of love is not hate. It’s actually apathy, the ‘I don’t give a hoot’ flow. Silence is deadly and it can even hurt someone for a long time. Someone once told me, the silent one is the most difficult enemy. Hmm… what you guys think?

Comments are closed.