How to Deal With Online Haters

by Dr. Alison Chen ND | Follow on Twitter

My lack of confidence almost stopped me from blogging, continuing my website, and building freedom in my career.

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WHEN I FIRST STARTED MY WEBSITE in 2nd year of medical school, I was scared.

I thought, “I don’t know anything, I’m just a student”.

But I wrote about what I was learning and my thoughts.

No one really cared. No one commented. A few friends ‘liked’ my posts… but there wasn’t much feedback.

This is where the majority of people stop. It was fun for the first month but then it gets too time consuming without much reward.

But I persevered (somehow) with a handful of other students.

After graduation, I started to build the NDDC and began writing more on my personal website. I got a few more email opt-ins, a couple emails a week and more interaction on my Facebook page.

Great! As I was getting my message out there, I was helping people I’d never met! It wasn’t the same as helping a one-on-one patients, but I still felt like I was making a difference.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I was also drawing attraction to the nay-sayers of ‘natural medicine’.

You know the type. And you probably have had to respond to a few yourself.

Confrontation

Negative confrontation makes me uncomfortable. So much so that I almost stopped writing. The feeling was so intense that for a moment I wanted to be a nobody who just punched in and punched out without anyone caring about what I was doing.

You see, I’m a people pleaser, and as I wrote in a former Facebook post, I hate confrontation!

I don’t like being wrong. I don’t like conflict. And I don’t like to argue.

My knee-jerk reaction when confronted is to become defensive. How I often react is to stay silent and fade into the background.

Having my beliefs challenged is uncomfortable, HOWEVER, I know it is necessary.

I see the danger in surrounding myself with people who only agree with my position. I see the limitations in growth by not questioning my thoughts, beliefs and actions.

If you haven’t looked back at a protocol you wrote for a patient 12 months ago and see places for improvement, you aren’t growing. In medicine, we constantly smack our heads when we see flaws in our beliefs and treatment strategies.

I mean, in the 1500’s we were giving people mercury to cure syphilis, or so the story goes.

When I am emotionally invested in an idea it is nearly impossible to be logical and open to opposing suggestions. When you are emotionally investing in your patients and your own health, it’s easy to get defensive.

Knowing this, the only way to grow is to put emotional attachments to your identity aside. To be willing to be wrong for the sake of growth.

Biases

Are you heavily invested in an idea that may be limiting your growth? A certain diet, way of raising kids, style of dressing or a belief system?

Our past can haunt our future, if we let it. Without acknowledging the way we feel, act and think based on our past experiences will only perpetuate those feelings, actions and thinking. Even if they are seemingly beneficial, they are not applicable to all circumstances.

For example, being in control while in school was helpful to get good grades and feel successful. However, controlling the relationship with my partner is not as healthy.

Certain qualities you excel at will benefit you and can also hurt you. Your life is not one-dimensional. It is complex and require constant reflection and adaptation.

How to deal with Trolls, Haters and Critics

Jon always says that critics are very different from trolls and haters because they add value to a conversation.

Trolls – relentless personal blasting, no relevance to the issue, looking for recognition, stirring the pot for no reason but own entertainment.

Haters – constant negativity, aren’t willing to listen or see another point of view, stuck in their own beliefs, alignment in a one-sided perspective and often aggressive.

Critics – these are people who are trying to be part of the bigger picture by adding to the conversation. Maybe they misunderstood your point or didn’t read the article in full, this is your chance to recognize what they are saying and provide an alternate view. They are open but through their logical thinking and evidence have contrary views.

When dealing with trolls and haters, you have 4 options and in all cases, keep your emotion out of it. Never make personal attacks. You might have to take a day or two before deciding if you should respond or not if you are feeling emotional:

  1. Ignore
  2. Respond once with a logical and well-written comment. Don’t get caught up in an emotional back-and-forth hissy fit. State your comment with evidence, read it over for spelling and grammatical errors, then leave. Your goal is not to change the mind of the troll or hater, but to add logic and value to the onlookers who might be sitting on the fence.
  3. Delete and maybe ban the person if they continue to add negativity without value.
  4. Allow your audience to interact if the comments are funny or plain ridiculous. These opposing view can strengthen your own community and engage your fans.

Remember, conflict is good when you deal with it on a logical stand-point. It broadens your audience and allows you to be challenged. I strongly recommend NOT banning everything that is potentially negative or hurtful. In the end, it will damage you and your readers from seeing a broad and healthy point of view.

When dealing with critics, this is an opportunity to learn:

  1. Review your information and see if in fact you agree or disagree with the critique.
  2. Clarify your statement if it seems like they don’t understand your point, or maybe they didn’t actually read the article.
  3. Be open to opposing views, acknowledge their comments and remain neutral. There’s probably a lot more to learn about the topic.
  4. Ask your peers for their comments, suggestions for advanced research or literature, and try tagging an expert in the field to give their opinion.

When dealing with trolls, haters and critics, the idea is not to be right. If that’s your game, you will be just as bad as the opposing view.

“Allowing someone else to have their opinion doesn’t mean you condone their thoughts and it doesn’t mean you’re wrong.” –> Tweetable

Let go of the black and white picture. It’s possible to have opposing view be both right for specific people and situations.

Look at the bigger picture. A critic can help to expand your view and ability to be a logical and effective practitioner. Don’t get caught up in the mind games, it’s not worth it and it won’t help the situation.

Do you know who I am?

In university, my girlfriends and I would joke about being the “popular cheerleaders”. And while this was true in a tiny bubble, it’s not true as a whole.

You might be well-known in your field. You might have been the best student and intern at school, but in the “real world” you will need to introduce yourself.

Many people don’t actually know what Naturopathic doctors do. Many don’t know our education.

Maybe they’ve had a personal bad experience. Maybe they overheard an ND say something they didn’t agree with.

When a person attacks Naturopathic doctors or the profession it’s almost always personal. Not logical.

The excuse that we don’t use researched-based treatments is bullshit.

There will always be a reason that “our research” is not as good as “their research”. There will always be one ND who is slandering our profession’s name. And yes, there are ND’s who have switched over to the conventional route.

YES, it’s true… Naturopathic medicine is NOT everyone’s cup of tea.

But in every profession (even with MDs) there will be a bad apple and even professionals who switch their stance after being in practice.

Take the functional medicine movement right now. These started off as MDs who realize that the principles and practices of Naturopathic Medicine suit their ethical and philosophical clinical style best.

The thing about science and medicine is that we will ALL be wrong at some point. We will ALL realize that there is a better way to diagnose and treat x, y and z.

So let’s change the conversation.

Let’s stop attacking one another because in the end, we all have the same goals in mind (or at least I hope we do):

To support our patients to be healthier, happier and more empowered to take control of their diet, lifestyle and thoughts. To encourage disease prevention and take the stress off of our strained health care system.

Naturopathic doctors aren’t going anywhere. So let’s work together to educate one another.

If you think what I’m saying is wrong, let’s talk about it. For every piece of research, I’m sure you can find another study supporting opposing views.

The best we can do is take the evidence, our clinical experiences and our unique patient case to make an educated conclusion with as little bias as possible.

Sometimes those conclusions will be different. But lucky for us, no 2 patients are the same and each option may be the best thing for them given their specific situation.

My mission for my patients and readers is to empower and educate. My mission with the NDDC is to empower and educate the Naturopathic medical community.

This is why I’ve created “The Best Health Articles of the Week”, and the editors have only one job, to pick the best information out there, with as little bias as possible.

We feature MDs, personal trainers, Buddhists, nutritionist and major medical journals along with Naturopathic doctors.

If you are confronted by a “health expert”, invite them to share their opinions. You still have the ability to judge whether it’s best for your patient or not.

Even better, let them know that theNDDC accepts guest blogs and to be a candidate for “The Best Health Articles of the Week”.

This is your chance to educate, share and expand your beliefs in a constructive and empowering way, instead of attacking our teammates.

I believe Naturopathic doctors are part of a health care team and a bigger picture for our health care system. Working together to identify the best options for our patients, because (believe it or not) sometimes the textbooks and meta-analyses are not ideal.

If you or someone else has a website, blog or article that they’d like to be considered for “The Best Health Articles of the Week” please submit it to editorial@thenddc.com

So, I uncomfortably welcome critics with differing perspectives. I encourage having my view points broadened. And I embrace not taking myself so seriously.

And I think you should too. It beats hiding from being the best version of yourself as a practitioner and human being.

About the Author
Dr. Alison Chen ND

Dr. Alison Chen ND graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) and was the recipient of the humanitarian award. Her background in competitive gymnastics, personal training, and volunteer work in Africa gives her a well-rounded view to living well.   Since graduating Alison has traveled the world exploring different ways to think and teach about healing. She believes that education should be consumable and fun, so she created theNDDC and wrote an illustrated rhyming book about poo. Seriously, check out the poo book on Amazon here.