A funny thing has been happening since a panel of judges named me the UK’s best female coach… I’ve attracted more media attention (great!), more clients (awesome!) and a shedload of new trolls (groan!).
It’s not the first time I’ve had people being jackasses on my social media threads and this isn’t the first time I’ve written about it either. Some time ago, I wrote a piece for Medium explaining why I saw trolls as the ‘big bads’ in the game of life – they make an entrance when we’re about to level up.
So why am I writing about them again now? Well, partly because Malcolm Out Loud asked me to but, also, because I’m living proof that the more we shine, the more we rattle those cages of conformity, the more they’ll come out of the woodwork.
For me, there are different kinds of trolls:
- People who’ve been hurt in the past and are holding onto grudges.
I’ve had a couple of these over the years. I’m guessing they’re people who’ve had a less than ideal experience with a coach, or maybe they’ve been ripped off by one of those ‘run to the back of the room’ deals at a speaker event. I wrote about those for Medium too, after getting my own fingers badly burned. Thing is, if people really have been tripped up in the past, I can understand them wanting to lash out, but I really wish they wouldn’t just scroll through social media looking for someone who offers speaking / coaching / training and use them for target practice. Sure, there are cowboys and rip off merchants out there, but that doesn’t mean we’re all evil and out to strip you bare. Most of us are genuinely driven to help and create positive change for those who seek it. These are the people I’ll sometimes try to engage with – off the public wall and on private messenger where possible. It just might be worth a conversation and getting to understand where they’re coming from. It might not work out. You might not be able to clear up their issue, but you just might be able to help. There’s even a possibility that you could learn something from being willing to open your ears.
- People who are trying to attract attention and be ‘clever’ in front of their peers.
There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. One man’s ‘clever’ is another man’s ‘idiocy’. They’ll probably tire quickly and go back to watching videos of people base jumping and re-runs of Jackass.
- People who get their kicks from upsetting others and creating chaos.
These are usually the ones I end up blocking and, sometimes, reporting. I encountered a particularly virulent one on LinkedIn quite recently. He seemed to have absolutely no grasp of my work, my qualifications, my experience or success rates, made massive assumptions and went on to type some hugely inappropriate comments on one of my posts. He made totally out of line comments about an event I’m speaking at and even started picking off other people who’d posted on the thread. I actually tried to engage with this guy and find out what his issue was. He replied that he had no beef, but… and then began his diatribe again. Eventually, I blocked him and reported him, and then something interesting happened…This troll and I had one connection in common and said connection had leapt to my defence on the thread. My troll started messaging him privately and then blocked him. I’m told he’s also gone to the trouble to looking up my contact’s email address and has been emailing him too. It’s like he’s craving drama oxygen or something.In another twist, minutes after I blocked him, another troll appeared on another of my posts, berating me for blocking the first troll and saying he agreed with him. I replied that trolling me was one thing, but being rude to others on the thread took it over the line. The second troll retorted that I just couldn’t cope with people disagreeing.
Now, there’s another line. For me, there is a massive difference between disagreeing with someone and posting all kinds of unwarranted, inaccurate BS all over their content. I am always, always open to having a balanced, grown-up discussion with someone of a different viewpoint. It’s proper adulting, and I like to think I’m pretty good at it. We can learn so much from people with different views and value sets to our own, and I don’t believe it’s ever helpful to trap ourselves in a bubble full of people with the same opinions… something that’s so easy to do on social media, and something that only serves to further tunnel vision and create paranoia, dis-ease and a skewed world view.
This guy, though, wasn’t even attempting a grown-up discussion. He was just spraying nonsense all over my wall.
The second troll had a fake name and wore a glitter mask in his profile picture. I ended up blocking and reporting him too. I’m sure they had a good old WhatsApp moan about me later.
The Troll Guide
What I want you to understand, dear readers, is that there really is no prescribed right or wrong way to deal with a troll. Sure, we can be compassionate, we can be firm at the same time as being kind. We can learn to not take things personally. We can choose to engage, to ignore, to delete, to block or, if the trolling is really out of order, we can report. BUT… there’s no manual for this.
Some will tell you you’re just not mature enough if you take trolling personally, and I’m not sure that’s really helpful. That kind of ‘advice’ is only likely to serve up another batch of ‘less than’ beliefs for people who are already feeling ‘got at’.
Having said that, though I’m not a fan of the delivery, these advisors do have a bit of a point. Sort of…
Here’s what I mean:
Without a doubt (and I reckon my current experiences are proof of this), the more you shine, the more trolls you’ll attract. They’re like moths to a flame. You’ll be unwittingly bringing in some manure with the flowers. It’s the natural order of things.
Particularly if you run a business that requires you to be in the public eye, you will attract more and more trolling experiences as you grow and develop. The more visible you become, the more they’ll sling mud your way.
Eventually, as you get busier, you’ll realise that you can’t keep expending all that energy on haters. You’ll see them as the proverbial red herrings. Every time you’re wasting time on a troll, it’s time you could be spending on your real business – the one that fills you up, serves your clients and pays your bills. Until the banks start taking ‘troll time’ as payment, you’ll realise that you need to stop paying them so much attention – including allowing them to punch you right in the feels.
When you get to that point, chances are you’ll just scroll right past or, maybe, you’ll have a team of people to deal with them on your behalf. I guess you could say that’s a sign of maturity when it comes to trolls or, at least, your business or organisation maturing to the point where you no longer give them the time of day.
You know, some might say attracting trolls is a sign of success; someone once told me Oprah Winfrey was being targeted by 50 websites with the sole purpose of bringing her down. That’s proper hardcore trolling!
I have far more trolls than I used to. I also have far more clients, and they definitely outweigh the trolls.
I bet I have nowhere near as many ‘troll points’ as Tony Robbins, or Gary Vaynerchuk, or Oprah Winfrey. When I do score that highly, maybe that’s a sign that I’ve made it.
Maybe it’ll be the same for you.
Until next time,