7 Ways to Turn Hate Mail into Great Mail

The old saying in customer service is, “A complaint is a compliment.”

If that’s true, then hate mail must be a dozen roses.

I only say that because, in my four years of business, I’ve received my fair share of hate mail.

Now, without going into a whole dissertation about the irony of hate mail being sent to a man who wears a nametag 24-7 to make the world friendlier, I do want to share 7 ways to turn hate mail into great mail.

1. Humor. First of all, at least half of the world’s hate mail is sent from invalid sources. This list of jerks includes – but isn’t limited to – ignorant adolescents, intoxicated persons, general idiots, uneducated anonymous loudmouths, no-life negative-nay-sayers and standard player-haters. So, if you can uncover the superficiality of someone’s ridiculous claims and realize that he has no evidence to support his arguments, you’ll probably start laughing.

Keep your favorite pieces of hate mail in a folder, or even posted on your wall.

2. Loyalty. If someone leaves a cutting, negative comment on your blog, message board or forum, don’t delete it. More often than not, your fans, customers, friends and loyalists will come to your rescue and defend you. Because that’s what fans do. For example, years ago, Kevin Smith started a website called www.kevinsmithsucks.com. He posted his own hate mail just so others would come to his defense. And they did.

Allow the negative comments to remain, and the people who love you will come to your rescue.

3. Feedback. On occasion, a piece of hate mail might make a good point. My suggestion is to reply to the person (providing they actually leave an email, which they don’t often do), and thank them for their comments. Explain how you plan to use their feedback to make positive change to your organization. Of course, don’t antagonize them. Just be grateful. In my experience, I’ve made major changes to my ideas simply because a hate mail letter was spot on.
Don’t be so close-minded to think that ALL hate mail is incorrect.

4. Leverage. Two of my best pieces of hate mail have become two of my best stories. One has to do with commitment; the other has to do with innovation. The best part is: when I tell those stories during a speech, they always get the audience on my side and support my points better than any other story could.

Brainstorm three people with whom you could share your latest piece of hate mail. Get ‘em on your side.

5. Motivation. Hate mail is a great motivator. Hell, I even thanked all of the people who sent me hate mail in the acknowledgements section of my second book! After all, their letters only made me finish that book sooner.

There’s nothing like someone telling you that you can’t do it to make you do it.

6. Reinforcement. Senders of hate mail also tend to be jealous of your success, probably because they’re not successful themselves. It’s like Steven Pressfield explained in The War of Art: “When people see you begin to live you authentic lives, it drives them crazy because they’re not living their own.” So, haters do this because they have no parade of their own. That’s why they’ve chosen to rain on yours. Which means you’re probably doing something right.

Every time you get a piece of hate mail, jump up and down and yell, “YES! I DID IT!”

7. Personal Growth. Valid or not, all hate mail is a perfect way to test patience and positive attitude. Think about it: if you get an anonymous letter from an ignorant person who thinks you’re stupid, you don’t have to let it get you down. How you react is your choice. Of course, if you do react negatively, take it personally and get all defensive, then maybe you are stupid.

Each piece of hate mail is a test of your ability to respond positively to a negative stimulus.

The deal is: you always have a choice.

When someone sends you hate mail, it’s all about your response. Ultimately, criticism keeps you in check when it’s right, and keeps you in chuckles when it’s ridiculous. And the way I see it, using positive turn-around techniques like the ones I’ve mentioned are sure-fire ways to leverage negative comments to your advantage.

Now, allow me to close this article with my all-time-favorite hate mail example. Actually, it wasn’t so much a piece of hate mail as it was a death threat:

It came about three years ago from some guy in New York City. He left a note on my guestbook that read (and I quote), “Scott, if you ever come to New York, I’ll f***ing kill you!”

Seriously, I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in years. It was the funniest letter I’d ever read. I’ll kill you?! You can’t make that stuff up! A death threat?! Are you kidding me?! It was so great, I not only told all my friends about it; not only posted it on my bulletin board and my blog; but I even replied to the guy and thanked him for his letter. (After all, how could I turn down a dozen roses?)

And believe it or not, he wrote me back! In fact, he was SO shocked to receive such a positive response, that he actually apologized for his harsh words.

Now that’s what I call turning hate mail into great mail!

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Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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