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10 words that erase most online hate.

I’m not sure if you’ve experienced this yet, but not everybody online is nice.

I know, it caught me off guard too! The first time it happened, I thought to myself, “Oh fiddlesticks!”

But I’ve learned something in the years I’ve been online.

There are 10 words that erase most online hate.

I know that sounds magical, but it’s really quite simple.

The next time someone you don’t know says something ugly to you, I want you to imagine they started their hateful statement with these 10 words:

“I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life.”

That’s all you have to do.

Someone tells you, “Your blog sucks!” I don’t want you to hear that. I want you to hear, “I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life. Your blog sucks!”

The problem is that most of the time we take online hate as if it’s been delivered from a dear friend.

It hasn’t.

That’s a random stranger.

Even if it’s someone who is actually part of your life, their ability to hate you proves one thing. That person doesn’t really know you.

Don’t give them a speaking role in the movie of your life, they’re an extra.

Does this work when it’s a friend hating on you? Maybe not, but I guarantee you’re treating casual friends like close friends when they hate on you.

Those are 10 easy words.

Print them out.

If you spend more than 10 minutes online you’ll probably need them.

About Author

Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff

90 Comments

  1. Jon, I could have have used those words last week. I got called out for a tweet saying I should have called someone a liar. I wish I had known he was giving me advice. I did tell him I knew him well enough to call him a liar as I did the first guy., which is I don’t. Kind of the same thing.

  2. Really thought queso would be one of the 10

  3. As a cartoonist, especially one who draws a comic about the Christian subculture, I get a lot of unsolicited advice about what I should and should not be writing/drawing about. Glad I finally know how to preface these comments. 🙂

  4. I am going to use that. Thanks, I know I am starting to make a mark because the haterade is coming out more.

  5. Melissa

    Needed this today. Thanks!

  6. Carla

    Great advice. By putting that caveat up front, you disarm the stranger’s power over you. Thanks 🙂

  7. I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life. You should watch Sherlock on the BBC because it has brilliant writing and acting performances.

  8. “Don’t give them a speaking role in the movie of your life, they’re an extra.” That was an amazing line!

  9. Linda Allen

    Genius! I’m going to share this with my adult children,

  10. David Harris

    Queso. Jesus Juke. Like Bear Attacks. There’s only 4 words left…

  11. Your ten words are as necessary and a prophylactic as a poncho and a plastic sheet durning Gallagher’s sledge-o-matic routine. The internet is a messy messy place.

  12. I like to imagine that this person is saying it to me IRL. I like to try and imagine what they look like, their tone of voice, and exactly what level of crazy eye they have. XD

    It actually helps, because the only folks that go up to random strangers and say such weirdly hateful stuff are hobos who talk to themselves and aren’t really aware of you anyways. Or they are that really weird and creepy guy on the elevator that you stay in your corner close to the door to avoid.

    Either way, it’s usually not someone I’d engage IRL, hateful comment or not.*

    *DISCLAIMER:* While helping the homeless is great, there’s a difference between feeding someone that very clearly is in their right mind and trying to engage in conversation with someone who’s clearly a loon. So, unless I have the funds to get the loon some psychiatric help, I’ll just stick to coins and meal provision..

  13. Chelsie

    I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life. I think you are absolutely amazing and love your posts! <3

  14. Mindy

    I’m married to a football coach and teacher. It’s absolutely ridiculous the amount of drama, strife, and gossip that parents stir up and complain about relating to their kids. A teacher/coach makes decisions and calls for a reason, but if the parents don’t know the background of why or they think their child should be exempt from those “rules,” then they are all out against how bad this teacher/coach is. I have seen this happen online as well, especially rampant in Christian community. People hear one statement about a situation and get all fired up without listening to the whole story. And then instead of looking for a way to remedy the situation, it becomes a judgmental commentary. I think far too often we are quick to speak and act which results in hasty comments that are hurtful and, many times, wrong. Your statement is a great reminder of making us take a step back and evaluate WHO is saying WHAT before we allow it to affect our feelings. These are great pieces lately, Jon. I’m really proud for you!!

  15. Cathy

    Love it!

    Here’s a twist. How can you adapt this line, “I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life,” when it is someone who knows you or who a student things is a friend (as is the case in many bullying situations)?

    • Ed

      Consider The Source.

      a) Do they have the qualifications to be offering advice?
      b) What is their motive for offering the advice?
      c) Have they demonstrated they are someone who should be listened to?

      • Janice

        I learned a long time ago that everyone has a right to their opinion, it does not mean it is correct or fact, it just means it is what they think. Look at who is saying it to you as much as what they are saying. What is their intention in saying it. Next, ask yourself if this person makes your life or you better by being around them and what they are saying. If they do not enhance your life then they do not need to be in your life.

  16. Ed

    I was given a three word phrase by my father early on in life and it is relevant for both on-line or verbal criticism, as well as for advice, too:

    “Consider The Source”

  17. Jon,
    These are great words to remember. You are exactly right that we give too much credence to these complete strangers online, even allowing them to overpower what we are told by loved ones who really do know us.

    Have a great day,
    Jake

  18. Good advice! There are so many trolls out there as it is. I imagine that this person is hurting and lashing out because they have nothing better to do. I pray for them and then try to move on. But sometimes those meanies hurt. We can’t give strangers that much power in our lives. And your blog does not suck so they are just liars 🙂

  19. Jay

    How do you define “hater” Jon? I’ve seen some of the banter you get into on Twitter, like the pastor and church you called out a couple weeks ago, and the guy’s original statement didn’t seem that “hateful.” Is everyone who criticizes a “hater”?

    • Which church and guy are you talking about? I don’t remember that?

      • Jay

        I don’t remember the Twitter handle, but he said something like about not following you to your new blog because of the lack of transparency over leaving Ramsey. You referred to it as “hate.” Hate is such a strong word. When I think of it, I think of racial slurs, hate crimes, etc, not someone who just says I’m not going to read your new blog. Hater and hate is such an overused work on the internet. Just my opinion.

        • Amy

          I think hater is defined as one who seeks to throw someone else off course, through blatantly obvious, fruitless (ungracious or constructive) criticism and negativity. Those who have to point out the perceived failures, faults, mistakes in others really aren’t worth the mental space. Nor are those who make ill-informed fool hardy judgments. We all blow it and make bad decisions at one point or another. Haters are just bullies who jump at the chance to capitalize on those (perceived) failures. If the only information we have on another person is gained solely through social media channels, then it’s safe to say we are not privy to their motives or any relevant behind-the-scenes footage of their life. Thus, we have no basis for the hate-ish-like behavior. Although this is not a scientifically calculated measure: I imagine the score in Jon’s comment section is something like
          Haters: 4
          Everyone Else: 974 or something ridiculous like that.

          p.s. 1) If your “How is hater defined?” question was genuine, I hope my comment helped…(although I can’t speak for Jon’s definition, since he and I are not BFF.) (…and actually, simple logic and deductive reasoning would take the context of the use of “hater” and determine that it probably doesn’t refer to someone who offers up advice, truth, or wisdom in a way that seeks to build someone up and not tear down. Just saying.

          2) If your “How is hater defined?” question was snarky and “hater-like”, then I hope my comment helped.

          • Jay

            What you describe is criticism, not hate. It might be unwarranted criticism and it might be overly negative, but it’s not hate. The meaning of hate, like love, has been totally lost, partially because of posts like this.

  20. Craig

    These are good words. I had 2 Facebook “acquaintances’s” de friend me for some highly political posts. Here’s what I said.

    “There should be a Chick-Fil-A in Vegas”.

    LOL. It bothered me a bit but this helped. Thanks!!

    • Jennifer

      On the other hand, you are a complete stranger, but I would friend you on FB for saying that exact thing!! There really really should be a chickfila here in Vegas!!

      • Craig

        Jennifer,

        I’m thinking of starting a campaign. I moved from California a few months ago. I miss Disneyland and Chick Fil A.

        Craig

  21. David Paul

    I witnessed two beautiful women suffer what I describe as nothing less than “journalistic rape”. Yes, they both were fighting addictions, both had legal problems. But the onslaught of disparagement was deserved by no one! When I see on line abuse by anyone, towards anyone, I ask myself “Am I going to be a part of this rape?”. The answer is always “NO”! Thank You for sharing. All My Best, David Paul

  22. JP

    Im a complete stranger and have some advice about your life. This blog is awesome! 🙂

  23. Honestly, I get more hate from people who DO know me than those we don’t. The online stranger is usually receptive to me, but those who know me…well. It’s like this — “You are a CPA so what do you know about writing or illness or hope or life?” That’s far less awesome than queso.

  24. LOVE this..

    ..that is all.

  25. Matthew Hensley

    10 years ago you couldn’t hear people talking ‘behind your back’. Now, with the invention of social networking, people are posting their thoughts about what seems like your every move. You can actually see the ‘behind the back’ conversations. We were still being ‘hated’ on more than ten years ago, it just wasn’t so widely known.

    I like the 10 word approach. “I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life.” Good stuff. Thanks for posting.

  26. I needed this post last week, right before I got a mean email. I let it eat away at my week. No more!

  27. Andy

    And then you add “Just sayin’…”

  28. Thank you . . . I needed this today. 🙁

  29. Diane

    The problem is that in my case, it was not a complete stranger. It was somebody who had known me very well for over a decade.

  30. Boy, did I ever need to read this. I was about to give up on the interwebz altogether. I wrote a post today about Halloween called “Christians Love Halloween (And If They Don’t, They Should)” and I’ve gotten accused of telling people to join the occult and giving Satan a foothold, etc. etc. Blergh. Thank-you for reminding me that these are complete strangers, not close friends.

  31. Wish I had a time machine so I could go back and apply this. Gold.

  32. As a singer/songwriter (and also a worship pastor), I heart this. You have to have a thick skin in my line of work, but sometimes the online hostility can be so … personal. Good reminder that it’s actually the opposite: it’s impersonal.

    Thanks Jon. Love what you do.

  33. It also helps to remind yourself that haters don’t typically really hate you. They hate themselves.

  34. JJ

    My mom always says, “Do they pay your rent? No? Then who cares what they think.”

  35. Candice

    Got it. I was just sorta thinking about it this morning. Not so much on fb but ya know how punctuation can change the tone of a statement? Lets take “You’re wrong.” Ending it with a period, exclamation point or a question mark completely changes the tone of the two word combination. In email lately with my colleagues I’m wondering what the heck I did to set them off and when I see them its all good. Are they over their mood? Is it my tone or theirs? It doesn’t matter much I guess but next time I choose to get all over-sensitive about it, I need to use 10 words a dude told me. 😉

  36. Dave McCarthy

    I thought Razzle-Dazzle works every time.

  37. Hi Jon,
    I get hate from total strangers when I give my opinion to news pages on Facebook. I have also gotten some hate on my websites. As you know, it really is upsetting, but I will remember this next time: “I’m a complete stranger and I have some advice about your life.” Then I will say, “No, thanks.” Thank you, Jon.

  38. Thanks Jon! I really could have used this about a month ago. Learning how to navigate negative comments has really been a challenge for me, I definitely have to add this to my thought process. I try to filter negative comments into 3 categories: Constructive Criticism, Negative Comments, Mean & Nasty. (my full thought process is here: http://thenaptimeceo.com/2013/10/16/3-ways-to-handle-negative-comments/) I definitely have to add this line to my third category – Thanks again!

    ~Megan
    (Hope the link is okay, I didn’t want to take up tons of space here.)

  39. Joshua

    I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life. You’re blog is cool. (How does it apply for compliments 🙂

  40. Jon,
    First of all welcome back to the blogosphere! I’m a big fan and wish you and your family the best!

    Thank you for teaching us not to give a second thought to “haters.” I had my first ugly comment a few months ago and automatically remembered what you’ve taught us over the past few years. I reminded myself that the commenter didn’t know me or my heart. Once I remembered this, I let it go. It was so freeing and I was so proud of myself! Thank you!!!

  41. Jen

    This is soooooo true.

    Michael Hyatt makes a great point in “Platform”, stating that he had to take the time to create specific groups of people (family, close friends, acquaintances, and fans/supporters) and then define them. Once he created those boundaries, it was easier to interact online.

    Family and close friends see more of your heart/character and like you said, the “I’m a stranger and have some advice about your life” is more for the people that aren’t in our inner circle.

    Great Post!!!

  42. Very true. I’ve started applying this to my business. Since it’s a non-profit, everyone feels like they need to give me feedback about how we operate, help people, etc. I modified your strategy to “I’m a complete stranger with advice about your business”. That way I get to hear funny statements instead of deflating statements. “I’m a complete stranger with advice about your business. You should spend less time bringing in money and you should give more money away.” Thanks Jon!

  43. I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life, I LOVE just about everything your write. Keep it coming Jon!

  44. Lynnie

    While driving this morning, NPR had a guest who was the author of an autobiography by E.E Cummings. Someone called in talking about a certain Mr. X who highly criticized E.E Cummings as being of an under developed intelligence (or words to that effect) and the guests response was, ” Yeah and who ever heard of Mr. X ? ”

    Best lesson for the day, “I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life.”

  45. Kirsten OQuinn

    Sigh. Jon should have his own brand of Queso. Or a blog about making Queso. “Acuff Makes Queso” … complete with pictures. Or a picture of Jon on the Queso jar. Like Paul Newman.

    Now I want some.

    This does not comply with my Hustle goals.

  46. Ellen

    I get mad at myself when I read something online that I really like, but then let my mind wander to the comments because they are rarely helpful or even civil. So here I am writing a comment.

    I get “haters are gonna hate.” It’s in the vernacular. Most all of us use it. And it isn’t going away.

    Unfortunately, it seems to have political/cultural origins with “hate” being redefined as disagreement and intolerance as not agreeing with the current consensus (or perceived consensus) about what is right or wrong.

  47. Kimberly

    I find it helpful to remember that the folks who have online temper tantrums/call names/act unnecessarily cruel all have one thing in common: In real life, they are meek, ineffectual nothings who would never, ever say what they just typed out loud.

  48. Nicole Knox

    So true – so relevant. As a people pleaser, there’s no better reminder for me that I’m living for that ‘audience of one.’

  49. This is going on my desk TODAY. Maybe FRAMED. I had my first “viral” blog post last week – 180,000 visits. The vast majority were supportive and kind, but there were a few really nastygram comments. Thank you for writing and sharing this!

  50. Becky

    “Even if it’s someone who is actually part of your life, their ability to hate you proves one thing. That person doesn’t really know you.”

    Jon, it’s as though I just sat down and explained to you all the pain and heartbreak I’ve been going through over the past five months, and you replied with this quote. It’s the beginning of the answer I’ve been praying for. Thank you.

  51. Sue M

    Sometimes a stranger is able to speak with more honesty. Important facets of my life existed which I wish strangers/acquaintances had expressed less “respect” for and more forthright challenging.
    But I likely wouldn’t have listened because until I was finally ready to hear I would have been deaf to it or I would have tried to find a wall such as not needing to care about their opinion for reasons such as those suggested here.
    How about really listening to criticism and evaluating it honestly, without all-purpose excuses, and maybe admitting that some things which sound hurtful are told in great concern and care and could do us good were we to be able to hear.

  52. Carroll R. Posey

    2 words: Thank. You.

  53. I so needed to read this today!

    I have been wallowing in a sea of self-pity over a few recent snarky blog & Facebook comments, since my critic’s math automatically ignores all the nice things people have to say and focuses only on the negative. I think sometimes people don’t realize that there is a real person with real feelings behind that computer screen and most of us pour our heart and soul into everything we put out there. Those callous zingers that take mere seconds to throw out can cause hours and days of hurt.

    In any case, thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  54. Thanks so much for this one! I think I’ll preface it with “Fiddlesticks” every time just to make it even more fun. Thanks thanks thanks. I need a plaque that says this. Suggestion from a stranger here, beware. Will you start selling those plaques?

  55. James Cook

    I’m a complete stranger with some advice about your life. There, now deal with the redundancy. 😉

  56. Brenda

    Not tryin to be a hater, but with “I’m” being a contraction that’s technically ten and a half words. 🙂

  57. Jennifer

    “I’m a complete stranger with some opinions about this post.”
    -Do you preface positive “advice” from people “about your life” the same way?
    -What is your definition of “hate” or “ugly” posts?
    -I think most comments (positive or negative) that are left aren’t actually “advice” per say, but rather just people’s opinions, and I hardly think they apply to your whole life, but rather just an isolated post.

  58. I have been blogging since 2008. When I first started, I anticipated haters. I had seen mean people on other blogs in other comments, and I thought they’d show up at mine, too. Miraculously, they never did. The kindest and most supportive people became my “regulars.” It was wonderful.

    And then, last month, I had my first viral post. And suddenly, my little blog was getting inundated with visitors and comments. Most of them were overwhelmingly positive, but there were a handful that were just plain mean.

    After crying and defending myself and giving them WAAAAY too much of my energy, I wrote this comment policy at the bottom of the post.

    ” I’m saddened that I even have to say this, as I have had the BEST readers for the last six years. But if you choose to comment, please be respectful and remain positive. You can disagree with me, but you can do so in a constructive way. I might actually learn something from you if you address me with respect. If you are rude, mean or disrespectful to me or to another commenter, I will delete your comment. There are millions of blogs that welcome profane, negative and otherwise life-sucking arguments in the comment section. This is not one of them. Thank you.”

    When haters showed up after that, I deleted the comments before they had a chance to rob me of my energy.

    I would never let someone talk to me like that in my home. I’ve decided my blog (and all other on-line spaces I control) will be no different.

    Buh bye, haters.

  59. If I’d had this in the genesis of Don’t Compare Yourself to Celebrities, the Kleenex company wouldn’t have had such a good year.

    Well said as always.