Sunday, April 22, 2012

Branding Tip: How to Handle a Personal Attack (on You or Your Business)

Did they just write THAT?

No, they did not!!!  They did?!?  How DARE them!  What were they thinking?

As much as we'd like to think that everyone likes everything about us, I think we've all had thoughts like this--because they did not have anything nice to say.

Now, there is a different between somebody writing something that does not impress him or her about you or your service and somebody just opening fire and making personal attacks.

For those that need it, let's take a moment to provide examples that help explain the difference.

Unflattering but Legitimate Criticism vs. Personal Attack

Example A1: Somebody suggests that you ought to consider taking classes about how to improve your selling ability.

Example A2: Somebody tells you that you're rotten.

Sadly, both might be right, but which of these (between Example A1 & A2) gives you a chance to decide whether that person might be right?  Which of these helps identify a potential place for improvement?

I think that most of us agree that Example A1 does a better job.  It addresses a specific skill that might need work.  Plus, it offers a suggestion about how to potentially improve it.

The advice might not be accurate, but it was not a personal attack.

Example 2A: That was the stupidest post--ever!

Example 2B: I'm not sure that I see your point very clearly.  It seems like you might be saying (this)..Is that true?

Do we agree that Example 2A, while not technically a personal attack (it attacks the blog post), really provides no room for improvement or any chance of the target to retain any dignity?

How you handle these types of responses can greatly affect people's perception of you...and your brand.  So it's important that you provide the "whoever might be looking at how you respond" public a response that you would be proud to have them see.

Here is how I try to handle cases like this.

How to Handle a Personal Attack (on You or Your Business)

If you are someone, like Rush Limbaugh, who makes a living by finding ways to incite trouble and verbal wars, then you probably will not want to take very many of the steps I am going to suggest.

(Note: I am neither a fan nor a foe of Rush.  I single out him, because his tries to formulate his brand differently than I try to shape my brand.)

The brand I try to shape is to be someone who explains things with a casual tone so that the lesson is fun and easy to understand...and apply.  The other part of my "goal" brand is to treat people professionally and objectively.

It is this last part (treating people professionally and objectively) that this post helps address.

Therefore, here is how I respond to "attackers" to help earn that brand (people's perception of me).

0. Evaluate the Attack

The first thing I do is to ask myself whether there is any chance that this person might be right.

Am I offended because of the person's tone?  Am I reacting to something that embarrassed me about myself?

If I realize that the person might have some merit, then I thank the person for giving me the opportunity to see more clearly areas where I can improve.  None of us is perfect, and I am happy to learn how to make myself better.

If I realize that this person is off-base and is just simply being irresponsible with my reputation, then I collect my thoughts about how I want to approach him or her.

1. Acknowledge Your Attacker

You definitely do not want to ignore this, especially if this attack was made publicly.  This could lead to other people (who do not know as much about you) reaching the conclusion that you DID NOT defend yourself, because you COULD NOT defend yourself.

However, I do advise to handle this like an adult, even if that person's behavior seems childlike.

First, I acknowledge the person.  That means I repeat what that person wrote or said.

I usually add in a phrase, like "I might need some help from you clarifying (the statement they made)."

I add, "I might be misunderstanding, but it seems like you might be trying to communicate..."

2. Ask the Accuser a Question

When I don't agree with this person, I ask this person a chance to clarify what he or she meant.

"What you say (or wrote) seems like it would be quite offensive, but it's not clear to me.  Could you help me understand how you came to that realization?  I might be missing something really important."

That last sentence IS really important, because sometimes, we ARE boneheads or did something boneheaded--and we have NO IDEA.

Again, if that person answers with something legitimate, apologize and thank that person.  They've made it easier for you to improve yourself.

However, that person will either retreat (and might even apologize) or continue with irrational attacks.

3. Manage the Situation Publicly

Do not try to embarrass anyone, even if it feels like they might deserve it.  That would make you a bully, which is just as deplorable as the other person's attack on you.

If I feel that the person is not in the right, I usually will state that I don't see things the same way he or she does, and I try to provide reasons to explain why I disagree.

I might write something like, "We seem to have different viewpoints about this.  Personally, I hope that I am handling things the right way.  To accomplish this, here are some of the things I am doing.  If I what I wrote (or did) truly offended you, I apologize.  I guarantee that was NOT my objective."

Another way I might address it is to ask for a suggestion, "How would you suggest that I handle this differently?"

4. Managing the Situation Privately

In addition to sending a "public" response, where other people might (and probably will) see it, I also try to send a personalized note to the person.

My key points include
  • Acknowledging what he or she said or wrote
  • Acknowledging that he or she might be right
  • Mention something positive about the person (even if it is something like how they did not talk or write behind your back)
  • Quote the person
  • Make the person reflect ("If I wrote this about you, how do you think you would feel?")
  • Ask the Key Question ("Even if you are absolutely right about this, do you think that this was the best way to express this?)
  • Thank the Person (Let them know that I look forward to seeing responses that better reflect his or her--whatever good quality they have.)
Most people who leave negative public notices are not interested in waging personal wars.  In fact, most people do not want to be offensive themselves.

I try to give the person the benefit of the doubt that what they wrote reflected a bad moment rather than the fact that they suffer from a lifetime of having poor character.

If you treat people with respect, they usually return that respect.  That's not always true, but if you treat the attacker with DISRESPECT, what are the chances that they will treat you with respect?

More importantly, if other people see you disrespecting people, why would they want to respect you?

Respect others.  Unless you're someone like Rush Limbaugh, your personal or company brand depends upon it.

Like this post?  Other recent posts are

To see more Marketing Ideas, visit Chris' Marketing Ideas.

To visit The Ultimate Analyst company website click HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey there! Thank you for taking time to read my post and share your thoughts with me and my other readers. I'm always tickled when I get a non-SPAM comment. Honestly, sometimes I'm even okay with some borderline SPAM.

Let me know if you would like for me to address a topic by sending me an email at

Thanks, again. I look forward to seeing you soon.