Why you need haters in your life

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Nobody told you this little secret, but some people will hate you. There’s nothing you can do. It’s one of life’s sweet guarantees, along with death and taxes. Don’t worry, though. You can do better than ignore the hate. You can learn from it, and thrive off it.

My first hater confessed to me in high school.

We ran track together. After a year competing on the same team, this girl finally took a deep breath and explained all the reasons she couldn’t stand me. She hated the way I encouraged other people.

She hated that I always took practice so seriously. She hated that I never skipped a day or slacked off on a run. Finally, she hated how nothing ever seemed to bother me.

So I gave her another reason to hate me. I laughed and walked off. What else was I going to do, hide drugs in her locker? I’d never do that.

You can learn a lot from your haters. They reflect your biggest strengths and weaknesses. Your most prominent personality traits often attract the most hate. I have a friend with strong opinions and a big laugh. She’s confident. At least five people I know of can’t stand her.

And they can’t stand her because of her laugh, her honesty, and her confidence. They say things like, “I can’t stand the way she thinks she’s better than everyone else.”

That tells my friend everything she needs to know about their worth.

Don’t waste your time on petty people. They want you to seek their approval, only to withhold it. Because that makes them feel important.

It’s all they have.

Some people hate me so much they’ve tried to get me fired. Why? Because a couple of times I said what I really thought during a meeting. Terrible move, I know. Nothing pisses off some people like those four simple words: “I think you’re wrong.”

There comes a time when you can’t be diplomatic. You have to be direct. And that will make some people hate you.

One time, I listened to a professor talk at length about how he failed students routinely for citation errors in their papers. He called it plagiarism. After five minutes, I unzipped my mouth and told him what he was doing to his students was terrible. He blew up at me, filed a written complaint about my behavior, and then ignored me for six months. All winter, we passed in the halls without speaking.

Until the department chair put me in charge of a committee he served on. Suddenly, the guy was all smiles and sunshine. He pretended our spat had never happened. Oh, I should’ve baked some pie for him that day. But I didn’t. I allowed him to save a little face.

Sometimes, you’ll have to put yourself first. Doing that will also make some people hate you.

A few years ago, I abandoned a friend on the way to a conference. I’d offered to give her a ride. We planned to drive down overnight to make our presentation the next morning.

What happened? When I showed up at her apartment, she texted me from a bar. When I drove to the bar, she texted me from another bar. Then finally she called and explained how wasted she was.

“You’re going to have to wait for me to sober up,” she began. “Unless you want to drive the whole way while I sleep.” So I hung up on her and drove the trip solo. I wasn’t going to have a lush in my car on a six-hour road trip. That pretty much ended our friendship. My friend missed her presentation and lost about $200 in registration and hotel money.

She sent me a nasty email demanding my reimbursement.

I deleted it without responding.

Some people will hate you for being different. You think, look, or live some way that offends them.

Or you break rules.

Nothing irritates some people like a desire to experiment and take risks. They want everyone to wear seat belts on their brains.

I’ve been told, “You can’t do it like that” a hundred times. But when I do, and it works, some people grow furious.

Sometimes, you’ll have to watch people drown. Metaphorically speaking, at least. I’ve never stood in a position to literally watch someone drown. But that might happen yet. I’m only 30-something.

More than once, a team member has tried to slack off and ride my coattails. These people have an act where they fake confusion and reach out to everyone around them for excuses and face savers.

Me? I don’t toss out life preservers to everyone. If I think someone deserves embarrassment, then I stand back and let it happen. I’ve never thrown anyone under the bus. But sometimes I see the bus coming and get out of the way…And that’s why some of these people hate me. They think that if I don’t let their bus run over me, too, then I somehow sabotaged them.

A lot of people describe me as “not nice.” That’s fine. You can be kind and fair without acting nice. You can do favors when you decide, not every time someone asks. You can reserve friendship and sacrifices for people who’ve earned your trust and respect. You can dispense with small talk and small graces when you feel like someone needs to hear direct criticism. Living like that will make you some foes.

So if you have a list of haters, write them down. Write down the reasons why they seem to hate you. Do more of that. Give them more reasons to hate you. Until their hate grinds them down into a little grain of salt.

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