“Why did you remove the comments section from your blog?” I asked. My friend is an avid blogger. He writes to entrepreneurs, and his blogs are filled with great stories and wisdom.
I connect with his writing on so many levels. I used to enjoy writing comments on his blog to add a bit of my experience to his topic for his readers and also to encourage him.
One day I went to write a comment, and there was no way to do it. He had removed that feature from his blog page. I gave him a call, and he told me, “There are a few people out there who really upset me. These aren’t the people who would write a contrary opinion once in a while or the people who expand on the point I was trying to make.
“No. These are the people who just wanted to attack no matter what I wrote. I guess they are just angry, maybe lonely. They would never go away. Anyway, I just didn’t want to deal with them anymore.” At the time, the idea was foreign.
But now I know firsthand.
The comments started with encouragement, but it wasn’t long before they turned to sarcasm and then criticism. I learned something about myself in this never-ending exchange. If I let them, these kind of people can destroy me. They consume my thinking. They have me questioning who I am versus who they say I am. They are clever and manipulative.
I am not sure what drives them.
They see the world through a lens which says they are right and the world is wrong…including me. They are just aching for a fight because eventually people stop listening to them. They take way too much energy to deal with. There is seemingly no way to get them out of your life. One of my friends calls them “black holes.” Eventually, the people they are pursuing tune them out. Turn them off. Then these black holes find someone else. That poor someone else.
I’ve been a public person in my community for over 20 years. During that time, I’ve only had three encounters with the type of people I am describing. As I thought about each of them, I realized they shared the same playbook.
- They target you.
- They come out of nowhere.
- They were never part of your network.
- They seem to be wherever you are.
- They appear to support and encourage you.
- They come across as sensible, interested, and quite normal.
- They ask for your help.
- They engage you with a need they have or an opportunity you must become a part of. In their mind, you are the exact right person to engage with them on this issue or opportunity.
They do and say everything they can to prove you are just the right person. In fact, the only person.
They insist on meeting with you and are relentless in their drip-like pursuit. Then they begin showing up at events you attend. They are always there.
It’s weird and unsettling.
You finally meet with them against your better judgment. You don’t want to take this distant relationship and make it closer.
In fact, you want to end it before it goes any further. So you think the best way to bring closure is to meet and be reasonable. Talk it through.
They tell you what you need to do to help them.
They become insistent.
They act as if you agreed to help, even though you told them “No” in no uncertain terms. But now they are closer to you. So the emails keep coming. They begin to insult.
They’ll compliment in one paragraph and insult in the next. They begin to besmirch your credibility in your community by blind-copying other influencers. Now you are the bad person and the bad businessman. You are the idiot who is totally unreasonable and treating them unfairly.
How do you get out of this relationship? How do you fix it? How do you make it go away?
Cut it off.
You tell them to stop coming to the events you are responsible for. You can’t tell them to stop coming to other organizations’ events, but you can tell them to not show up at your events. You then put a block on your email and phone so they can’t contact you. This stops the poison from continuing to spread to you.
You must separate.
If you are in the public eye, this will happen. If it hasn’t happened, it will. There is no avoiding it.
But now you have something I didn’t have. You have their playbook.