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How to respond to trolls on the internet

My story of getting trolled by a CEO.

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It got to the point where I would anticipate his comment before I even hit Publish. 

It was 2020 and my biggest LinkedIn troll lurked in the shadows, only reemerging when I published my newest Gong Labs article, a data-driven blog series where I shared research and advice for closing more sales deals. 

I’d never met this guy in-person or virtually. But that didn’t stop him from absolutely hammering me in the comment sections. 

He called me a fraud. 

He told me my data was bullsh*t. 

He said my advice was garbage and no one should listen to me. 

All in public for everyone to see. 

He basically said anything he could to crush my credibility, make me feel like an imposter, and demolish my self-confidence. 

And it’s important to know one thing: This guy was a CEO.

He was a “competitor”— I give it air quotes because while they offered a similar product, they never competed with us in deals. 

I genuinely never heard of anyone actually using their software, they were essentially non-existent in our market, and if I mentioned his company right now you’d have to Google them. In short, they were a non-factor. An “ankle biter” at best.

But that didn’t stop the sting.

He was a CEO, and he used his title and years of experience to troll me on social media every chance he got. 

And even though my posts got dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of positive comments from readers, I would only remember what he said. Then I’d dwell on his negative words when going to bed that night and often for days afterwards. It was torture.

He pissed me off. He made me doubt myself. And for a time, he made me hate writing.

I was aware of this ripple effect and knew something had to change. I refused to let this guy bully me, but I also didn’t want to “clap back” at him in the comments. That’d just make me look insecure and defensive. 

I had to do something, but I didn’t know what. 

So I called my friend and writer DJ Waldow for advice. And his simple 4 words changed everything:

“I know it sucks, but never feed the trolls.” 

I didn’t like that answer. I pleaded my case for saying something, anything, to defend myself:

But DJ, you don’t get it, this guy SUCKS. 

He’s a CEO, why is he picking on ME?

What if I tell him off just ONE time?

DJ’s reasoning was simple: Once you reply, he wins. 

Because trolls aren’t trying to “win” an argument — they’re goal is to bait you into replying, into being defensive, into making you discredit yourself.

They just want to distract you, get under your skin, and throw you off your game. 

The only way to beat them is to ignore them. 

That might seem like wildly simple advice. But if you’ve ever been disrespected by someone, you know how challenging it is to turn the other cheek. 

So instead of replying to the Troll with all the explicit language I felt he deserved, I simply blocked him, deleted his comment, and moved on with my day. 

I went on publishing my research and I didn’t have to think or worry about him anymore. It felt good.

But as we all know, the internet has many trolls. And that has led me to this realization: 

If you’re going to publish content on social media, you need to embrace confrontation

Not everyone is going to agree with your ideas. And people on the internet will argue about pretty much anything. 

But that doesn’t mean everyone is a troll either. In my experience there are two types of “confrontational” comments:

  1. Trolling: They aim to discredit and disrespect. Do not feed them. 

  2. Disagreement: Someone doesn’t agree or like what you said. See if there’s any validity in their remarks.

The challenge is folks on the internet are often… rude. For some reason they’ll say things that are unnecessarily harsh though they’d probably never say it like that to your face. They’re disagreeing, but not respectfully.

We aren’t going to solve that behavior today, so let’s just accept and adapt. After publishing content on Linkedin for 5+ years now, I’ve had to rewire how I view and respond (not react) to dissenting views.

I ask “is this person being a hater, or just has a different opinion?”

That’s important because it decides if I even bother responding.

If they disagree — even if worded rudely — I push myself to try to understand their point of view. Often I learn something even if I don’t fully agree. And that might expand my perspective or inspire me to discuss in future content. Both are welcome.

It took me time to realize it, but disagreements in my comment section are actually a great thing. I welcome it.

Because disagreements spark conversation, and conversations are great for engagement. 

And engagement is the name of the game on social media after all. It’s kinda like the old adage “no press is bad press.”

I know it feels better to only see positivity in your comments, but the truth is, there’s value in disagreement. 

I hope you never have a CEO troll or someone bashing you on social media. But the truth is, if you’re publishing content online, you probably will. But that doesn’t mean it’s true, that you should stop publishing, or that your ideas aren’t good.

Just means you need a response strategy.

If you remember one thing from today, let it be this: we never feed the trolls.

Holler at you next Saturday,

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