Off My Chest: Why We Should Be Grateful for Our "Haters"

That’s why it’s important to be mature enough to listen—not necessarily agree, but truly listen—to your haters. Being able to sift through people’s envy and bad intentions toward you for the valuable truths in their criticism is often a key to greatness—and sometimes even survival. Because, as much as we hate to admit it, sometimes the haters are right. The truth is, haters are good at pointing out our weaknesses precisely because they are being critical—unlike our supporters, they are looking for our flaws. Allowing your haters to point out your vulnerabilities is a great way to address them before they can be exploited.

So, I’ll take honest criticism over dishonest approval every time. You can always disagree with honest criticism. And it can help you keep your game tight. But too much dishonest approval will have you busted, disgusted, alone, unemployed and/or incarcerated. I’ve seen far more people done in by those who blindly approve of everything they say and do, than I’ve seen get destroyed by their critics. Haters can’t really hurt you unless you let them. But being surrounded by people cosigning on everything you do can literally get you killed.

But here’s the real reason you should be grateful for your haters: They will never just admit you’re right, you’re wonderful, you’re better than they are; they’ll force you to prove it. The need to prove haters wrong has always been a far more powerful motivator than the desire to justify the faith of supporters. It’s not our most loyal fans, but our most hated rivals who drive us to bring our A games and force us to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. For those of us who truly want to be the best at what we do, it’s our haters, not our supporters, who are more likely to motivate us to put in the 10,000 hours of practice Malcolm Gladwell says is necessary to achieve mastery in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. We let our fans (family, friends, even ourselves) down all the time. But we’ll be damned if we’ll let our haters see us at less than our best. Your fans may support and sustain you. But it’s your haters that force you to put up or shut up. And your haters are usually far more reliable than your fans are.

That’s why champions grow to respect their “haters.” They’ve learned that you can’t achieve greatness without them. Shepherd boy David needed Goliath and the Philistines to become King David. Muhammad Ali needed Joe Frazier and George Foreman to become the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of all time.) Michael Jordan and the Bulls needed Patrick Ewing and the Knicks (and especially their true haters, Knick fans). And you can’t convince me that Venus and Serena Williams would have all of those Grand Slam titles if the tennis world had welcomed them with open arms. By the way, these examples prove that appreciating what your haters have to say does not mean you should surrender to them. In fact, the best way to show you appreciate your haters is to hear them out, using their criticisms to identify and correct your weaknesses and get you focused and fired up to whip that a—ahem—win, anyway.

“Alfred, do you have a lot of haters?,” someone asked me on Twitter the other day. I’m sure I do, though I have no idea how many or even who most of them are. All I know is I’ve learned some of my best lessons at the hands of people I considered to be some of my toughest haters. Some of them may have really hated me. Still others were truly jealous and wanted to bring me down. Others may have actually thought they were doing me some good. No matter what their motivation, I’ve learned to value my opposition and to be open to their criticisms. I’d rather have real haters than fake fans.

So go ahead. Call out your haters. But don’t say it like it’s a bad thing. Get past their motives and how they say what they say. Focus on the content of their message and try to see what they see. And don’t be so obsessed with haters that you become one yourself. Because some of y’all on Twitter and Facebook really just need to let it go and get a life. Not trying to hate. I’m just saying.

Now, where my hatas at?

Pages: 1 2