This morning I was a little shocked. Someone who I had never had a conversation with, who is an indirect competitor of my business, said something that was defamatory about my character.

12-months ago, I would have fallen in a heap, so devastated by someone actively going around (in this case internationally) to deliberately try and ensure that an opinion was made of me that is not only incorrect, but is made to ensure that others have the same opinion.

It's never nice to hear something being said about yourself, but after years of growing thicker skin, it now takes a bit more to stop me in my tracks. I now "get" that not everyone is going to like you, nor are they all going to think you are good looking, interesting, smart or that your business is anything to write home about. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Where this becomes grey is what they do with that opinion.

No-one is perfect
 and no-one says the right thing always or thinks pure thoughts on every occasion. As I have grown older, I am far more wise and much more understanding of people's motives and if people say something that may be misconstrued as being nasty or untruthful, I am a lot more forgiving. In fact, I am so forgiving that I am happy to mostly continue as their acquaintance and I no longer feel the need to discuss it with them personally. 

Why do people enjoy judging and putting down or belittling other people?

There are tactical (localized) and strategic (big picture) reasons that people choose to do this.

The tactical reason is a pretty simple psychological feedback loop. Most people like (1) being right, and (2) making others wrong. This gives people an immediate rush and feeling of righteousness, which is pleasurable.

The strategic reason can be more complex and involve more steps. Instead of the immediate rush that a person receives from being right/making others wrong, they may be doing this in service of a longer-range purpose. Typically this is part of a strategy or coerces or intimidates another person to take actions that benefit the intimidator.

“Criticism is another form of self-boasting” – Emmet Fox

Strategic seems to be at play here particularly given that it is a competitor in some form. At what age does one stop belittling others and start realizing that everyone is different and it is what makes us different that makes us beautiful. In business, particularly in my field, there is enough work for everyone. We have never put down a competitor and in fact, send prospects to competitor companies should they not fit our client profile or if we have too much work on at that point in time. Why not? With 27 million small businesses in the US, there really is enough work for everyone and marketing has never been more at the forefront of a businesses expenditure as it is today.

Remembering that people with low self-esteem, people who are unhappy in their lives, people who are frustrated with where they are in life are most susceptible to self-righteous indignation and can often say and do things that has reprocussions that they may not have first intended. By finding someone we believe to be less than or worse than ourselves and condemning him or her we manage to feel some sort of superiority. 

So, as a business person, what do you do? Do you not say anything when someone is making it their goal of defaming your character, or do you handle it head on? If they are a egomaniac and believe their own "bullshit", do you bring in the lawyers? What is this one person that seems adamant to not tell one person, but 100 - going to do to stop? Do you wait until they get bored and find someone else to pick on or tell lies about?

What would you do if you were in my shoes?
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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert with more than 20 years experience. Having founded and built two successful marketing companies internationally, she is well recognized as a industry thought leader and innovator. Mellissah started her career working with technology and professional services firms, primarily in marketing, public relations and investor relations, positioning a number of successful companies to list on the various Stock Exchanges around the world. She is a writer, technology developer and entrepreneur who shares her thoughts and experiences through blogs and written articles published in various media outlets. Brag sheet: #2 marketer to follow on Twitter (2003), Top 150 Marketers to Follow (2015), Top 10 innovative marketers (2014), 60K+ followers on Twitter with 97% authentic.

1 comment

  • Debra

    While your personal thought process is noble and definitely the correct path, you have to take into account what damage this person may (or may not) inflict on your business.

    If the assessment comes out: nothing or almost nothing, then I think you ignore it and disassociate yourself.

    If, on the other hand, you believe the ramifications and letting this go unchecked could pose long-term harm, then it needs to be addressed head on. (Either directly or through lawyers).

    Depends somewhat on country of origin, I suppose. In some countries a well-crafted letter from an attorney is enough to say: I mean business jerk! In other regions a direct phone call from you calling the person on it, might be the best way to resolve it.

    While their behavior may be childish, immature and bully-like. Your response can be professional and businesslike yet no-nonsense and tough.

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