How to Spot a “Hate Screener” (Haters Masquerading as Nice)

by Amy on July 27, 2015

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A few years ago I hosted a telesummit (an online conference around a certain theme).

This was a huge step into the discomfort zone for me.

It required inviting a bunch of people I admired and interviewing them while thousands listened in. Enough said.

As if that wasn’t painful enough, I actually LOST MY VOICE during an interview.

It went from raspy but recognizable to, I shit you not, completely indecipherable. All over the course of an hour-long “interview” that felt like an eternity.

Humiliating.

I got an email shortly after from a listener.

“I was just listening to the call. It was great… Some heart-centered feedback for you, I really felt you spoke too much on the other calls. I am tuning in to hear your guests.  I love you, and think you are doing such an awesome job, but I really have been wanting to hear more from the speakers and letting them have a bit more free rein, and less about how your experiences relate. This interview was so great. So I hope you are okay with my gentle feedback.”

Wait…

She loved the interview because I couldn’t talk? I talked too much on the other calls? I shouldn’t share my experiences? But she loves me…? I’m doing an awesome job…?

I was so confused.

Now I finally know WHY I was so confused:

There’s a splinter group of Haters who have the clever talent of disguising themselves as nice people while simultaneously hating on you.

I thanked her for her “heart-centered” and “gentle” feedback.

But in the pit of my stomach I felt like I’d been punched.

Likewise I got a comment on my blog the other day… The reader “sincerely” wished me peace, a cup that runneth over. She even called me “girlfriend” and “honey.”

But she also referenced my brain… That it stirs with acidic trivial crap. She finished it off with a compliment, she thinks I’m beautiful…

I realize that we live in the same country and we speak the same language. We probably watch the same television shows and read some of the same books. But we are galaxies apart in what we deem important. I *used* to be something like you–worried about the climb, the intellectual and monetary status markers, what shoes to wear and what bag to carry and how my hair looked while I carry my overpriced latte’ to work. But girlfriend, now things are really different for me. I’ve been taken down quite a few pegs, and I am grateful to just pay my bills at the beginning of each month. I sincerely wish ONE THING for you, and that is–that you someday have enough. That your cup is someday full. That you can sit back and feel peace and never have that knot in your stomach or a worry line on your forehead. I sincerely do. Because honey, it’s nice to have ambition and drive and to strive for your dreams, but when it’s stirring your brain into an acidic whirlwind of trivial crap like this–time to re-evaluate what’s truly important. and PS–your hair doesn’t look like shit. You’re beautiful.

“She’s being mean, right?” I was so confused. I had to have my husband read it too.

“Hmm. No, babe. You’re just being too sensitive. I think she’s trying to be nice.”

WTF?

Okay people. Here’s how you can tell a hater from a well-intentioned person (it’s tricky!):

I don’t care how many times they tell you they’re “your friend,” or offer some kind of pet name like “honey,” or “sugar,” or “girlfriend…”

I don’t care if they claim their feedback is “heart centered” or “loving…”

They might even compliment you.

BUT a well-intentioned person’s feedback…

Doesn’t leave you sick to your stomach,

It doesn’t make you want to crawl out of your skin and into a hole with a fifth and stay there indefinitely,

Or leave you feeling confused and mildly guilty because, once again, you’re probably being “too sensitive,”

A well-intentioned person’s feedback…

Might make you cry because the truth sometimes does hurt (well-intentioned people tell you the truth even when it sometimes hurts),

But a well-intentioned person’s feedback doesn’t leave you…

ASHAMED

And it doesn’t make you want to…

GIVE UP

Right after you’ve done some big, monumental, out-of-your-comfort-zone thing.

So if you’re cowering under your desk right now in a drunken shame spiral, you may have just been “hate screened,” a word I just made up for…

A Hater masquerading as a well-intentioned person.

Like a smoke screen. Get it?

These are the most insidious kinds of Haters because, a lot of times, you can’t actually tell they’re haters.

So you feel guilty because, once again, you’re being too sensitive. Other people – even your husband — accuse you of misconstruing their feedback.

Shame on top of shame, people. If you’re not careful, a self-described “loving” comment by a hate screener can shut you down faster than the meanest of meanies. TWEET THAT

Here’s what these Hate Screeners have in common:

They create false intimacy.

They give you gifts, offer complements, call you their friend, even tell you they love you (but wait, you love me? We just met).

They “say” they want the best for you.

YET their “heart centered” feedback often comes after you’ve done something totally outside of your comfort zone. They love to squash you when you’re vulnerable.

They prey on approval addicts.

Like bees, Hate Screeners can smell fear. We approval addicts are terrified of any kind of criticism, rejection or judgment. Hate Screeners love this because the confusion they invoke in us — we can’t tell if they’re being nice or just acting like an asshole – allows them to control us. We either bend over backwards to do their bidding or let them completely shut us down.

They use “feedback” as a weapon (and it usually works)

All haters, not just Hate Screeners, know that criticism is a weapon that unfortunately works most of the time. Criticism especially when you’re doing something that puts you into the discomfort zone WORKS to shut you down because this is precisely when you are at your most vulnerable. When you are doing something new or uncomfortable, maybe even daring, you are THE MOST likely to BELIEVE the bullshit from haters then go into a shame spiral never to be seen again.

So here’s what to do when you think you might be “hate-screened”

  1. Ask Yourself: Is This Person “In the Arena?”
    True “heart-centered” feedback can be amazing but take Brene’s advice. When you’re in the “arena,” (as in doing something vulnerable) you get scratched, your clothes get torn, you break a rib (or lose your voice). When you’re stretching, expect to get dirty. When it comes to criticism, listen IF the other person is “in the arena” with you.
  1. Do a Gut Check
    If you got some “gentile” feedback but you feel sick to your stomach, it might be a hate-screener. Especially if the feedback came after you did something vulnerable and the feedback left you feeling ashamed. Unfortunately there are people out there who like to pounce when others are vulnerable (and disguise it as “love”).
  1. STEP AWAY from the Hate Screener.
    Do yourself a favor and remove this person from your orbit. For me, most hate screeners come from my email list. I unsubscribe them immediately. I used to have some friends like this. Now I know they were never real friends. Disengage with anyone who leaves you feeling bad about yourself.
  1. IMPORTANT: DO NOT LET THEM SHUT YOU DOWN
    I rarely get into a tet-a-tet with a hate screener. But I’m no longer that girl who says “thank you for your feedback,” either. I see too many amazing people get shut down by hate-screeners. Do NOT let them win. You are far too vital to let some disgruntled phoney take you down. Keep doing your thing.
  1. Surround Yourself with Reinforcement
    Hate Screeners suck. The good news is for every hate screener, there are 50 people who will go out of their way to really support you. I got an email once from someone who thought I was “too much.” I was too “unprofessional,” they said… “I would never hire you as a coach.” I considered toning it down a bit…until my real friends reminded me of how much they loved my work. Find your tribe. They’re out there, I promise.

YOUR TURN

Ever been “Hate Screened?”

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill Farmer July 27, 2015 at 5:58 pm

This is great, Amy. It’s happened to me a number of times. And, if I’m being honest, I may have been guilty of this a couple of times in the past (insert deep cringe, here).
When I’m really honest with myself, when I’ve given the “I think you’re great and you just need to know…” kind of feedback it’s always coming from my own insecurity—I wanted whoever I was targeting with my “well-meaning” comments to say/act/write in a way that didn’t make me uncomfortable. Hello.
In the case of hate screening “feedback” I’ve gotten—the part you really illuminated for me in this piece is the saccharine-y false sweetness hate screeners use. I can now see I made that mean they cared about me, so I needed to take what they were saying seriously. I thought if they really liked me, their comments (no matter how off-base) needed to right.
Thanks for writing this.

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Amy July 27, 2015 at 8:58 pm

I just LOVE your honesty Jill! Thank you. It’s such a gift. “I wanted whoever I was targeting with my ‘well-meaning’ comments to say/act/write in a way that didn’t make me uncomfortable.” I think that’s it. We make other uncomfortable sometimes when we are growing and stretching. Or maybe someone has taken the hate screener “down a notch” and so they haven’t been stretching so when they see somebody else going for it, they take it upon themselves to take them down.

I totally fell for the saccharine-y sweetness part too. Sort of like in advertising when it says “best value” I blindly believed it. Just because someone says they “want the best” for me or that their feedback is “with love” doesn’t mean I have to believe it anymore. Thank you for sharing your comment here!

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Aurora July 27, 2015 at 7:01 pm

It’s human to get caught up in trivial crap, what I enjoy about you is that you are so open about your experiences! I don’t think feeling left out is trivial at all though. We’ve all been through it at some point and know how gut wrenching it can feel. Thank you for being you and sharing yourself with the world!

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Amy July 28, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Thank you Aurora. Feeling left out. The mind getting caught up in trivial crap. Ahh the human experience.

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Maritza July 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm

Amy, just saw this in my newsfeed… love it! You are so spot on with this article. I still struggle with “approval syndrome” and hater comments (or “helpful comments that are really what you call Hater screener). I try to just walk away and not engage reminding myself it’s more about them than about me or what I put out there. Beautiful job and so great to see what you’re doing!

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Amy July 28, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Thank you Maritza! So fun to see your comment! Just walk away. And it’s about them. Great advice.

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Barbara July 27, 2015 at 10:56 pm

So great – thanks for the reminder to listen to our instincts. When something makes us feel awful and want to quit, there’s a message in there that needs to be listened to. I have had this experience as well and can totally relate. Thanks for sharing!

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Amy July 28, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Hate screeners make it difficult to connect with our instincts because they seem on the surface to be acting in our interest which is why I wrote this. Listen to your instincts! Thanks so much for the comment!

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Miranda July 29, 2015 at 12:35 pm

I disagree with some of what you’ve said here, and am running the risk of being accused of being a ‘hate screener’ by saying so, but I’ll try my best to tread mindfully.

Conversations are difficult sometimes — often, actually. And on the internet it’s even more challenging, because we can’t hear tone of voice or see facial expressions or read body language or feel the energy emanating from the person. All we’ve got is words, and how we receive feedback is dependent on both the other person’s ability to communicate clearly and our own openness. And lots of times, the other person isn’t an expert at communication, and so they come across brusque or rude without meaning to be. (Plus, it doesn’t help that in our society we never really are taught how to give or receive feedback in a loving or helpful manner). And sometimes, how we receive what they’re saying is colored by the state we are in when we receive it — if I’m having a stressful day, I react worse to feedback than I do when I’m having a centered day.

I’ve been on both the receiving and the giving end of difficult feedback, and sometimes it can be, well, difficult. How can we tell someone how we feel, or impart wisdom or correction to them, without them taking offense? The thing is, we can’t always. Sometimes people are going to take offense no matter what we say. My family is extremely abusive/negative/manipulative, so no matter what I say or do, it is interpreted in the worst possible way. It’s not really about me at all, it’s about how they see the world. And they’re not the only people who are programmed to take things personally or to take offense to the most innocuous remarks. All I can do is try to communicate as openly and honestly as possible.

As I’ve gone through my growth journey of unlearning the programming they gave me and learning how to be an emotionally healthy person, I’ve found I’ve started to receive and interpret feedback and communication differently. I don’t read into things as much, because I found that suspicion felt too much like the slimy manipulative energy of my family. When people give me feedback and I feel a certain way, I don’t assume they’re being a hater, because that would be what my family would do. Instead, I examine both what they’re saying and my reaction. I sit with both, watching mindfully. I interpret it in the best light and see if there is a kernel of wisdom to be found in their feedback; if there isn’t, I toss it aside. And I also check to make sure I’m not gut reacting to feedback as though it is abuse — too often the two were combined in my childhood. Mostly, I just try to practice being kind through the whole experience, because that’s what I’ve found lessens the sting for me. When I think kindly about other people (“maybe they didn’t mean to be an asshole”) I feel so much better than when I think less kindly (which also happens often, especially on cranky days lol). And, most importantly, I am kind to myself about how I am feeling.

Sometimes people actually have something helpful to say. I am not you, so I cannot judge your feedback for you. When I read the first example you gave, it sounds like honest feedback to me, couched in tactful terms. The person didn’t accuse you of anything or say you did anything wrong, they just said they want to hear the speaker more. That’s merely a statement of preference. Doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it, it’s your interview series so you can (and should) run it however you like. The second person did sound more smug and fake, but maybe that’s just her writing style. Sometimes when I’m on a real high, I’ve said things that later I was like, “wow I hope I didn’t come off like a jerk there.” And I’ve been on the receiving end of those too, where I thought someone was being real snarky but then when we talked about it it had really come from a place of pure love and I had just been in a lower vibration when I’d read it — it’s really about the disparity of energy between the giver and the receiver.

I definitely believe there are hate screeners, because I’ve seen them and experienced them. It really is all about instinct — we can be more intuitive about people’s real motives than we give ourselves credit for. They prey on nice people or sensitive people, and sometimes they’re just people who haven’t worked out the kinks of meanness in their heart muscle yet. I had one former friend who would always make it sound like she was being so nice but the undercurrent was anything but.

I guess my point is, there are times we might feel hurt for another reason besides a hate screener, usually by taking it too personally or reading too much into it. Because of the abuse in my past, I am extra sensitive to people jumping to conclusions about things that other people say. I just think it’s important to bring mindfulness and critical thinking to every conversation, both inner & outer. I’m sorry I rambled on so long about it. <3

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Amy July 29, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Miranda! I definitely don’t think you’re a “hate screener” for disagreeing with me! And, testing my criteria above, I don’t feel like you just punched me in the stomach, I don’t feel shamed, and I don’t feel like giving up or crawling into a hole 🙂

I think you make lots of great points. Like you, many people with aprpoval issues have suffered abuse, emotional and verbal are BIG. So it’s very common for approval addicts like me to take things personally. I write about it here (http://www.livebrazen.com/2014/03/the-great-rejection-hoax/) in a post called The Great Rejection Hoax. It has gotten me in trouble many times 😉

BUT I have also been THAT person who doesn’t want to ruffle feathers so I just lay down like a doormat when someone has something passive aggressive to say or do. I’m also an “achiever.” In my heart I want to be front and center doing things in front of others. There have been a lot of people in my life — hate screeners — who pretend to have my best interests at heart but are simply trying to take me down a notch or two. Put me in my place.

It doesn’t shut me down anymore but it used to, big time. And in my work I see this shut down plenty of amazing women.

You are right. It is easy to misconstrue. Feedback is amazing. Your comments added to the conversation! And, sure, I considered the advice from the first gal who wrote me after I lost my voice. I considered not talking so much. But I decided against her feedback. (Plus, even if her feedback WAS well meaning, what kind of person offers THAT after someone has been thoroughly humiliated publicly? I don’t take feedback from anyone with good intentions who is missing that kind of compassion). Anyone who says I’m too much and doesn’t want to hire me as a coach… LIkewise, I say go find another coach!

So yep. I agree. Feedback is what we make of it. Just because somebody says my hair is purple doesn’t mean it is purple. The true ninja can hear it without getting triggered and take whatever is there that is helpful.

But too many amazing people get shut down by folks who are simply trying to manipulate and control and shame because they can or because that person is making THEM feel uncomfortable.

And that is why I wrote this. Thanks for your comments.

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Virginia July 30, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Thought provoking article with good comments. While it is not easy to ‘let it roll off’, sometimes that is just what we need to do. Comments from others are their opinion, their outlook. It really doesn’t have anything to do with us as individuals. If the words are useful, nice ! If not – let it go as quickly as you can. I’ve been suckered punched and it doesn’t feel good. Once I get past the hurt and “how dare they” phase, I simmer down and tell myself that they don’t really know me so I don’t have to believe it.
Thanks to all who shared.

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Amy July 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Yes. I once heard someone say, “if it’s about you then everyone in the room would share the same opinion.” This makes a lot of sense to me. Because everyone sees it differently.

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Ashley Waugh July 30, 2015 at 6:37 pm

You just saved me a year of therapy! Hate Sceeners is a genius label and it made me realize I stopped two things I loved because I listened to them: 1) I went to every Madison High School class reunion since I graduated in the class of 1960. After the 45 year reunion I got two e-mails that have caused me to never go back to another reunion. One said “you look beautiful, but you are too thin” I had just given up drinking and gone from size 14 to size 4 and was proud of that. The other e-mail said “just because you come from California back to Portland you don’t have to try to be so glamorous with your dyed blond hair and high heels….I respect you for your speaking career, but you could respect us and dress down.” (I had on black pants and a white and black leather jacket…how was that too glamorous? But it hurt so I never went back. Felt like the healing started today reading your Hate Screener e-mail. 2) I had a great speaking career that took me all over the world untl the 2008 recession. I tried to do teleseminars for the first time on a book I am writing called “Are you a Mentor or a Tormentor?….or “Sometimes” both ….a quick look at how we land on people. The e-mail comments after the first calls shut me down. “I loved seeing you in person where I could watch how you handled other people who challenged you …..I think you are all wrong for the phone ……wait until the recession is over and then show up in person and I will be there.” I didn’t realize until today that I let that half nice/half naughty comment stop me. Never stop your authentic work at bringing the shadow voice into the light. I am proud to be from the city you live and work in. Deep Thanks

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Amy July 31, 2015 at 4:52 pm

OMG Ashley! You have been the subject of some serious hate-screening! This makes me so pissed off. It’s exactly the kind of shit I am trying to highlight via this post. My hunch is that you are just so incredibly amazing that they see you and feel small in comparison. So they try to take you down. Don’t let them! Find the ones who will celebrate you. They are out there. I am HERE to tell you that I think it’s absolutely fucking amazing that you stopped drinking and released all that weight and now you are a size 4. And good for you for looking glamorous. Why should you have to dress down for anyone. That is not respect. GROSS. And WTF? You are using a new medium for getting your message out. Don’t let that person stop you!!! Don’t let any of them shut you down. Keep being your amazing self. BIGGER, BRIGHTER, SHINIER. As they say, shen you shine, you give us permission to shine too. And wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we did? xoxo

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Anne in Virginia-USA July 30, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Amy, your articulation of the concept of “rejection sensitivity” was a world-changer for me, and I’ve been practicing what I learned in your course. As a gold-star chaser & tough gal, I read your last blog post about your relapse into approval addiction–and self-coaching to recover–with sympathy and empathy. Being excluded from a group whose good opinion you value stings, even though we might value entirely different types of groups.

Your characterization of “hate screeners” is spot on, in my experience. For me, it’s the saccharine quality of their comments that gives them away. True sweetness feels different in my heart and gut, and doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste of shame or embarrassment. I suspect your smug respondent is an unrecovered approval addict herself. She seems to have misread the intent of your post, perhaps because she’s so busy convincing herself that she no longer cares about the opinion of the “cool kids” who once left her out. I agree about stepping away and saying, “It’s not for you” (to quote Seth Godin), and then looking for support and reinforcement.

Thank you for sharing your experiences so courageously, several times this month: in this two blog posts and in your wonderful storytelling performance.

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Amy July 31, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Yes I love that. True sweetness feels good. It doesn’t have that aftertaste of shame. Thanks Anne!

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Becky Bacon July 31, 2015 at 2:44 am

Amy, this was EXACTLY what I needed to read right now. Thank you SO much! (apologies upfront for length, but this story needs to be released from my head and heart)

As you know, I recently dipped my toe into Telesummit waters for the very first time recently. I am being open to trying new things, this is just one of the many things I plan to try and to see how it resonates with me. I’ve been way out of my comfort zone with this, and the vulnerability level is off the charts, I was overwhelmed and would cry daily (which is not normal for me). So, in the beginning I contacted a seasoned and well respected coach in my community that I admired and had huge regard and respect for, to see if they would be willing to be a guest speaker. At first they agreed very excitedly and what felt like open-heartedly. We had what I felt was an amazing first phone call and connection. But then, slowly and very stealthy, they started to put doubt in my mind about this event, my character, and how I should be changing my plan and do it another way (and not follow through on my commitment to myself to try this style of event). I immediately went into a tail spin, changed everything up, felt I heard some amazing insight from a mentor and how grateful I was that they “saved” me from potential doom.

Fast forward to when the time came to schedule the interview. I sent over a contract of commitment, something I wasn’t feeling great about, but trying to be more “business like” and professional about this event and my engagement with other professionals (new for me because I’m very casual). The response I ended up getting from this individual was some serious hate screening. At one point they said they LOVE helping people out, but felt I was coming from a place of “scarcity” (their word) and that they have NEVER in their entire illustrious career have signed a contract, so they had to back out because the “energy” just didn’t feel right anymore. And they wished me the best of luck.

Well, you can imagine the shame-hole that sent me into. It was days before I was willing to peek my head out again. AND I had all these other amazing speakers lined up and super excited to support me and the topic. I let this one hate screener really mess with my energy and vulnerability, I allowed this person to shut me down to a point I was willing to back out completely! And you know the investment of time, energy and money this type of event takes to get off the ground, it’s no small feat!

I then managed to make it worse by sending a groveling email to them thanking them “profusely” for being amazing and “no worries” about backing out, blah, blah, blah. But really I just allowed them make me feel like SHIT, and I thanked them for it. WTF! Whatever happened to, “No thank you, the timing isn’t good right now, but I want to wish you good luck with your event.” I actually would have preferred that answer, and it would have been the correct answer if you were no longer interested. Period.

In time, and after a few vulnerable posts they wrote about the challenges they are currently facing, it made me realize that their hate screening was all about THEM and not about me. That’s usually the case most the time, but it’s a very hard thing to remember when you are hanging out alone on vulnerability island.

Sadly, I will never look at this coach in the same way again. But it did help me in so many ways, I’m almost grateful for it. My event was great, and I got to connect with my tribe of people that reminded me of all the reasons I do what I do, and that I’m really fucking good at it. 🙂

Amy, thank you for this post. I needed to get this experience off my chest and release the negative energy that it still held. Done. I thought you were awesome before, but now I really think you are a fucking badass! Thank you for your vulnerability share. We are never alone on our paths.

Love.

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Amy July 31, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Yikes Becky! I’m so sorry that happened. Good for you for doing a summit. You are stretching and getting out of your comfort zone! And WTF? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve signed a contract for being in a summit. No big deal. Plus I totally did one too. You should have called me! Anyway, just want you to know that I think you are AMAZING for doing it! Glad you are standing in your power now that you’ve got that experience out of the way! xoxo

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Kim August 24, 2015 at 2:02 am

Hi Amy,

Great post, great comments and conversation. I definitely have approval syndrome, am very sensitive to comments/criticism, which I’m working on now in my 50s (why does it take us so long?). I love your style of writing and how you share your experiences and vulnerability. Also loved your post In Defense of NOT Smiling. (People even back in high school age used to always tell me to smile. I’m a reflective and mostly serious person.) My input on a hate screener…I’ll always remember this experience… Years ago, I was a secretary in a human resources dept. for a new company. I was 30, and friends with a co-worker in her early 20s. She had a degree and was an HR recruiter. We had a lot of fun outside and at work. THEN…a new recruiter was hired. They buddied up right away, sitting in one or the other’s cubicle laughing away. Suddenly, my “friend” was too good for me, a secretary. They actually sat in there sneering at me and the other clerk. The new recruiter ridiculed me for not eating ice cream and being vegetarian. I was and am very health conscious. They were not. She felt she was overweight, thought not really, and me very thin. Anyway, one day I made some remark about her ridiculing me, and the truth came out. She admitted to being envious of me for having so much self-control to not eat “junk food,” that she couldn’t control herself to lose weight and be more like my figure. I began dating one of the firemen at work, a very handsome catch. They were jealous of that. We’d all sit at a picnic table to eat lunch, and the “friend” would sit next to him and flirt like mad with him. Me being so insecure at that time (young and tender), I was fuming, and she loved it. He loved the attention too, which didn’t help. Nonetheless, they continued to be snooty and my “friend” was never again my friend. The facility closed down a year later, and we all parted. Nothing to do with running a business with people shutting me down, but very similar situation. Thanks for listening.

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