Advice, Brave Up, Breakthroughs, Empowerment, Following Your Dreams, Inspiration for Change How To Handle Being Insulted Online Written by: Kathy Caprino


Today, I woke up and took a look at my emails on my phone, only to see that I’d been insulted on LinkedIn.  The insult came as a response to a comment I made while sharing a post from my friend William Arruda on 7 Parenting Traits that Help Children Succeed At Work.

The parenting trait that I indicated was my favorite in the list was humility. I won’t dignify the insult I got by repeating it verbatim, but basically, the commentator smacked me down with a few sentences on how I don’t display any humility, so how can I say I like it?  And if I do “like” humility, what do I think it means? (insinuating that I must not understand the definition of it because I’m totally without it). And he’ll be happy to educate me on how I have no humility.

From the moment I read this insult, my morning was darkened.  I noticed I started to breathe more shallowly, and my head and heart starting churning with hurt. I agonized over what to do in response. Should I leave it? Should I respond? And if so, what exactly should I say?

As one who discusses every day the need for women to speak up more publicly and assertively, I felt that saying nothing was the weak way out. For me, not responding felt equivalent to not being the person I wanted to be.

But as I got thinking more about speaking up to this critic, I began having some post-traumatic stress around being hurt and smacked down earlier in my life, after speaking up or “showing up” in a bigger way earlier. Suddenly, I had a flashback of a series of scary, nighttime obscene phone calls I received as a teen girl after being a lead in a school musical, which made me afraid to go to school.

Then, I had a flashback of a very frightening time as a therapy intern years ago, when I asserted myself powerfully to one of my rageful, out-of-control male clients who had a violent past. His response made me feel that he might possibly harm or attack me (as we were alone in the office at that time in the evening). I was terribly afraid as my hand hovered over the red “HELP” button that, when pushed, would summon the police in a few instants.

All this to say that if I’m having these feelings and flashbacks after being insulted digitally — and I’m very used to having my work critiqued in the public eye — I’m guessing that many of you who are reading this can relate deeply to how awful it feels to be insulted online. Especially when the attack is personal and rips at your core personality and the way you engage with the world.

I’d love to share some info that might be helpful to you (and to me), going forward, in how to deal with being insulted publicly.

Here’s my take:

First, we need to get hip to what to expect

I put out a lot of content every week, and some of it is certainly controversial, so I’ve had to steel myself to accept that what I share will inflame some folks. In fact, I’ve come to see that that if I’m not getting people hot beneath the collar and agitated, I’m probably not saying much that’s different, important or helpful.

So lesson #1 for me has been that if I want to share my personal take on issues, especially deep and controversial ones, I simply have to be prepared for people to offer their own personal take that may be very different, and very emotionally charged.

And I also have to accept that I’ll be criticized, and perhaps not in a respectful way. That’s just the price we pay for speaking out and up about complex, important issues that have no easy answer.

Secondly, we have to realize that there are some people lurking out there who are true haters

Most of us are not haters. Most are kind, compassionate, and caring and have some empathy for other people, even strangers. And most of us don’t want to tear people down because we disagree with them.  Nor do we want to rip apart a stranger – we’re just not triggered in that way, usually.

But the anonymity of the internet has made us more cruel. We would be too naive if we didn’t understand that there are indeed haters in the world who are lurking online, wounded, waiting to pounce. They feel the need to rip someone down so they can feel better about themselves. Of course, that never works, but they’ll keep trying anyway.

I realize that this person who insulted me must have been reading my posts or watching my videos and something today triggered him to want to insult me.

I call these people “pouncers” – people who don’t have the courage and fortitude to engage openly, respectfully, and articulately, but just want to pounce and insult.

For these folks, I’ve decided I won’t waste my time responding. In fact, for haters who can’t engage in respectful ways, I’ll block them from my sites and profiles, and I’ll feel good about doing it. In other words, we don’t have to catch every ball that’s thrown at us.

Thirdly, if you want to show up – with your heart, soul and spirit fully engaged – and make a vivid, powerful and courageous mark on this world, you’ll have to learn how to handle critics.

As Brené Brown shares so beautifully in her talk “Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count,” Theodore Roosevelt offered advice that changed her life, and it’s shifted mine as well.

Here’s what Roosevelt shared, so wisely and powerfully:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So the final lesson about how to deal with being insulted online is this:

Understand that you don’t have to concern yourself (or give a second thought to) the hurtful critics who aren’t courageous enough to get in the arena themselves.  

You don’t have to take in their insults, or process them, or do anything at all with their hateful remarks, but eject them out of your sphere, for good.

In fact, the more you stew and fester about an online insult that was given solely as a way to hurt you, the more you open the door to being suppressed and diminished. Sure, take in true, constructive feedback from folks who want to help and encourage you to grow and learn.

But under no circumstances should we allow (or wallow) in cruel, personal insults that are all about the critics’ hate, and nothing to do with our own efforts to show up, be heard and make a difference.

So, I hope you’ll stay your course as I will mine – continue to be active in the arena, and share your messages, and your heart, soul and spirit openly with the world. Haters be damned.

For more from Kathy, visit her personal growth programs here, and her TEDx talk “Time To Brave Up.”

50 thoughts on “How To Handle Being Insulted Online”

  1. Kathy, as you say, “be prepared” is a good motto for those of us who engage in on line posting. It’s the shock and surprise that come together when, seemingly out of nowhere, somebody pounces on our heartfelt posts. Needless to say, it didn’t come out of nowhere, it came from one of the many, many readers we should actually be happy to reach. Nevertheless, there are some practical steps we can take as well. Blocking certain folks is one of those steps. Don’t reply to the comment, just block them from being able to make future comments–good or bad.

  2. Love this! You have become very public providing a great service to many. I am grateful I found you.

    Yes, there will always be haters. Instead of thinking of him as a hater, try feeling compassion for this lost soul who is clearly struggling with bravery and confidence. Through compassion, we can more easily let go of the feelings of angst and hurt that we feel when we encounter these types of people and their negative words.

    Keep up the great work, Kathy! And remember how many lives you have positively impacted through your own transformation.

  3. Thanks so much for your comments, Kim. Being prepared is critical, absolutely, but I’m seeing that sometimes, our hearts simply feel saddened by the degree of unmitigated hatred that’s being uncorked right now. But LOVE will prevail!

  4. Dear Kathy,

    Take a deep breath and move on with your good and inspiring work (rather mission) you are so passionate about. Frustrated readers and skeptics with an attitude that cannot appreciate good work with good words of encouragement will continue to spill venon. Ignore and move on with your good work. Best of Luck


  5. So true, Rebecca! I found today that this one remark was the last straw in a serious of hateful, odious comments I’ve received (that started last month after I posted on video on Feminism). Holy cow – the hatred that was unleashed against that! It was the first time I saw into the black hole of blind hatred that has been uncorked in our country, and it’s frightening. But I’m working on seeing it for what it is, and moving behind the fear and disappointment of that, and focusing on the love. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Love that, Heather, and I so agree.. I often say and teach in my courses that “what comes at us from others is so much more about them than about us.” But I wanted to share transparently and openly today with people a personal example that even when we know these truths deep in our hearts, our human frailties block us from remembering! :-)) Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you, Havilah! So many of us have hesitated and struggled with coming forward more openly with our authentic, honest feelings, thoughts and experiences, because of fear in receiving these types of hateful, critical comments hurt. But as you say, knowing that “no response is not the weak way out, but the right way to deal with it” can be so helpful. I appreciate your comments!

  8. Thank you, Anant! Yes, the “spilling of venom” (great phrase) can be so distracting if we let it, but we can’t! I appreciate your encouragement.

  9. This is my first article I have read and my first response. I thought your article was vulnerable and strong, and yet I cannot understand why people in our culture find it so much easier to hate and hide than they do to risk their own vulnerabilities in extending some kindness. If he didn’t care for what you had to say his other option was to move on, but verbal bullies seldom choose that route. I am glad you chose to not catch the ball, but release the toxins that were spinning from it.

  10. I appreciate and admire you more for been so real that can admit that you were hurt. Sometimes when we read or follow someone we forget that are human and have to deal with the same situations we do every day. Thank you for sharing, I reaffirm as the rest of the people here keep doo g what you do because we enjoy your work.

  11. Hey Deb – so glad you chose to respond, and I’m very grateful for your words of encouragement. “Vulnerable and strong” – those are powerful descriptors. Thank you! And yes, the question is “Why do so many people in our culture hate and hide rather than stand strong, and extend compassion and respect, even when they don’t agree?” It’s a question ripe for our digital times, indeed. But I’m releasing those toxins for sure! Thanks again for writing.

  12. That means a lot to me, Monica. We’re all human, and I don’t know of one human being on this planet who is so evolved that they never experience hurt… or shame …or disappointment…or fear, even when they “know” they shouldn’t. That’s what makes us human, and why our challenges are so universal, I think. Thank you for your encouragement!!

  13. I have found since the election an increasing tendency to steer clear of social media. The emotions were, and have remained, so raw, that the comments that I saw – even those not directed to me – were shocking, saddening, and highly stress-inducing. Seeing people turn against each other in such a deeply personal way, and with such palpable anger, made me wonder – how do we come back from this? To what degree have the ripple effects from the election made people “trigger” more quickly on social media, widening the flood gates of negativity. Your experience makes me sad, Kathy – but if you take it in the broader context of the stress and uncertainty people are feeling right now, it may help you to realize that the tirade you experienced may be from someone who is feeling angry and powerless over broader events playing around him. As someone said a few posts back, perhaps that will lead us all toward compassion…

  14. Hi Sandy – great to hear from you, and thanks for your wisdom. I agree completely – the venom that has been unleashed in recent times (particularly this past year) is breathtaking and so very disturbing. I ask myself too “How can we recover, and regain our compassion, love and acceptance of each other, even though we may be so different?” Then I listen again to the amazing discussion I had with the Irish mystic and spiritual leader Lorna Byrne, and I’m filled with hope again. Here’s that link, if anyone wants it:
    Kathy Caprino & Lorna Byrne – Messages from the Angels for 2017

  15. Dear Kathy, I am sorry to hear you had to experience such negativity so directly. I have often found that people who hurt others have demons of their own that rise from their own painful experiences or misguided upbringing. Forgive this person and continue on your journey. I enjoy hearing your talks and you inspire so many of us in more ways than one! Hang in there. You are not alone.❤

  16. Great advice, Amy – thank you. I will forgive and move on, and writing this post helped!. But I did want to share my experience of vulnerability with others, so that they too can be supported in overcoming the hate and criticism that’s becoming more common in our online world today. Thanks!

  17. Hello Kathy,

    You are one of the best writers I have read in years. Your wisdom seems to have been gained through being both humble and brave. I don’t seek to understand why people do unjustifiable things, so the person who attacked you is just someone who should be shunned by all. I hope their real name was displayed on LinkedIn, and all who read it will steer clear and not do business or interact with him or her.

    Do not change who you are, and virtually all of us believe what you say. I do. Keep inspiring, Kathy!

  18. Kathy, thank you for being willing to share your experience. It makes me mad on your behalf that someone would be so mean (and stupid!). Clearly it’s about HIM and not about you. Pure projection. You have been so helpful to me and so many other people. I’m appreciative that you are willing to put yourself out here and share your experiences in order to help others. Peace, love and light coming your way!!

  19. Firstly Kathy, a big thank you & blessing for the many posts and ideas you share that I get to read and get enriched from. This is a ‘Pray for & let go’ situation being a ‘personal attack’ and not an exploration of how courage and humility co-exist.
    A unique Indian priest who I’ve had the pleasure of learning a blended form of a Christian yoga meditation gets ostracised from most parishes since he teaches yoga and is sometimes thrown insults for his (brown) skin and long beard as he drives around here (Melbourne, Australia). He shared that when this happens though he does get hurt, he simply repeats the ‘father forgive them …’ phrase.
    Not dignifying a response is the best response. Recalling Eleanor Roosevelt’s words: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”.

  20. It’s so tough when you constantly put yourself out there but I also always remember and love that great comment Brene Brown made about only listening to people who were ‘in the arena’ or have been in the arena. I also loved a video I just saw from Brene about how important having boundaries are to being as compassionate as we can be and having empathy. Such great lessons in the importance of filtering and boundaries as is your post.

  21. I’m really pleased you mention that there are the haters in this world. I feel it’s relevant to mention what is, rather than sweep it under the carpet because it’s not ‘spiritually correct’. This is reality! There are those who are determined to squash your light and they will try all they can do. My motto this year has been to stand up and stand out because I don’t serve anyone by shying away from who I really am and what I have to offer. I was attacked by feminists online – they started a hate campaign against me so I know what’s it’s like. But as you say, these people hide behind the comfort of the web. Thank you for the reminder here that when you put yourself out there, not everyone will like you nor agree with you. Ain’t that the truth!!!

  22. Perfect timing. I recently shared a similar experience that really had me down and out for the last few days. This is exactly what I needed to bounce back and continue doing great meaningful work despite the ‘haters’. Thank you!

  23. Kathy,
    Thank you for sharing your vulnerability, and for taking the time to respond with all the practical advice. You are inspiring. Remember the angels! I’m still re-watching your interview with Lorna Byrne. You have such a beautiful presence. Your conversation with Lorna reflected the blessings that both you and she are in this world. Keep doing your good work!

  24. How very beautiful, Cheryl. Thank you! I still go back and re-watch sections of my conversation with Lorna – what a blessing that webinar was for me! Thank you for your kindness.

  25. I’m sorry you had a similar experience, but I’m so glad this was helpful to you, Abu. That’s music to my ears. We’re bouncing back!

  26. Thank you Anne. I’m with you – it doesn’t do us any good to be in denial about the hate that exists in the world. If we keep our heads in the sand, we smother our ability to strengthen and protect ourselves by adding strong coping mechanisms and strategies to our toolbox. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Thanks, my friend! It is very tough to continually put ourselves out there, but these times in our world demand that we speak up and up and for what we believe in, and not hide. And that will require becoming stronger and understanding how to navigate through the hate and condemnation. Thank you for your feedback!

  28. Thank you, Ezekiel! Beautiful messages, and I particularly love Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote you shared: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Powerful!

  29. I appreciate your comments very much, Wendy. I’ve seen too that if a troll posts a hateful comment as the first comment under a post or video, then other trolls are emboldened to come out en force, just as the research you shared described. And I couldn’t agree more – we all need to vigilantly uphold and encourage each other in our efforts to brave up and dare greatly, because it clears the path for each and every one of us to speak up, challenge what needs to be challenged, and see ourselves more bravely. Thank you!

  30. Kathy, Thank you for sharing this article. I’m sorry you had to experience these feelings. It takes courage to be vulnerable and courage to pick yourself up when one is hurt and blindsided. I love how you are ready to forgive and move on. You are doing a fantastic job motivating all of us. Take a breath and visualize yourself being filled with light that brings love, peace and healing for a minute or two and then spread this light to the world around you. You can be at peace when the people around you are at peace. Love and light to all.

  31. Thank you for your lovely note and visualization, Smitha. Just did it, and it feels beautiful. All best wishes.

  32. Thank you, Susan, for your very kind and generous words. I appreciate them very much. I believe that staying “real” and being as authentic and transparent as possible (rather than putting out a fake and false image of who we are) is so essential if we want to keep our spirits intact, doing this type of public work. And thank you for sharing the post with your friends and family.

    About your great question about the overratedness of humility, my view is that there has been a certain form of humility that society expects only of women and it happens the world over: that in order to be “feminine” and “pleasing” women have to be overly-modest, quiet, demure, never speak well of ourselves, never seem too proud or confident, and we’re not allowed to advocate openly and assertively for what we want and believe in without being punished. This type of “humility” has been damaging to the growth of women. And that societal definition of humility keeps women quiet, small and suppressed. The time for that type of humility in women (in my humble opinion) is over.

  33. Great reminder on managing my own expectations when responding to public posts. There seems to be a sector of people who must respond in ways that make us question our own self worth and then offer ways in which they believe we might fulfill their sense of our worth to them.

  34. Dear Kathy, after one of our long talks at a favorite restaurant many years ago, I remember you giving me a visual of how you dealt with “psychological intruders”; you know, those people that get access to our lives and somehow uninvitedly, take a bit of space in our minds. You said to me:” I picture little white balls that are floating around (the intruders) and when I decide that they no longer contribute anything to my life, I pick them up and toss them loose”. It is never pleasant to hear nasty criticism; it hurts and it stinks. I am SO glad though, that you don’t let any of that deter you from the light you shine in all of us that know you personally or through your amazing work. To honor you, following renowned psychologist John Gottman’s findings that to counter a negative we need 5 positives, here’s my contribution: I cherish and admire your passion, charisma, leadership, empathy and courage. Thank you.

  35. Hi my friend! Great to hear from you, and thank you so much for your beautiful note. Wow, I didn’t remember that powerful visual until you reminded me – thanks for giving that back to me as a gift.. I’ll use it! And I’m soaking in your loving comments – thank you, Yamel! I admire your work in the world as well – so very important and needed.

  36. Kathy, I’m sorry to hear that you were on the receiving end of such unkindness. How wonderful that you were able to rise above and use this experience to help others – such an empowering article! Thank you for having the courage to show up and share your important work with the world which is so incredibly helpful to so many people – you are an inspiration! “…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same…” (excerpt from Our Greatest Fear by Marianne Williamson)

  37. Many thanks, Patricia! I appreciate your words of encouragement. Let’s all rise up and shine our lights!

  38. Hi Kim,

    I agree with your response that this persons post (the ‘hater’) didn’t come out of nowhere. We have to realise other people are right now living lives that may not be too kind to them. It behoves all of us to keep an element of compassion in mind when we respond to other people’s criticisms, no matter how harsh and undeserving it may seem.

    I have a real issue with labels such as ‘haters’ and ‘losers’, words that these these are bandied about like tennis balls over the net at Wimbledons centre court. I am a health coach, counsellor and corporate speaker and have never felt the need to use those labels with anyone. My general concern here is that using words like ‘haters’ allows us to show a certain superiority over the person that seems to hate us. It also shows in truth a lack of self awareness – maybe there is an element of truth in the other persons criticism, maybe there’s none but no matter where the truth lies it’s just at the end of the day someone else’s opinion. Maybe we can learn something from it, maybe we can’t. Choose to ignore it or respond in an even manner, but don’t debate it, who knows the reason for another persons online ire – we’re certainly never going to find out.

    Sorry everyone (Kathy included!) if this feels like a rant but I really do feel strongly about throwaway, get out of jail free, judgemental labels like ‘haters’. If we are looking to develop and be more understanding and compassionate as human beings sometimes we have respond rather than react and try to walk in the other persons shoes – no matter how hard that seems.

    Kind regards to all


  39. Thanks for your feedback, Fergus. I appreciate where you’re going – that it’s vitally important to have understanding, empathy and compassion for others wherever we can. That said, “haters” is an accurate and appropriate term for folks who behave with the type of cruelty and unrelenting hatred that I’m referring to here. I don’t know if you’ve ever been torn down online as I have, but as one who’s in the media and receives thousands of comments a year, I’ve been stunned at the hatred that’s come at me (and that I’ve seen hurled at others who are simply expressing their point of view) – it’s unspeakable and so very shocking. I’ve been called terrible obscenities that you would never want to hear in your life. Yes, it’s clear that there’s pain at the root of these people’s behavior, but in my view, it IS fair and accurate to call these people “haters,” because their actions, words and deeds are steeped in hatred and they want to hurt others. In fact, many of these folks troll the internet for the opportunity to tear others down. As a therapist and coach who’s worked with thousands of people over 11 years, I believe that I am very compassionate at heart. But…I will not shy away from calling behavior as I see it.

  40. Hi Kathy,

    Thanks for your reply. I can’t really argue with what you’ve said as it is your valid opinion. We all have to draw the line somewhere with other people’s behaviour. I just would have a different approach.

    Yours respectfully,


  41. What a lovely note, Clay. Thank you for your kindness and support! Means the world.

  42. You’re right – most women, whether in their work lives or the personal sphere have their thoughts and emotions invested, so it’s important to have a strong mechanism to deal with malice or negativity in an objective way. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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