How to deal with detractors

Most issues have two sides where detractors or naysayers will challenge your point of view – often out in the open.  In a news story, the media strive to create balanced stories or use ‘conflict’ as a news hook so they will often include comment from critics.

Here are some tips on how to deal with detractors:

    • Identify who they are and do your research on them so that you know who you’re dealing with and why. Often people are simply misinformed and they may have misunderstandings about what you’re doing. What do they know and how much do they know? Is it accurate or inaccurate?
  • It’s easier to rebut their criticism pre-emptively in your key messages. This is best done by not leaving gaps in your messages.

  • Familiarize yourself in advance with their objections and have potential responses ready but try to avoid ongoing point-counterpoint arguments – they can often be unproductive and can do more harm than good. Rather, try to re-frame the conversation by focusing on a big ideas and core values both parties can agree on. For example, “we all want safe communities for our children.”
  • If you cannot establish a common ground, acknowledge that critics are entitled to their views and rebut with a ‘focus statement’ or bridging statement that transitions you back your key messages.
  • Be conscious of your tone and keep your emotions in check. Some detractors will try to deliberately ‘rattle your cage’.  In this situation, take a deep breath, stay calm and don’t take the bait.Try to explain your position to your detractor with a positive, sincere attitude and you might actually get the person to listen, and perhaps even change their mind.
  • If possible, agree on a common ground before reverting back to your key messages. For example, “It’s clear we both care about the well-being of our youngest citizens and it’s good that we continue to have a dialogue about it. One thing is for sure, the status quo isn’t working.” Then focus on your key messages.

Sometimes detractors have a valid point. In this case, step back and objectively think about whether they are bringing up a real obstacle that must be overcome. If so, figure out if it’s surmountable and how to overcome it. If you are passionate about your point of view, you can often figure out a workable solution that isn’t ideal for both parties but it’s not a bad compromise for either.

There will always be detractors for any given issue and often they are difficult to win over. You can’t avoid them so just remind yourself that when you do achieve your goal, that will be your reward for enduring these detractors, particularly if it’s been a difficult hill to climb.  Maria Loscerbo

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Filed under Issues & Crisis Management, PR Planning & Strategy, Public Relations General

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