The Haters Have Already Decided What They Think. So What Will You Do?

“Confidence is a little voice in the back of your head that tells you that you belong.” — Michael Gervais

There’s a cartoonist named Scott McCloud. He’s given TED talks and written some really influential books. “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art,” is revered within the world of cartoonists.

There’s a quote in that book that’s fascinating. McCloud talks about the cartoonist’s challenge. You’ve got a handful of panels in which to tell a full story, which means that you can’t show every action. You’ve got to pick and choose the parts you want to show.

Let’s say you’ve got a cartoon of a man at Starbucks. In panel 1, the man might be picking up his coffee from the counter. In panel 2, the man might be yelling while the coffee burns his lips.

What’s amazing is that the brain is able to put together the middle step — somewhere between panels 1 and 2, the man drank the coffee, and the coffee was too hot — even though it’s never actually shown in the comic.

McCloud explains:

”The phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole has a name. It’s called closure.”

Basically, if there’s a story being told, and there are loose ends to the story, the brain is capable of closing the loop. It takes the parts it has and jumps to a conclusion.

But what if, in our little coffee hypothetical, what we think happened wasn’t what happened. What if something else happened between the man getting the coffee and the man screaming? We never actually saw the man drink the coffee, after all. Isn’t it possible that something else happened there to cause the man to yell, but our minds had already decided what we wanted to see?

What if our minds closed the loop but changed the story along the way?

So let’s bring this back to you.

If you’re reading this post, you’re someone who’s trying to do awesome work. I salute you, creator of awesome stuff. You’re doing the work we need more of in the world.

But I’m also warning you: The haters are coming for you. Haters love to hate on awesome work.

And your work is no exception.

They’re going to come and see parts of your life’s story. They’re going to see certain things you’ve done or written or said, and they’re going to connects the dots for themselves. This is what McCloud warned us about brains: They like to finish unfinished stories.

You have no control over how they decide to close the loop on your story. It is entirely out of your control.

Haters are going to find reasons to hate. They are going to find ways to close the loop however they see fit.

Here’s more proof that McCloud is right. Jimmy Kimmel sent out a TV camera two weeks ago to document voters’ reaction to the previous night’s debate. There was only one problem:

There wasn’t a debate the night before.

And yet: Here’s 3 minutes of voters responding to a debate that didn’t happen. They took this single bit of information from the cameraman — there was a debate last night! — and whatever preconceived notions existed in their minds, and they closed the loop for themselves:

So here’s what you need to remember: Haters are going to hate. When it comes to your story, they’ve already closed the loop for themselves.

You cannot control the haters, but you can control the work you do.

Focus there. Do the best work you can.

A huge thank you to Ross Nover, who gave a talk last week at Refresh DC that inspired this post. Also: That photo at top comes via someecards.