Why Hugging Haters Defies Malcolm Gladwell's Blink

Recently, I finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s classic, Blink. Yes, I am a little behind the times. I also just recently finished The West Wing. This post is not about my trials and tribulations in staying timely, however.

Gladwell’s analysis has been percolating through my brain, and somewhere in that process, it occurred to me that what Jay Baer is promoting with the concept of “hugging your haters” is actually the opposite of a “blink” reaction. Explaining this requires first a brief synopsis of a hypothesis I’ve been working on. To wit, social media is based almost entirely on blink reactions.

Social media is based almost entirely on blink reactions.
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Blink Meets the World of Social Media

Blink was published in 2005, just a few years before the social media revolution really got underway. Still, it’s not hard to see how “thin slicing,” as Gladwell calls it, as well as blink reactions, rule the roost on digital platforms.

Take, for example, the recent and rampant attention paid to the “fake news” phenomenon. How could this be happening? How could people so readily share news without verifying its veracity? It’s quite simply the blink syndrome. All you need to do is read a headline or a caption under a picture and, so it seems, you have a perfect idea of what the argument is about. More importantly, you know whether the article is aligned with your views or whether it mocks your views.

This type of “thin slicing” is not always right. A few years ago, a blog post went viral because people kept sharing it, but the post was actually an April Fool’s gag. When you are posting for a company social media account and you get a “hater,” the same primeval process takes place. You can almost hear the caveman inside. “Ugga chugga anti-my products and services. Ugga chugga enemy. Ugga chugga fight fight fight!”

The idea of hugging your haters flies in the face of all of that unconscious programming.

Hug Your Haters Instead

The verbiage here is somewhat “blinky” in and of itself. What is a “hater”? Part of Jay’s argument is that the term “hater” often gets used to describe someone who actually has a legitimate gripe. When we call someone a “hater,” we are setting ourselves up to react to them in a negative fashion in turn. When we undo our programming and evaluate what someone is saying, our reaction, and hence the results, may be entirely different. This idea is actually about not blinking, not thin-slicing, but rather taking a step back, listening, and then engaging intelligently.

Naturally, as Jay fully covers in his book, sometimes there will be people who are, if not haters, at least trolls. Even in those scenarios, however, it is beneficial to avoid reacting with that pre-programmed, vengeful stance. While that person may not appreciate your manners, someone else who is watching will.

That’s the beauty of Jay’s whole concept. It’s not just a catchy phrase—it’s a truly revolutionary idea about how we can overcome a blink reaction to criticism. Maybe this could even be useful beyond business. But then, we can’t ask for too much, right?

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