I was in Radio Shack earlier this week to upgrade a phone and it was easy to see that the clerk behind the counter was getting a earful from an angry customer. As the conversation ensued, the clerk was getting visibly more upset. When the caller finally relented and hung up the phone, I told the clerk, “Don’t take it personally, you were just in the way.”

The guy on the phone chewing out the Radio Shack guy was likely getting something off his chest. Could be he was frustrated that the phone he ordered for his kid didn’t arrive before Christmas. Instead of being patient, he probably chose to make someone pay.

Nothing justifies rudeness, but when you broaden your perspective on such a matter, it makes you better equipped to deal with the situation. It becomes less personal.

There is a refuge in being anonymous. Anonymity provides a safety that allows us to say things we would never say to anyone face to face. When you are anonymous, you are not real, nor is that person you are reaming. How many people make fun of Justin Bieber that don’t even know the kid? But would the comedian tell the same jokes if that 16yr old was a friend of his own kid? Probably not, because JB would then be a real person, meriting different treatment.

When I get anonymous feedback, I don’t try to spend much energy deciphering who it might be from. I just assume that person is not real or that they are hiding behind that wall of anonymity that comes with the Internet. I get plenty of feedback from trusted sources that I know to help me improve and become a better restaurant. Just last week I got a valuable email from a faithful customer, who I know personally, outlining a couple of things that needed attention. Notes like this carry more weight with me than from someone blowing off steam.

How to deal with negative criticism: Anonymity