Turning Hecklers Into Fans

You and I have heard the advice that we should silence the critics. Ignore what the hecklers are saying. Move onto the next great thing we’re going to do.

Recently, I had this mindset rocked.

A great big reminder was dropped into my lap letting me know that the hecklers still matter. They still count. And we can help turn the hecklers into fans.

Image by Jesus Gorriti

Image by Jesus Gorriti

This rocking of my mindset occurred at a little taco joint during a lunch break with co-workers. We’d been seated by our waiter when he mentions that I looked familiar.

He’d looked familiar to me also but I hadn’t had a chance to say anything. It turns out that he was a former student in our youth group that hadn’t been there in ages.

While he wasn’t a bad kid, per say, he wasn’t a model youth group student. In fact, he was a heckler (his own words).

He was one of the kids who was just there to be there. The ones who come to spend time with friends, to get out of the house, and to question authority.

With students, it can be hard to judge where they are in their relationship with God. With him, I wasn’t sure where he stood. But he let me know it when I ran into him.

He told me that he’d turned from a heckler to a believer, for real. He wasn’t playing games anymore and he’d committed his life.

So, how did this happen? I believe it’s because we led with these characteristics:

We cared regardless: Even when there was trouble, we felt the need to show him that we cared about his life. That it mattered.

This wasn’t always easy but we poured into his life and helped him when we could. We gave attention when we felt it was needed. And we let him know that he had a place to come to.

Time didn’t matter: Leaders often focus on getting things done here and now. We want to see the results immediately.

Contrary to popular belief, results don’t happen overnight. You don’t create a successful life in one day. You don’t build a billion dollar company in a week. You can’t change people instantly.

We planted even if we weren’t going to see the results.

As leaders, we must be willing to plant the seeds of success and change. We may be the ones to water and see those seeds sprout. Or we may not. We just need to do our jobs.

We continued to show up: It’s hard to show up day after day, week after week. However, if we want success we must be willing to show up.

Keep coming back, keep moving forward, keep showing up.

Hecklers may not be your first choice to turn into fans. They might not even be on your radar. But don’t discount the power of turning a heckler into a fan.

Question: Have you tried to turn a heckler into a fan? What happened when you tried? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Joe, years ago (about 35, I think!), a young woman moved in across the street from me in a town I lived in near Los Angeles. Whenever she was in her driveway when I came out of the house, I shouted a “hello” over to her. She never responded. In fact, it seemed as if she deliberately turned her back. I wondered about it…even wondered if it were because we were obviously “church people.” Each Sunday morning the five of us trooped out of the front door, and with Bibles in our hands and in our Sunday best, took off for church. Many of these Sunday mornings, she was in her driveway or in her garage, and I would again give her a greeting. Still…nothing. Not a smile, a nod. Nothing. One 4th of July, as the neighbors all stood in the street with their children shooting off fireworks, she walked right up to me and said, “I’m afraid I’m going to hell. Can you tell me about God?” I was shocked but didn’t miss a beat. We never became close friends or anything, but after that instead of shouting “hello” from across the street, I walked the short distance between us and we shared about life, Jesus, and our hope.

    • Linda, that’s a perfect example of the consistency that will turn those who are seemingly against us into people who are open to hearing what we have to say. Thank you for your commitment to say hello and be a neighborly person to that lady. You’ve changed her life.

    • What a great testimony. Thanks for sharing this.

    • What a great story! Thank you for sharing it.

      • Thanks Dan…I was more shocked than anything when she just walked up and said that to me! I took her into my house and shared what Christ has done in my life. It was a really great experience.

        • Your welcome:) At least you where prepared in what to share:)

    • Great story, Linda!

    • That is so cool Linda. Great work showing someone love. Love changes lives specifically the ultimate love that you pointed her to.

  • Great post Joe. At times when I have tried to turn hecklers into fans it has crashed and burned. Other times it has been successful. What I love about your story and others like it is this. If you had never run into him you wouldn’t have known that he had changed. Our job as Christians is to plant seeds. I like to tell myself some day my love and wisdom will be heard. Someone else may be able to see the seed harvested but I got to play a part of sowing it.
    Relationships should always come first. We are all in the people business no matter what we do this should never be forgotten. Really liked this one. Blessings to you.

    • Hi Zech,
      You are so right…it is our job to plant seeds, and maybe someone will come along and water them. I can still remember someone walking up to me on the beach when I was 19-years-old and simply asking if I knew Jesus was coming back. We had a VERY short conversation. I never forgot that encounter, and I bet I will meet him in heaven one day.

    • Zech, I know. How many lives have been changed that those who did the planting, whether church world or business world, never see the results? Every little thing we do can pay dividends in the future we’ll never see.

      • So true Joe truth is truth. Principals cross over all the time.

        • Yes Zech, they do. They also cross into other areas of our lives. We have to be willing to keep our eyes open so we can see how.

  • Joe, when it comes to “service recovery” you are absolutely right! The individual who goes from disappointment to support has a very strong reason to back you, making them authentically dedicated!

    • Thanks Jon! Do you have an example of this happening in your life?

      • it happens all the time in healthcare – often involving wait times. But with a focus on communicating and courtesy, you can make a big difference. I found the central part of this often involves managing the expectations of others, while upping the level of attention I give to them.

        The person involved will learn your name, and see you are their hero. In previous service roles, I’ve even had individuals who only want to deal with me directly as a result of recovering from a difficult situation.

        • Awesome Jon. I can only bet the level of frustration people feel in health care and how those working in the field can help alleviate some of the frustration and turn those hecklers into fans.

  • Powerful story and points! It was because of the continued support of a couple youth leaders that I was able to turn my life around at a young age. I was considered the worst and most trouble making youth in the large church but a couple people stuck with me and showed they cared and loved me (No matter what foolish thing I did). I’ll have to share with you a couple crazy stories the next time we talk:)

    • That’s awesome Dan. I’m glad to hear a couple of leaders were able to pour into your life and not give up. Honestly, it’s hard to keep going but we never know when the breakthrough will happen.

      • Amen! It’s often right before we expect or give up that someone breakthrough happens.

  • The idea about “time doesn’t matter” is such a key for me right now. In our society (and as a project manager) time ALWAYS matters and I tend towards “get it done NOW”.

    Thanks for this.

    • My pleasure Charles. Society loves RIGHT NOW and doesn’t value the long run. The sad thing is, the long run is what matters.

  • This can be pretty challenging – especially when the hecklers have been around for a long time.

    • I agree. Dealing with hecklers can wear you down, especially if you don’t see any change happen. I think at that point, you keep doing what you do while not giving into the hecklers. Eventually they’ll change or go away.

  • It is so touching to hear stories that change lives.

    As a teacher, it is tough to reach everyone, but knowing that you have reached just ONE person makes all the difference.

    • Your last sentence reminds me of Andy Stanley and his encourage to reach one like you want to reach all. Make a difference in one person’s life and it’ll have a ripple effect you’ll never know.

  • Great story Joe. It’s always encouraging to know that what you’re doing makes a difference so I know it has to make you proud to know that kid has turned his life around. Way to go.

    • It does Brady. I always enjoy hearing stories from our former youth students that have gone onto bigger and better things or turned their lives around.

      Have you had a similar experience?

      • Not quite the same, I’m still waiting and praying for the heckler that comes to mind.

  • I’m working on one now.

    • Keep at it Dan. It can be tough to get through to them but it can pay off.

      What’s one thing that’s working for you in that arena?

  • Important post Joe. As leaders we have to learn to see beyond the “right now” Continue to show up is key. Continue to show up when we don’t see the results. Continue to show up even when we would rather not. Continue to show up to allow those we lead who move a little slower time to catch up.

    • You’ve got it Jon. It’s all about our presence and making sure we’re there when we’re needed instead of trying to satisfy our own desires for the right now.

  • Ministries don’t come in packages… but this sure comes close, Joe. Sounds like love to me. Thanks, Joe.

    I remember a heckler in my class when I was teaching in India. He was simply a loud mouth. God gave me the grace to talk to him in private and tell him that when he acts like that he affects the tone of the whole class. I suggested to him that it’s not a wise thing to do. Somehow he heard me. He then remembered the reminder his mom gave him before he left home. If someone doesn’t know him they may misunderstand him. He became broken and changed.

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