This is part of the Dealing With People series.
“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Are there any naysayers in your life? Someone who is perhaps discouraging you from pursuing your goals and dreams? Someone who thinks that you are joking and says it’s impossible when you share about your grand plans for your future? Someone who sabotages your efforts when you try to instill a new habit or quit a bad habit in your life? Someone who is keeping you from achieving your highest potential?
Naysayers in my Life
At every point in our life, we’ll have some naysayers in our circle, be it our colleagues, acquaintances, friends, or even close friends and family. These naysayers are termed as such because their favorite response is always “nay”. Say you want to quit drinking alcohol. They’ll go “nay” and tell you that drinking a few more mugs won’t kill you. Say you want to lose weight and you want to eat healthy. They’ll go “nay”, that healthy food is boring, and offer you unhealthy, junk food instead. Say you are thinking of pursuing your passion. They’ll tell you that it’s not feasible, that it’s not practical in the world today, that it’s not going to make you money.
Most of the times, naysayers have little to add to the conversation, serving only to extinguish your hopes and dreams.
I have faced my fair share of naysayers in my life.
Back in school, one of my teachers was a big naysayer. She would discourage us (me and my classmates) from aiming too high in life (by too high, I really mean trying to aim anything at all). She also pre-judged each student based on her biased assessment of his/her abilities, then treated the student as such, hence creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rather than encourage us as a teacher, she was often a wet blanket, telling us to opt for pragmatic courses and career paths than set big goals and dreams. She never came across as passionate in her teachings.
When I decided to become a vegetarian 3 years ago, I had the weirdest reactions from people around me. One (then) colleague said he bet that I would “give up” after a few weeks (I had no idea what he meant as I was looking at it as a permanent lifestyle choice, and not as a goal). Another colleague made a joke out of it during a team lunch. One senior director tried to taunt me with meat and seafood during a team dinner. Some people tried to challenge my decision, even though I didn’t broach the topic to begin with. A friend said he was going to make me want to eat meat again. That never happened.
When I decided to quit my regular job in 2008 to pursue my passion, everyone said no. A close friend said I was just going through a phase and I would regret it in the future. Another friend asked if anyone said I was crazy. People, personal mentors and friends alike, advised me against it. Each of them had their own set of reasons why it was a bad decision. Some said that economic recession was coming soon. Some said that my job was fantastic and that I would never get such a great job in the future. Some said that I was too young and didn’t have the right skills and know-how to achieve results in my new path. Some said that I was wasting my previous education and my career path.
Dealing with Naysayers
Each time I meet a naysayer, I’ll first try to understand where he/she is coming from. When it’s clear that the person is projecting from his/her own fears rather than adding anything constructive, I’ll disregard his/her input on my goals. Subsequently, I’ve grown immune to these naysayers, flicking them away as soon as they appear in my life. I avoid them like the plague. When they try to offer uninvited advice on my life, I’ll tune out. My body is there, I’m looking at them and I’m giving them the periodic nod, but my soul is not present. All these are toxic waste they’re trying to dump onto my goals, and I’ve no intention of taking them.
For each of the above goals I mentioned above, I ended up achieving them each time, and then more. Each time, I discovered that life on this new path was nothing like what the naysayers had painted it to be. Each time, I found more joy, love and fulfillment on my new path than my previous one. Each time, I discovered more about myself than if I were to remain where I was.
You see, for naysayers, they don’t know about how it’s like to achieve your goals at all. Everything they’re saying is just to scare you into going back where you came from. Why? Because they’re actually scared themselves. They’ve never done any of what you’re trying to do and they’re scared that you’ll succeed. They’re scared that if you succeed, it’ll show that they have been wrong all this while about life, and about their lives. They’re scared to discover that they’ve been undermining their potential and wasting their lives all this while.
Your life is yours and you don’t need other people telling you what to do. If you’re currently facing a naysayer or two, here are 7 tips I have for you to deal with them:
7 Tips To Tackle Naysayers
1) Safeguard your goals from them
Imagine you’re trying to create a beautiful, grand sandcastle at the beach. Now, imagine someone pouring water on top of your castle every 1 minute. Will you be able to build anything in the end?
No of course not. Each time you get anywhere, your creation gets demolished instantly. At most you’ll end up with some clumpy looking lump and a very frustrated you. All the efforts you’ve put in have gone to waste.
That’s the same thing when you listen to the naysayers. Being discouraging and skeptical in nature, they tend to talk about the downsides and horror stories of the “dangers” surrounding what you plan to do. Every second you spend listening to what they have to say about your goals is just like pouring acid over your dreams. In the end you have to spend extra time and effort to combat the damage they’ve done. It’s not even worth it in my opinion.
Your goals are too precious to let other people taint them. Protect them. Don’t give naysayers the opportunity to damage your dreams by not even raising the topic in the first place. I’m actually very selective about who I share my goals with. I rarely talk about them unless people ask, and even then I share selected parts as relevant to the conversation.
2) Eject the naysayer from your life (if you can)
If possible, eject the naysayer from your life. Generally naysayers serve as a shroud over life’s possibilities, so spending too much time with them is only going to limit your own potential.
3) Evaluate the naysayer’s background
One thing I look at before I consider anyone’s words is how the person is doing in his/her own life. Is this person’s life the kind of life I want to have for myself? Does this person have knowledge and expertise in what he/she is commenting on?
If the answer is no, then I’ll discount what he/she says. After all, this person is where he/she is precisely because of his/her own knowledge and advice. By following his/her words, it can only get me to where he/she is, not where I want to go.
This means that if you’re trying to lose weight and eat healthily and your overweight colleagues are telling you to ditch the healthy salads and eat junk food for lunch/dinner, maybe you should reconsider. If you want to set up a business and you’re getting “advice” from friends who have never set up any businesses in their life, maybe you should put less weight in what they’re saying. If you want to quit smoking but your peers, with their daily coughs and bad breaths, keep telling you to take one more puff, it might be wiser to ignore them.
4) Ignore them – Tune out
If you’ve evaluated the naysayer’s words and concluded that these are not relevant to your goals, then simply tune out. Just because they say something, doesn’t mean you have to take what they say. As Buddha has said before, if someone offers you a gift and you decline it, the gift is still that person’s. Likewise, if someone wants to offer you their two cents, you can’t stop them from doing that, but you can choose not to accept it.
5) Don’t engage in the discussion
The naysayers are as staunch in their stance as you are in yours, and there’s no need to seek any agreement too.
In your replies, keep it simple and short – with “I see” or “Okay”.
Don’t assert your stand, don’t try to probe why he/she said what he/she said, don’t try to explain yourself either. The naysayer can come up with all sorts of reasons why he/she is right and why you’re wrong, which is just a waste of time.
Switch topic if you have to. With nothing to continue on, the naysayer will stop there. Also remember tip #1 – make a mental note to safeguard your goals from them in the future.
6) Surround yourself with enablers
Rather than face negativity, surround yourself with positivity instead. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose the best five people you want to spend time around. In Day 19 of 30DLBL: Create Your Success Network, we work on building our success network of five, which are the five people whom we want to emulate in real life.
Think about the people who are supportive or would be supportive of your goals if you told them. Think about how you can increase the time you spend with them starting from today.
If you don’t have any such people in your life, it’s okay. Think of the people out there in this world who are doing what you want to do, then increase your contact with their works, such as their books, their interviews, their TV shows, and so on. Back when I was still in my corporate job, I knew absolutely no one in real life who was in the same situation as me. I didn’t know anyone who had branched off to pursue his/her passion either. There was no reference point for me in my list of contacts. After I quit my job, I immediately surrounded myself with the best-selling self-help books, connected with other personal development bloggers online and read related blogs that would help me in my journey. Doing this made me feel like I had a whole network of people supporting me in my goals.
Remember you’re not alone in your goals – there’s Personal Excellence which you’re reading now, and over 350 articles in the archives. There’s also Personal Excellence Forums, where many amazing people hang out there. The forums has been the birthplace of many positive habits and improved lives since it was launched last year.
7) Think back to your vision for yourself
Last but not least, think about your ideal vision. What is your ideal vision for your life?
Whenever you get distracted by naysayers, it’s only because you’ve taken your eyes off your goals. If that’s the case, all you need to do is to look back at them. Recall what exactly you want to achieve. Think about what exactly you want to get out of your life. Then ask yourself if it’s worth it to put them on hold because of a couple of naysayers. The answer is always a clear ‘no’ to me.
Don’t deny yourself of the life you should live just because of these people. At the same time, make sure you’re not being a naysayer to others.
I’d like to leave you with this quote by John Eliot:
“History shows us that the people who end up changing the world – the great political, social, scientific, technological, artistic, even sports revolutionaries – are always nuts, until they are right, and then they are geniuses.”
Are you ready to rock your life? Let’s start living our best life starting from today
Be sure to check out How To Say No To Others: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to learn how to say no to others and What To Do When Your Friends and Family are Unsupportive (of Your Goals) which teaches you how to handle a naysayer who is your close friend or family member.
This is part of the Dealing With People series.
- How To Deal With Energy Vampires
- 7 Tips To Tackle Naysayers in Your Life
- 8 Helpful Ways To Deal With Critical People
- How To Deal With Dishonest People
- How To Deal With Rude People (3-part series)
- 10 Tips To Make New Friends
- How To Handle Bullying: An Important Guide
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