Ever have that experience when you have this great idea, and in your exuberance you share it with someone close to you and they immediately shoot it down? What did that feel like?
You may have something important to you that you want to pursue; a hobby, a business idea, or a career change, and someone in your world responds with why your idea or plans won’t work.
I think it’s safe to say that most if not all of us have had that experience. But what about the person you live with, work with, employ, or partner with that is the consistent No person?
The person who sees what is wrong with nearly everything can be maddening and down right soul sucking to be around.
The negative, critical, “no people” can take a toll on your mental health as well when their brain seeks to immediately find the reason why any idea or plan won’t work.
While it’s true not all ideas are meant to come to fruition, and there are times we need to heed the grain of truth that the critical or negative minded person might bring to the table, it is also imperative that we learn how to deal with them if we are living or working around them consistently.
One thing that is important to know about the “no-ers”, naysayers and critics is that often they have grown up in harsh and critical environments themselves. They may have been raised around a critical parent where they felt they could never do anything right or well enough to please their critic. They often discovered that by saying no, they would not have to risk the criticism they knew they would be met with. These negative critical patterns can persist from generation to generation and lead to perfectionism, anxiety or depression.
Attempting to meet your naysayer with compassion is important and not easy. However, there are ways you can learn to speak that can make the ongoing dynamics with them much more tolerable and even productive.
Learning to set boundaries with your naysayer is also essential.
If your no-er, naysayer or critic is someone you live or work with you might try the following:
1. Listen to what they are saying, but do not let them drone on. Let them know you hear their concern about implementing your idea. Ask them to tell you specifics so you can move past “I don’t think that will work” into what their actual concerns are about. See if you can help them move into a deeper space that sounds like “I’m concerned about if you do ____, then ____ will happen.” Only when you get to specific concerns and fears can you begin to have meaningful conversation.
2. Let them know you hear their concerns and feedback and you will take time to take it into consideration. If your idea is more about a need, then you might take some time to ponder their feedback and schedule a time to come back and continue the conversation. Practice listening and asking more questions.
3. Practice active and reflective Listening. When you can communicate in this way, people feel heard. Reflect back what you are hearing to provide clarity. When your naysayer hears you feed back what you heard, that may be enough for them to realize how they are sounding or coming off.
4. Set Boundaries where needed. “ I hear that you think that this is a bad idea, and, I believe this is what I need to do.” This may be a way to express your truth with love. Talk about your negotiables and non- negotiables to attempt to come to some understanding about how what you need may affect the other person. With that said, stand firm on your non- negotiables.
5. Share your experience using Language of Ownership. In other words, when your no-er or naysayer immediately starts in, ask them to stop and pause. Share with them what it feels like when they shoot you down with negativity before really listening to your need, thoughts or ideas.
6. Gain clarity if they are thinking no, or just not now. Perhaps you want to start a business and your partner says “no I don’t like that idea.” Find out what that no is about. Are they concerned it will reduce your alone time together? Do they truly think it’s a bad business idea? If so, dig deeper into what that’s about. Is it that the timing seems off? Find out more before you leap to conclusions so that the conversation can stay meaningful and productive and not get stuck in a negative place.
Once you know what someone’s concerns are, that opens the door for productive conversation. I once had a naysayer tell me “ If I just say no, then I don’t have to do anything.” Getting down to the real reasons you are getting No’s or critical comments is important to attempt to get to more real and productive conversations.
Be honest with your naysayer. Let them know what it feels like to live/ work/ visit with them when they are locked in to their critical or negative responses. If they are truly opposed to something that matters to you, find out why?
While it is highly unlikely you will ever change a “No-er”, naysayer or critic into someone who suddenly has an open and curious mindset, you can change how you respond to them for your own health and wellbeing.