Q&A - October 21, 2016

Sometimes, it feels like we are in a struggle against the naysayers for the soul of our community. It can be very deflating to hear nothing but “doom and gloom” from certain people when positive things are happening all over town. But don’t give up, and don’t let the naysayers win.

Q: I think my husband is a naysayer. I grew up here and love this town. How do I deal with his constant negative comments about Okmulgee?

Well, I don’t give marital advice, but I do know a little about naysayers. While I encounter them almost every day, I try to ignore them when I can. But if you are married to one, this could be difficult.

Negativity is contagious. In most cases, quarantining negatively minded people and not directly responding to their toxic statements is a helpful tactic. The theory is the less you respond to negative people, the more peaceful your life will become. But it is not always possible to avoid naysayers, so how do you deal with them?

First, you must understand that no one can change another person’s attitude. They must be willing to change themselves. We can encourage other people to change. We can provide them with reasons or incentives. We can point out the flaws in their reasoning or error of their ways, but they must make the change for themselves. It’s like the old adage, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

Second, it is helpful to try to understand the source for their negativity. Did they have a bad experience they never got over? Are they actually upset about some other aspect of their life and just taking it out on something more convenient? Or were they converted to negativity by the influence of other negatively minded people? If you can determine the true source of their negativity, you will be in a better position to help them recover from it.

Third, recognize chronic negativity for what it is…a bad habit. We all develop bad habits in our lives and being a naysayer is no different. You must understand the things in your life that grow and develop are the things you feed the most. Bad habits and toxic ideas grow stronger when they are reinforced—the more you feed them. When you hang around negative people, you will probably become more like them. So, if your negative comments are well-received by your circle of friends, you will be more likely to continue making them. Conversely, if your negative comments are rejected by your friends, you will probably stop making them.

We may not be able to change the naysayers, but we can be a positive influence on them. Don’t get into an argument with them when they start ranting about Okmulgee. Change the subject and encourage constructive conversation. Be friendly and enthusiastic around them. Present an optimistic viewpoint to counter their negative ideas. Make them want to be more like you.

What an excellent question this week. I hope my comments were beneficial. Please continue to forward your inquiries to osuit-president@okstate.edu.