Q&A - September 9, 2016

My regular readers will remember a few weeks ago, I published something I called the “Naysayers’ Pledge.” This tongue-in-cheek editorial about how irresponsible personal actions by some residents can actually contribute to the killing of a small town probably generated more comments from readers than any other column I have written thus far. It also spawned some interesting and amusing questions about naysayers.

So this week, let’s have some more fun at the expense of the purveyors of gloom and doom among us as we further expose the naysayers.

Q: What is a naysayer?

A naysayer is a well-meaning but misguided person who habitually expresses negative or pessimistic views—a person who opposes something just for the sake of opposing something. One who frequently engages in excessive complaining or displays a persistently doubtful attitude. Naysayers have a tendency to view the glass half empty and constantly emphasize the worst of a situation. Know anyone who fits this description?

Q: Where do you find naysayers?

Naysayers come in all shapes and sizes. While they are not generally invited to many parties, naysayers are everywhere. Residing abundantly in major cities and in small communities, they turn up whenever there is a new or novel idea to be squashed. They manage to survive in most workplace settings and social organizations. Desiring anonymity, naysayers frequently hide in large crowds or behind computer keyboards on various social media sites. Any of this sounding familiar?

Q: How many naysayers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

I suspect this is a trick question, but I’ll play along anyway. Let’s see…at least one naysayer to scrutinize the choice of bulb to be used; one more to complain about the price of a new bulb; another to disparage the motives of those who want the light bulb replaced; still another to complain about how screwing in a new light bulb will never work; at least two more to disagree on all the planning and logistics involved with the proposed bulb replacement; and finally, one to convince others why it is better for everyone to remain in the dark. So, you could say, it takes at least seven naysayers to screw in a light bulb. But if you were paying attention, the light bulb never actually got replaced—did it?

Q: Can you list three important accomplishments attributed to naysayers?

No, I can’t even list one—much less three. While many naysayers like to boastfully claim credit for successful projects after they are completed, the actual act of “naysaying” is a counterproductive endeavor that extinguishes the motivation of others and makes it much more difficult to accomplish anything. Other than interfering with progress, naysayers rarely accomplish anything on their own. Naysayers are generally not remembered for making history, because they tend to be on the wrong side of it.

Truth be told, we probably all exhibit some naysayer traits from time to time. The trick is learning to overcome these negative tendencies and not allowing them to become bad habits.

If you have more questions or comments, please forward them to osuit-president@okstate.edu.