Are Others Resisting Your Efforts to Grow?

Written by on November 6, 2017 in Breaking Barriers, Emotional Mastery

Are Others Resisting Your Efforts to Grow


Whether we are consciously aware of it or not we tend to live in “flocks” otherwise known as peer groups. It is the nature of those in a peer group to enjoy many of the same activities and interests, over time group standards becoming the acceptable norm.

So when someone, let’s say you, musters the courage to step out of formation and do something remarkable that results in changing your life for the better, you rock the boat and that sometimes leads to resistance.

No one is more qualified than you are to decide how you live; no one should be able to vote on what you do with your time and your potential unless you invite them to. ~Resistance: A Field Manual

Some in your group will be genuinely proud and happy for you and offer encouragement, but there’s also likely to be some measure of skepticism by the naysayers.

Yes, we all have at least a few naysayers (aka critics, detractors, skeptics) in our life. They may be disguised as trusted co-workers, friends, even family, but the truth of their nature will come out in not so subtle ways should your actions threaten their sense of security and self-esteem.

For example, if you skip lunch out with co-workers at the local deli and instead take a healthy walk in the fresh air, or you say no to a night out with the gang so that you can work on writing your book, you’ll recognize the naysayers when they ask you what you’re trying to prove, tell you to “live a little” or to “stop being so serious all the time.”

Resistance in Action

Imagine you’ve just been assigned the lead on an ambitious new project at your company; you’ve worked hard for this opportunity to prove yourself, you’re confident about your abilities and now you’re ready to rock the world.

In your enthusiasm, you share your news with a trusted peer, but instead of the encouragement you anticipated they begin questioning why you would put yourself in this risky position, why can’t you just be grateful for what you already have?

They may even express doubt in your ability to pull it off, conjuring up horror stories about all the things that could go wrong.

If you’re really lucky they will then tell you what you should be doing instead … you know, if you were smart like them.

And because they disguise their negativity as a heartfelt concern for your well-being, they have now effectively planted seeds of doubt that will cause you to begin questioning your own judgment and abilities.

But wait, this isn’t the worst part!

The worst part is the knowledge that if you should happen to stumble or even fail, you will become yet another example in their storytelling arsenal that they will use again and again to discourage others in the future.

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

How to Identify Naysayers

The example above is just one type of detractor we may encounter in life. There are many others that appear in the form of controllers, drama queens and of course, the perennial victim forever tugging at your heartstrings (and nerves).

Regardless of the label, these people all have one thing in common and that is in their own way they have developed the fine art of resistance by undermining other people through the use of negativity.

The methods they use will vary. Some will subtly put you down with a smile on their face while others will attempt to bully you or make you feel that by improving your life you will somehow ruin theirs.

Regardless of the particular method a naysayer uses, they will consistently exhibit certain characteristics.

  • They are judgmental.
  • They push back against change.
  • They’re masters at backhanded compliments.
  • They oversell their good intentions, selflessly caring about your welfare.
  • You feel defensive around them even though you’re not sure why.
  • They attempt to lure you from your goals by dangling tempting alternatives.

Once you’re sure you’re dealing with someone who’s attempting to undermine your efforts, it helps to try and understand why they’re doing it.

Competition is a common cause of undermining in the workplace, but even in your personal life, it’s possible that someone might see an improvement in your personal or professional life as a threat to their self-esteem or status in your peer group.

As helpful as it would be to have a clear reason for someone’s behavior, that isn’t always possible, so it will inevitably come down to how important the relationship is to you.

If it’s a casual acquaintance the best thing is often simply cutting ties.

On the other hand, if it’s someone you are either unable or unwilling to exclude from your life such as a co-worker, good friend or relative you will need to develop a few key strategies to minimize your exposure and deflect their destructive behavior.

The following examples will help you get started.

Strategies to Manage the Naysayers in Your Life

Learn to Shift the Conversation

A kind-hearted person can easily get sucked into a negative conversation because they don’t know how to escape or neutralize the situation. A good tactic to overcome that problem is to come up with a few simple responses that will allow you to change the subject. For example, “That’s too bad,” or “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I really have to go now” and then move on.

Do Not Try to Change Them

Negativity, cynicism, and undermining are not isolated behaviors. This is conduct that has developed over time and for most, it’s the only way they know to get attention and be relevant so it would be an exhausting exercise in futility to try and change them.

Develop Positive Detachment

Detaching from others does not mean you don’t care about them. It simply means that you understand and accept that caring does not mean assuming ownership of their issues and attitudes or following the same path they’ve chosen for themselves.

Surround Yourself With the Supportive People

Even when you truly love your family and friends, if they aren’t supportive of your efforts to grow it can leave you feeling isolated and lonely.

The best thing you can do in this case is to begin tipping the scales in the other direction by gradually building a support system of positive, like-minded people who are also interested in developing their own potential. A good place to start would be groups or organizations with interests similar to your own.

Take What You Can From the Experience

As cliché as it may sound, there are valuable lessons to be learned from even the most negative experiences. Each time you are able to effectively handle someone who has attempted to discourage or undermine you is a victory that will strengthen your self-confidence and help you to avoid similar experiences in the future.

Your beliefs about your abilities have a profound effect on those abilities. Ability is not a fixed property; there is a huge variability in how you perform. People who have a sense of self-efficacy (self-belief) bounce back from failures; they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong. ~Albert Bandera

Final Thoughts

Whenever you try to do something that really matters there is always going to be resistance to overcome and people who have other ideas about how you should live your life, just as there will always be options available to rise above the challenges and keep you moving in the right direction.

Please trust me when I say that it really is okay to be scared sometimes. You can’t always know with certainty that you’re doing the right thing because life rarely comes with guarantees.

The truth is we’re all just winging it most of the time anyway, so try to have faith in your abilities knowing that regardless of the outcome you will grow stronger for the effort.

And if you find yourself feeling clueless occasionally, welcome to the club!

Related reading:

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you most want to be.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.

Thank you for sharing!

Tags: , , , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn Connect on YouTube

35 Reader Comments

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    I’m sure we’ve all encountered the naysayers in one form or another, and at one time or another.

    They just seem to be everywhere, don’t they?

    I think the #1 rule is to resist the urge to change them, or understand your reasons for doing whatever you’re doing.

    Once you do that, you got caught up in their little game of energy drain and misdirection.

    Absolutely no point in that.

    Just keep moving forward.

    Stay focused on your own growth, not other people’s reactions to it.

    Great topic and some real good advice here, my friend.
    Donna Merrill recently posted…How To Connect With Your Blog AudienceMy Profile

  2. Marty, Just today I had that experience of cynicism while visiting my cousin the the hospital rehab. She has had 3 strokes and is on dialysis. I make a real effort to visit her – drive for about an hour each way and stay with her for about an hour, looking at her very unhappy face until she shows a sarcastic smirk when I say something like this. A visitor in the room complimented my jewelry and when I replied that they are all magnets because that helps with alleviating pain, she had one of those sarcastic smirks as if to say I am an idiot for thinking magnets are useful. And at another point she snapped at me when I told her I thought her condition wasn’t as bad as they had originally said and she said “It’s worse. You wouldn’t like to be in this position” – as if I was healthy and had no idea what she is going through. It sounds harmless bit it was the tone of nastiness and the sudden pain in my stomach as if I had been punched there that tells me the intent of those comments. I still have not found a way to handle those types of undermining backhanded insults, especially when the person is really ill.

    • Ouch! Sounds like your cousin has issues and how sad it is that she can’t just appreciate the fact that you care enough to visit her and offer your support. I can’t help but wonder if this behavior is something new that has developed since she’s been in the hospital, or if she’s always been this way. If it’s the later, it might be worth thinking about your relationship with her. There’s a great quote that I often use when talking about boundaries, “Stop asking why they keep doing it and start asking why you keep allowing it.” Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute to the conversation Erica, always appreciated. 🙂

  3. Chery Schmidt

    Hey Marty! Once again here you are reading my mind LOL

    OH Yeh I know all to well about these so called naysayers! And I have read through your post a few times now and feel I now have a better handle on how I am going to go about this, Well Maybe! HEHE Yeppers I am going to wing it!
    You Rock GF!!

    Thanks for sharing.
    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…A Ground Floor Business Opportunity Worth Looking IntoMy Profile

    • Thank you for your kind words Chery, and I have to tell you there’s a lot to be said for embracing the reality that we’re all “winging” it from time to time. I think this is just one more reason why it’s so important to be able to laugh at ourselves from time to time. 🙂

  4. Ruth Bowers

    This post comes at a perfect time for me. I recently made a decision to step back from a long-time friendship because there’s no support there for me except when my plans fall in line with theirs. Your article makes me realize I did the right thing, even though it hurts. I’ve joined a couple of local meetups to start making new friends and look forward to building new networks.. a big step for li’l ol’ hermit me. 🙂
    Ruth Bowers recently posted…Five Ways to Journal If You Don’t Like WritingMy Profile

    • I can certainly appreciate how you must be feeling Ruth, especially because I’m a fellow “hermit” but it sounds like you are doing just what you need to. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. 🙂

  5. Edward Thorpe

    Hi Marquita,

    Serious subject, yet a fun read! Deliver us from friends who wanna help us for ‘our own good’, eh?

    Thank goodness my family only judge each other behind each other’s backs. Friends? Our Mom taught us to ignore what others say about us before she ‘released’ us into the school system.

    Enjoyed this insightful and caring post. Thanks,
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…4 Tips On How To Keep Your Skin Young and FreshMy Profile

  6. Janice Wald

    Initially people I knew resisted my attempts to grow as a blogger. I still get resistance from some. Important post.

    • It can be discouraging if you let it, but this is just one reason why it is SO important to be clear about your “why” for what you’re doing. Purpose guides us while passion provides the fuel. Thanks for taking the time to share. always appreciated.

  7. Joyce Hansen

    One part of my career was working as a hypnotherapist. With weight loss clients this was a hidden issue. If they lost weight and their friends didn’t, they were in jeopardy of losing their friendships. There became a choice of which was more important friends or developing new relationships.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…The Mindset of ConnectednessMy Profile

    • Excellent example Joyce! I’ve seen this situation myself many times. I recall one young woman I worked with who started a business out of her home and was doing so well, I couldn’t have been prouder of her. Then all of a sudden she just quit and when I pressed her to find out why she finally admitted that her “friends” had been criticizing her for no longer fitting in with the group and so she made the decision to give up her business and settle for her old life. I will never get used to seeing someone with so much potential just give up on themselves. Thanks for sharing Joyce. 🙂

  8. I like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I really have to go now,” as a great way to end a conversation with a naysayer. Good advice.
    I also believe in purging people who stomp on our dreams, even if they do it in delicate and polite ways. The more we surround ourselves with supporters, the less room we have in our lives for the dream crushers.
    Rosemary Griffith recently posted…Learning about George WashingtonMy Profile

    • Well said RoseMary. Admittedly I used myself as the model for the resistance in action example I gave because even after all these years that experience is still vivid in my memory. There’s no question it hurts when you don’t get the support you expect from the people you care about. As hard as it can be, sometimes the best thing you can do is to shake up your social environment and as you say welcome more supporters into the fold. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Joy Healey

    Excellent advice Marquita,

    In my family I have just learned to accept that some have completely different goals from mine.

    So, for instance they can’t understand why I am happy to spend money on buying in services that I don’t want to do myself (such as cleaning, gardening and decorating) to release time so that I can work on my business.

    In turn I can’t understand why they spend money on holidays and outings that have no lasting result and no prospect of long-term improvement of life.

    Once we agreed to differ, and not try to change each other’s opinions, things became much easier.

    Joy Healey – Blogging After Dark
    Joy Healey recently posted…Leadership Training: Learn Communication SkillsMy Profile

    • Good for you Joy! Agreeing to disagree is a learned skill but well worth the effort because it can help us overcome so many issues and still have good relationships with the people we care about.

  10. Tatia S.

    A valuable read, especially since you outline tactics for managing the naysayers. There’s a fine line between criticism and negativity. Knowing how to steer the conversation in a positive light is a great skill to work at. Thanks for sharing Marquita!

  11. Jeri

    Learning to shift the conversation has been very helpful to me over the years. I tend to spend too much time thinking about why people did something, but like you point out, that’s not always possible or productive to spend time on.

    • I hear you, Jeri. I too have always been fascinated by why we do the things we do but if you consider that often times people don’t know themselves why they do certain things it helps to put things in perspective. Thanks for contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  12. Hi Marquita,

    This is an invaluable read! As someone who has had problems with this in the past it took me a long time to learn to say no to other people. I often have ideas that I share with friends, family and colleagues and in nearly every case I face naysayers! Even those that “like” the ideas I put forward only like them so they can gain my trust and turn my attention to what they want.

    I’ve picked up some great tips here thanks Marquita!
    Richard Monssen recently posted…Get Free Website Traffic From Twitter!My Profile

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us Richard, and especially for letting me know that you found value in the post! Always appreciated. 🙂

  13. Elise Cohen Ho

    Great post. Naysayers are not very good to have in our lives. We must surround ourselves with people who can lift us up. In turn, we should be lifting them up.
    Elise Cohen Ho recently posted…Blog Sharing Link Party 28 Is HEREMy Profile

  14. Wonderful post, Marty. I like how you say that “distancing yourself from naysayers doesn’t mean we no longer care about them.” I wholeheartedly agree with that. There are a number of people in my life who were draining me because of their overly negative attitudes. I did distance myself from them. Not because I no longer care, but for self preservation. And for anyone looking for positive people, join Toastmasters! I have never belonged to an organization that attracts and nurtures such a positive and supportive spirit.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…great chocolate shops in MontrealMy Profile

    • I could not agree with you more about Toastmasters Doreen! I belonged for years and it was a wonderful experience. In fact, one of the first things I did when I moved to Oregon was check around for a local chapter. I found a couple but they are a bit too far away to work for me right now, but I’d love to get involved again one day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, and especially for letting me know you enjoyed the post. 🙂

  15. Mark

    Totally awesome advice M!

    And I couldn’t agree more with your suggestion of, not wasting our extremely valuable time, trying to persuade the naysayers.

    As you suggest, the moment we properly identified their true motives and intentions, it’s best to simply move along asap.

    And continually surround ourselves, with others who clearly share the same values,goals aspirations and beliefs etc.

    Thanks for sharing some extremely practical advice.Hopefully your words of wisdom will be heeded!

  16. Hi Marquita,
    Great post!
    This article resonate with me. It can be very annoying for some people in our lives to think they know better how we should live our life. People who think that way never believe in what the other person is doing. Such gesture when displayed by a senior often portray the victim as a nonentity. I think the best way to deal with such people is to dissociate from them.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Taiwo Emayosanlomo recently posted…Are You on the Verge of Giving up?My Profile

    • I’m so glad you found value in the post Taiwao! I understand your point about cutting ties with these people, but that isn’t always possible. More often than we like to admit some of the worst offenders in our life happen to be related, and then there are those who only occasionally create problems for us. Learning to set healthy boundaries and have these tough conversations help us grow far more than ending relationships, even though that certainly may be the less stressful way to go sometimes. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation! 🙂

  17. The worst thing about naysayers is that they make us too behave in a pessimistic manner.So, it’s also important that we don’t become like them in the long run.
    Moumita De Sarkar recently posted…How did I spend the last one month without blogging ?My Profile

  18. Phoenicia

    This post resonates with me in more ways than one.

    I like the quote;
    “No-one is more qualified than you are………….”

    We must not allow others to sidetrack us even if they truly have the best intentions for us. It is interesting how much we can allow the opinions of others to influence us if we do not remain focused. We can begin to question our ability and whether we have what it takes.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Enjoy the moment – you will not get it back!My Profile

    • Well said Phoenicia, and you are right also about how surprisingly easy it is for someone to plant that seed of doubt! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: