Take No for an Answer

Don't dismiss naysayers--ask for advice, and turn it into a tool for success.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the October 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As an entrepreneur, no matter how seasoned you are, when someone says something negative about your business, it stings. In fact, negative comments have the power to crush ideas before they are born.

Conventional wisdom says that you should follow your heart and ignore the naysayers. However, some of the best ideas are born from unwelcome criticism. Negative comments often contain kernels of truth-they are just delivered incorrectly. Your mission is to engage the naysayers, determine what they are basing their comments on, and discover new information that can help you succeed.

Listening to naysayers is especially important, because in most people's lives-including my own-the naysayers are family members and people you love! Your spouse, friends and family want you to succeed; however, they also want to protect you from anything that may be difficult. Realize that behind each question lies the subliminal suggestion of "We love you and don't want to see you suffer."

Naysayers are important business allies. Here's how to engage them in your dream:

1. When people say negative things, respond by asking for their advice. Repeat their statement back to them, and then say, "You're right. Achieving success can be difficult. What would you suggest to make it possible?" As you listen to their suggestions, their defenses will fall, and their years of experience will come pouring out. If they don't have an answer, they probably have contacts who can help you succeed.

2. Let them know you want to hear their ideas. Naysayers are used to people dismissing them rather than listening to their ideas. Be sympathetic to this, and give them an opportunity to respond. Unless you are in a sales situation, don't attempt to persuade them that you're right, because that makes them defensive. Your goal is simply to find the truth in what they are saying and discover new ways to create success for yourself.

3. Compliment them on their suggestions. The easiest way to turn a naysayer into an ally is to make them feel appreciated. Be sincere when you tell them what you have learned from them. It's a rare occurrence for naturally negative types to be complimented, and it's motivating to them. Compliments will keep their wheels spinning, helping you develop solutions to your most vexing problems.

4. Don't take criticism too personally. Criticism from people we care about cuts a bit deeper. It takes a special focus to actually hear what they're saying rather than the tone they're using. Make the extra effort to understand their point and find something valid in their words.

Expectancy always wins. If you seek solutions from others instead of dismissing them, the resources you need will surprisingly be revealed. Engaging naysayers also helps you develop a strong belief in yourself. You will feel a sense of empowerment that charges up your business for success.

Editor's note: Looking for our "Countdown to Startup" series? We've compiled it into one easy-to-use feature. Click here to read it.

Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Dream Business.


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