Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dealing With Negative People In A Small Community

Every small community has its handful of negative residents. In a small town, most everyone knows who those negative people are. (Social media even makes it easier to spot them these days.)

These are the folks who can spot flaws in the best of situations.  They are the ones who like to air their negativity publicly. They typically believe that nobody can or could do the job better than them, if ever they were to actually help around town.

Obviously, no one can be happy all the time; no one who isn't on some type of drug can keep a permanent smile on their face.  Yet, putting up with constant negativity is, at best, draining. And at worst, it's a morale killer that negatively affects the attitudes and efforts of fellow residents.

Here are our five strategies we've devised for dealing with negative people in and around a small town:

1.)  Don’t write off the negativity. It’s easy to dismiss negative attitudes and comments with remarks like, “That’s just the way she is.” But sometimes, negative people are pointing out very real problems and legitimate concerns that can and must be addressed.  Town leaders, school administrators and group organizers need to take into consideration all serious comments and complaints, even if from the consistently-negative crowd.

2.)  Consider the circumstances. If an always-negative resident is coping with a personal matter that is affecting his/her behavior, be sympathetic.  In a small town, we often hear what other people said, but we don't know the circumstances that may have prompted the comments.  The truth is, those constantly negative people probably have a big void somewhere in their lives.  (This happens in the big cities just as often, if not more. The Negative Nancys simply aren't as visible there.)

3.)  Make Negative Nancy part of the solution. Sometimes, community leaders simply need to let those who are constantly negative know that their concerns are being heard -- and that it would make more sense for them to tell someone who can do something about it, instead of airing their negative comments for all to hear (or read).  Establishing a special committee and offering a committee spot to the negative person would put the burden on Mr./Ms. Negative to be part of the solution.

4.)  Be rational in your approach.  Negativity is mostly emotional.  Don't combat emotion with more emotion; combat negativity with facts.  For example, if someone is constantly saying the cost-of-living is too high in Dorchester, show them Dorchester has the lowest school levy in Saline County; show them that Nebraska, overall, is one of the very least expensive states in which to reside. 

5.)  Know when to say goodbye. We realize our words aren't so powerful that we can change personalities. Let's all work to bring the negative personalities around by making them part of the solution.  But at the end of the day, in a small town -- just like a big city -- some people only want to complain and wear a constant frown.  Perhaps they feel isolated or can't see it's their own attitude acting as an impediment to making their own community a bit better.  For these people, it's best to leave them alone and not give them a platform.

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