It seems that every organization has some negative people. You know the type–you ask their opinion on something and they launch into an avalanche of complaints or you mention the sky is blue and they point out the one cloud. Perhaps you compliment a colleague on a job well done and Negative Nelly or Negative Norm is quick to point out what the colleague overlooked. No matter how hard you try, these people refuse to offer a positive response. 

How do you handle these naysayers? Be a naySLAYer! It’s tough to be around people who spew negativity. It’s bad for morale and corporate culture and it will breed if left unchecked. You need strength not to fall into the habit of being negative yourself when you’re surrounded by such downers. Here are a few strategies to help you weather that grey cloud colleague you may have in your office.

Surround yourself with positive people. 

One of the best ways to counter negativity is to counterbalance it with positive forces. Your optimism alone may not be enough, so hang out with positive people. These colleagues will buoy you and fill you up when the emotional vampire sucks you dry.

Find humour. 

Being able to laugh at the situation (not the person) is a wonderful coping mechanism. The shorter the length of time between an incident and when you laugh, the more sophisticated and developed your funny bone. Instead of getting steamed, fed up, or discouraged, picture yourself in a sitcom and how ridiculous the negative person looks and sounds. It’s comical, really. When you think this way, I bet you can anticipate the negative person’s response before you even hear it. Laugh to yourself. It’s a coping mechanism.

Keep your distance. 

Negative people love an audience. Don’t give it to them. Know that your silence and non-response may well be interpreted by the naysayer as tacit approval, serving only to fuel the fire. Instead of sitting there passively, you could tell the nayslayer, “Actually, I don’t see it quite the same way …”, and offer your more optimistic, balanced perspective. If this fails to shift them out of their negative funk, shut them down by segueing into another subject.


The best way to become a naySLAYer is to slay, not the person, but the behaviour. Sometimes people don’t realize how negative they sound to you and others. There’s a good chance that what they’re really negative about has precious little to do with whatever topic you’re discussing. Or it could just be such a repeated behaviour that it’s now their habit.

Habits are super tough to break as they require awareness, knowledge of what to do instead, and a real commitment. Make it uncomfortable for them to continue the behavior. Remove the rewards of attention. These will act as incentives and considerations for change. Sadly, naysayers will always exist. And that’s exactly why being a naySLAYer is so important. So raise your sword and chop out that behaviour in your organization. 

PS: HAVE A COMMENT? I’d love to hear your comments about naysayers and nayslayers.  Drop me an email at or if you have a Facebook account, click here, select “like”, and add your comment to my FB wall. I look forward to hearing your comments!

Until next time, Better communication, better business, better life,

Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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