“Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” — Voltaire
A No Person kills momentum and creates friction for you.
More deadly to morale than a speeding bullet, more powerful than hope, able to defeat big ideas with a single syllable.
Disguised as a mild mannered normal person, the No Person fights a never ending battle for futility, hopeless ness, and despair.
In Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about dealing with people that behave like a No Person.
Your Goal with a No Person
You goal in dealing with a No Person is to transition to problem solving.
Brinkman and Kirschner write:
“When dealing with a No Person, your goal is to move from fault finding toward problem solving, from stagnation toward innovation, from decline toward improvement. You may not stop the flood of negativity completely, but you can succeed in turning the tide back to its proper course.”
Action Plan for Dealing with a No Person
- Go with the flow. The first action step for dealing with negative people is to allow them to be as negative as they want to be. The worst course you can take with negative people is to try to convince them that things are not so bad and could be worse. This only motivates negative people to work more intently to convince you that things actually are so bad, and will be worse. Put another way, attempting to convince a No Person to be positive is like struggling to climb out of quicksand: The harder you struggle, the more embedded you become.
- Use the person as a resource. The No Person can serve two valuable functions in your life: They can be your personal character builder, and they can serve as an early warning system.
- Leave the door open. No People tend to operate in a different time reality than other people. Any effort to rush them to a decision will force them to slow down. With enough pushing for action, No People will put enough drag on things to bring them to a complete stop, or become the sand int he gears that eventually destroys the motor. Whereas the temptation might be to throw them out, exclude them, or to think, and leave the door open so they can come back in when ready. For example, “If you change your mind, let us know,” or “When you think of a solution, get back to me,” or “Why don’t you think about this for a while, and report back any ideas you have.”
- Go for the polarity response. There are two ways to apply the polarity principle when dealing with No People. The first is to bring up negatives before they do. The second is to just agree with the hopelessness of the situation, and take it one step further. This may cause the No Person to go in the opposite direction.
- Acknowledge the person’s good intent. If you are willing to project good intent onto negative behavior, negative people may come to believe it. Then that analytic perfectionism can be expressed in a more useful way. Decide to act as if the negative feedback is meant to be helpful. Appreciate the No Person for having such high standards, for the willingness to speak up, and for the concern about details.
Here are my key take aways:
- Test your No Person early. If you need the support of the No Person, seek them out early, rather than get blocked downstream. Their buy-in might take time, even if your idea is sound.
- Build an ally. If No Person is on your side, this can help build momentum. A No Person can also help you figure out what the main blockers or resistance will be.
- Divide and conquer. If your No Person is more powerful among a group, meet with them indvidually and in advance.
- Consider the time-frame. You might need to warm the No Person up to your idea over time versus a single session. If your short-burst strategies aren’t working, then try spreading multiple sesions out over time. You can experiment and find the pattern that works.
- Try reverse psychology. If their instinct is to play a Devil’s advocate, try asking them for the opposite of what you want, and test their reactions.
- Involve them in the solution. Ask them to temporarily wear a collaborative hat. It makes it safe for them to play out your ideas, and temporarily step out of their No Person behavior. See Six Thinking Hats.
I’ve dealt with multiple No People and it’s usually a matter of allowing more time and changing the approach. Asking the right questions and presenting the right arguments helps a lot. Mostly it comes down to understanding their concerns and knowing their values.
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