3 Ways to Communicate with Naysayers

by Tammy Strobel on February 28, 2011

The dictionary defines a naysayer as:

“. . . someone with an aggressively negative attitude or someone who systematically obstructs some action that others want to take.”

We’ve all dealt with naysayers in our lives. Naysayers might be family members, friends or work colleagues that give you odd looks when you talk about simple living or alternative career choices. Most of the time, the naysayers in my life have good intentions. They want me to be happy, but don’t understand my choices.

With that being said, I get really frustrated when I hear negative comments. People usually tell me things like . . .

Going car-free is crazy, you’ll never survive in the world without a vehicle.

Simple living is a joke. It’s gone mainstream. So there’s no need to discuss this topic anymore.

How can you survive without a refrigerator? That’s insane!

When I find myself getting annoyed by these kinds of comments, I take a step back and ask myself how I can explain my viewpoint.

Communication and finding a commonality is key. I usually sit down with the naysayers in my life and tell them our story. The conversations can be difficult and awkward, but the results are often positive. These kinds of conversations have helped me distill my beliefs and reaffirmed my resolve for living with less.

When I have these conversations, I usually bring up three key points.

1. Money is life energy.

Debt is an opportunity cost. A cost that you trade for one of the most valuable things in your life, time.

Not owning a traditional house or a car means I save money and valuable time. My rent is less than most people’s monthly interest on their mortgage and my transportation costs are very low since we don’t own a car. So I’m able to use my extra income to volunteer and give money to community based organizations.

I’m not opposed to working hard. I’m in favor of working on projects that excite me and bring joy into my life.

2. Television is a burden (and so is excess stuff).

A friend recently asked me:

“How do you get so much done everyday?”

My reply: “I don’t own a TV and don’t have to worry about cleaning.”

In my former life I was addicted to television and spent many hours numbing my mind. When we lived in a huge apartment with a TV, I devoted about 20 hours a week to the zombie box and cleaning.

I was unhappy and unhealthy. As a result, I wasted an incredible about of time that could have been spent with friends, family or working on kick-ass projects. Now, I spend my days writing, volunteering, and connecting with people. I’ve rediscovered my time and it’s an amazing feeling.

3. Visiting us is still an option!

Many naysayers have asked:

“There isn’t room for us in your tiny apartment! And your little house will be even smaller. Where are we going to stay?”

My response is always the same. Family and friends are always welcome in our home. Logan and I are more than happy to camp out on the floor while guests sleep in our bed. If people don’t feel comfortable with that option, there is always a hotel. The money we’ve saved by living small and lightly allows us to treat friends and family to a lovely bed and breakfast experience.

Closing Thoughts . . .

Do we really need a big house, a six-figure salary, two cars, or an iPhone to be happy? Probably not. We need strong relationships and community. Don’t let the naysayers hold you back from pursuing your dreams or living simply.

Via La Tiny Revolution!

***

Quick Announcements

  • Also, I got back from Fishtrap late last night. It was amazing! My workshop and talk went really well, despite all my nervous energy. I’m working on an article about the weekend and the people I connected with. I’ll post my essay next week. So stay tuned and have a wonderful week!
1 Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate February 28, 2011

Happy to hear Fishtrap went well. I look forward to hearing more abut it!

Katy

2 SillySimple February 28, 2011

Thanks for this post– it is a great reminder that others don’t have to understand or agree with your life choices. By keeping life simple and expenses low you have so much more flexibility. You can jump at new career opportunities or back out of bad situations without financial disaster looming around the corner. It is great!

3 Timmy February 28, 2011

You have a kindred spirit in us. Great post!

4 Weston February 28, 2011

Tammy

When you say

“My workshop and talk went really well, despite all my nervous energy”

Have you considered the possibility that the workshop and talk went really well because of all your nervous energy?

5 Tammy February 28, 2011

@Weston – Great point! Logan was just telling me the same thing. Sometimes nervous energy can be a good thing. :)

6 Weston February 28, 2011

That Logan must be a hell of a guy. Particularly when he agrees with me.

This very point (the benefits of nervous energy) has been the subject of numerous studies. The most famous one is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Curve. I do a lot of presenting in public. After 30 years of presentations I have found that (at least for me) a certain amount of fear and anxiety is crucial to me doing a good job.

I wish it was otherwise, but that’s just the way it is.

7 Kimmoy February 28, 2011

I would say the best way to communicate with naysayers is showing them that while you love your own lifestyle, you respect theirs. I think people feel you want them to “convert” when it’s really not the case which is why they come off as naysayers. Also another great way is to recognize that their opinions is just theirs, not yours – a great lesson from the book “The Four Agreements”. And lastly educate: explain to them that this is what works for you and you have your own reasons why. If they don’t agree, then agree to disagree and STOP communicating about the subject; naysayers can become energy suckers if you let them.

8 peter February 28, 2011

That sums it up very well. One does not need to defend their decisions when those decisions only affect themselves. Leading by example is why RowdyKittens has followers. PBH

9 Tracy March 1, 2011

I also so agree!

10 Tammy March 2, 2011

Thanks Kimmoy, Peter and Tracy. :)

Kimmoy – The Four Agreements sounds like a fantastic book. I’ll add it to my reading list. :)

11 Heather February 28, 2011

That photo has got to be one of the most authentic finger wags I’ve ever seen. ;-)

12 Tammy March 2, 2011

@Heather – Yeah, I agree! Logan was a good model. :) Teehee!

13 Amanda February 28, 2011

Great post! We still have our television but we’re cutting cable service today so that’s a start! Have to say though that I’m kind of horrified anyone would seriously complain that your appropriately-sized apartment (or house) would inconvenience their ability to use you as a hotel! My gosh, that seems so aggressively imposing.

14 Jayme February 28, 2011

Tammy you always have such insightful information! Who cares what other people think! The fact that you don’t have to slave your life away to afford luxuries should be the new way of thinking! I find it funny how people are always complaining that they work way too much and don’t have time for their family and friends…well, stop being expensive! That leads to working less and voila! You are an inspiration and I hope everyone would develop your way of thinking!

15 Kent Griswold February 28, 2011

The joys of expressing yourself and ideas on the internet. I have also experienced this and it is easy to let it get you down. I’m glad to see you facing this issue head on and voicing it on your blog. It can be hard to take at times and also hard to know how to respond and moderate. Keep up the good work Tammy and don’t let others negativity pull you down.

16 Jenny Foss February 28, 2011

Money IS life energy. I love this point!

Naysayers are usually just those who, at least on a subconscious level, wish to God they had the bones to live out their convictions. When they see someone like you who is? It makes them uncomfortable. And the easiest thing to do when you’re uncomfortable like this? Try and convince the one living out her convictions that she should jump back into the other camp.

And that would be the camp of “follow the masses averageness.” Unfortunately, as you see if you look deep into the naysayer’s eyes…? It’s really not all that fun there, even if it has giant couches, extra bedrooms, and an inground pool.

Love what you’re doing. Love your conviction even more.

Cheers, Jenny Foss

17 The Tiny Homestead February 28, 2011

I know you’ve talked some about unplugging, but I find internet just replaces TV and any other time-sink that I eliminate. I need help.

18 Tammy March 2, 2011

@The Tiny Homestead – Take a peek at today’s guest post by Matt. It’s on this topic and super helpful. :)

19 Caroline February 28, 2011

Really appreciate this post. I like how you focus on telling your story. Rather than needing to ‘prove’ that you’re living in a ‘good’ way, you are making powerful, counter-cultural choices that speak for themselves. Hats off, and I look forward to hearing about Fishtrap!

20 Tammy March 2, 2011

Thanks Caroline! Fishtrap was amazing. I’m still trying to process the whole weekend. I’ll post my article next week. In the meantime, you can take a look at my photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowdykittens/sets/72157626169898488/

Have a great week!

21 Joe3 February 28, 2011

Great post…..love the finger wave. Giving up the TV was also good for me, I spend more time with friends and doing things that have more meaning and enjoyment for ME. My daughter and her husband were concerned where they would sleep in my little one room home…I also offered the king bed – and have a backpacking mattress/bag I’m very comfortable in…but they said NO, my offer was to put them up at the Best Western a few blocks away. I’ll see what they decide….but the savings from living small is waaaay more than enough to cover that expense.
Living small allows me to work two days a week and more than covers all my expenses.
Again….this was a GREAT POST !!

22 Melyssa February 28, 2011

Ah, item #3 is what my hubby always comes back at me with. We have lived in our 3 bedroom home for almost 8 years now. Within the past 3 or so years, we may have had an overnight guest once or twice a year. I started thinking about this extra room that I am paying a mortgage on. The door stays shut on it. After thinking about it long and hard I turned it into a home gym. If I am paying for it, then I may as well get some use out of it.

We have a mattress and box spring sitting against one of the walls in the room. If we do have a houseguest, that is what they’re sleeping on. No bedframe, no night stands – just a mattress. It took a long time to get to this point.

And now we’re looking for a smaller home, and a guest bedroom is NOT on the list of necessities.

23 Joe3 March 1, 2011

I have a friend of 35 years that has always lived in a two bedroom two bath home. He’s never had anything in the second bedroom. When I visit I know to bring my backpacking mattress and sleeping bag. His theory is if he would put furniture in there someone might come to stay for a while…..He’s living even simplier than most….but also has his hobbies…an airplane !! sometimes two !! I don’t know but suspect he’s a millionaire based on his work history and occassional talk about our individual investments. He’s never been afraid to just pick up on a Sunday and fly us to the Bahamas for the day…….It took me a while to understand his choice, now…..I love it !!

24 Tammy March 2, 2011

@Joe3 – WOW that is an awesome story! Sounds like a nice and smart friend.

25 Joe3 March 2, 2011

Yes he is……….nice, smart, and rich. Once he met a lady he was serious about, she laid out plans for this and that, one of them she wanted to be married in 6 months…….he wasn’t comfortable with the 6 month deadline and told her so, she left and found someone else and was indeed married within the 6 month period. We still laugh over a beer at that one !

26 Idara February 28, 2011

I can certainly appreciate your thoughts on refraining to purchase an iPhone- I am looking for strategies to decrease (and/or eliminate) cell phone usage- the reports I have read about radiation have gotten me thinking in this direction (and I wish to streamline this recurring expense), but I have yet to see a clear cogent strategy about how folks are weaning themselves away…I primarily work for myself so I don’t necessarily have an employer phone number per se- would love to hear your thoughts or recommendations on writings that dig into this issue- thanks!

27 Chris O'Byrne February 28, 2011

I love the pic of Logan!

And I’m looking forward to borrowing a bit of your floor space come June. :)

28 Gena February 28, 2011

I so appreciate hearing about other’s ways of handling naysayers because boy have we had our share that didn’t *get* what we were doing with simplifying, moving overseas etc. We heard from relatives the time worn cliche of a rolling stone gathers no moss; though we kind of reverse applied it and thought that was a great metaphor for not gathering stuff. From friends that couldn’t understand leaving them behind their genuine concerns and, understandably more selfishly motivated comments of how they were going to miss us (of course we miss them too). In the end we had to deal with each naysayer individually as I’m sure you have. Thanks for the reminder that we are not alone, unique choices, right for our life not necessarily others are always going to have the attached risk of other’s objections or outright rejection. It is still so worth making them.

Glad your talk went well, course we knew it would ;) now looking forward to hearing all about it! Have an awesome week!

29 Susan February 28, 2011

Mainstream???

Well, I guess it’s true in a way. But it’s a narrow viewpoint. You’re not categorically talking about methods of downsizing. You’re talking about the philosophies behind it. The way it impacts and frees your personal life. How you live the life you want by using downsizing and simplicity as a tool.

In my experience, naysayers are disgruntled by something they believe to be true and can’t understand why someone else, who is successful by said methods they are naysaying about, can’t see it too. In other words, tearing you down out of fear or insecurity.

30 Alexis February 28, 2011

Thank you for this post. Relationships and community are my #1 value. I don’t always live up to that in my life in the ways that I’d like to, but they are the most important thing to me, and I really appreciate hearing you talk about your experience with them as a pillar of your life, and knowing I’m not the only one who thinks that way.

31 Laura February 28, 2011

Great advice Tammy! I realized when reading this post that I really need to spend some time thinking how I would sit down and explain my life choices to someone. My instinct is to just dismiss the ‘naysayers’, with the thought that explaining myself isn’t worth the energy. But you are right, opening up communication and having conversations with people could lead to a wonderful discussion and relationship. I’m going to work on that!

Laura’s Last Post: The 3 A’s of Awesome

32 Sherri February 28, 2011

Love it. I experience a similar thing when I tell some people that I’m leaving the U.S. for Latin America. I think it’s important to remember that some critical words may be coming from a place of insecurity within the “naysayer”. I’m glad your strong enough to move past it and do what makes you happy. You’re an inspiration for me and many others. :-)

33 Holli February 28, 2011

Love your insight and attitude on this topic.
No-TV: we gave up cable easily as we realized that with baby number two in our lives, our priorities shifted to bed time and connection as a couple-even as simple was just sitting next to each other while reading and randomly talking. Our then 3 year old son wasn’t yet addicted, so it was an easy transition. Today was use the TV for the occasional movie or games-another area for addiction/time suck unless you’re too busy doing other cool stuff.
As a family, I’m sure we’ll revisit the topic as the kids get older.

34 Becky Lerner February 28, 2011

1) Love that pic of Logan!!!! LOL

2) You go girl!!!!!

35 Kristy Powell February 28, 2011

Thank you so much for sharing your approach to naysayers. I attempt to love mine with graciousness, but I can’t say that I’m not hurt when it comes from someone I consider myself close to.

Honestly though, I prefer naysayers to those who just completely brush me off as “a kid-without-a-clue that will figure it out when big-kid-life shows up.” I don’t know what people are talking about, I feel responsible enough as I consider what’s important to me and orient my life accordingly. And what I think some think of as “big-kid-life,” such as paying of debt and running around like chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off (a hardly desirable way, even if I weren’t a vegetarian), I’m committed to make decisions to avoid. So as I was saying, I prefer naysayers to those who seem to disregard my self and my ways, as naysayers generally care to engage in conversation–even if they don’t intend to listen.

36 Thea Easterby | Write Change Grow March 1, 2011

Hi Tammy
Enjoyed this post, particularly item number 2. I hadn’t really thought about how much time you would save not having to clean a big house. My townhouse is two bedrooms (one is a small office) and even though it is reasonably small conpared to other homes in my area, it can still take a lot of work to keep it clean. It is a time consuming process.

Funny how people freak out about you not owning a tv. I wish I could give mine up (but not sure if I could give up watching the DVD tv discs that I like). I know I would get a lot more writing done though. My tv recently broke so I am using the small one out of my bedroom for my main tv (I know I should not have two). People think I am strange for not simply going out an buying a huge plasma to replace the old one. but I am more than happy with the small one. I also refuse to get digital (more channels to waste time on) until I totally need to.

Cheers
Thea

37 Melanie Toast March 1, 2011

Thank you for this post. I have learned to identify potential naysayers and avoid talking about topics that will stir their negative energy because it does affect me. Conversely, bouncing my unconventional ideas off of like-minded thinkers energizes me, so those are the people I seek out.

38 Justin Lukasavige March 1, 2011

Our new house is only 100 feet bigger than our current house, but it’s only 1,315 square feet (much bigger than your new one!). My dad tells me we need much more room than that. But why? We’re doing great where we are now. Why do we need all kinds of overhead (and extra payments) for people who only visit us once a year?

Great post!

39 Lauren Caselli March 1, 2011

I really loved this post, and the link to Leo’s “Can’t Find Your Dream Job” post. I’ve been trying to find a way to simplify, pare down, live in a smaller apartment (although in NYC, that’s not terribly difficult to do). I appreciate this article like whoa. Well written, Tammy.

40 Sergio March 1, 2011

I love this post. I couldn’t agree with it more. We live in a small apartment and have recently added a new member to our family. This is causing some stress to our family visits as our guests are uncomfortable with us paying for their hotel room. I’m going to go read about your refrigerator-less life now. Cheers.

41 caromusa March 1, 2011

I think you don’t need to explain people your simple living if you are confident on what you’re doing.
Some people don’t want to understand it, because they feel threatened by anything out of their standards.
So relax, and enjoy your life!

42 Paul Strobl March 1, 2011

I find the best way to deal with naysayers is to ask them enough questions about their own life. Typically, they are arguing with you to try to justify their own decisions in life (which they are unsure about).

Great piece as usual Tammy!

43 Tammy March 2, 2011

Thanks Paul! :)

44 rob March 1, 2011

Tammy:

You’re in the unique situation of blogging your lifestyle and “putting it all out there”, which is going to attract a larger number of naysayers than usual.

As with my vegan diet, as I trim back my stable of possessions I am talking about it less and less. Partly because people (as with food) view one’s more minimalist lifestyle an implicit attack on their more consumer oriented life, and feel the need to inflict on you all the good reasons they *need* a huge house filled with crap and why my situation is unique, etc., etc…

As with too many possessions, or watching TV, listening to other people blather about their different opinions wastes time. This isn’t a dress rehearsal – this is all the life you get.

So, for us that don’t blog about our lifestyles I’d say that quietly living life as you wish, and declining to argue about it with other people is the most time and stress optimal thing one can do.

45 Maggie March 1, 2011

What a great post! I am guilty of spending way too much time and energy caring what other people think. I think a lot of this comes from being a mom – as soon as you become pregnant, people come from out of the woodwork to force their opinions and judgments on you. If you’re not prepared to handle that (I wasn’t, I was only 19!) it’s way too easy to let the opinions of others start influencing your life. I wish I was brave enough to make radical life choices that I know others would not approve of, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet. The most I am able to do is put up with the constant, if good-natured, ribbing I get for being vegan. Maybe someday, though, I will live in a tiny house! :)

46 Elizabet March 1, 2011

Hi! Would you mind elaborating a touch on no cleaning aspect? I’m really curious to your thoughts (and falling in love with your potential response!)

Thanks!

47 Tammy March 2, 2011

@Elizabet – A smaller space requires less cleaning time and I love it! When we lived in our large 2 bedroom apartment, I spent about 3 hours a week cleaning. Now I spend about an hour a week. Maybe less.

48 Lan March 2, 2011

I feel like I’ve been a naysayer in the last 3 months, and I can sense my sis feels that way sometimes. My sis & her husband had a baby in 2009, and last year they started considering about buying a MiniVan. With gas in the $3+ range, I’ve advised them not to get one. They have a 13 year old decent toyota camry that’s still working. They don’t plan on having more kids, even with one more kid, the camry will still fit, so I don’t understand why they want to burden themselves with more costs. My sis is a housewife, and my brother-in-law does not make much either just enough to get by. They have put off buying the MIniVan so far, but they are still considering it. I wish I had discovered minimalism sooner, so that I’d not have been stuck with the house, but that’s going to change for the better :-) I am working on converting my family [sigh] one baby step at a time though before I scare them off ;-)

49 Lacie March 18, 2011

I hate to say this because I like the idea of your website, but spending time on the Internet is not any better than TV. It seems you spend a lot of time on your website away from face-to-face time with people. How is this any better? it’s not. In fact, I’ve found that the Internet is much more time consuming place, not to mention that it is a very negative place that is full of celebrity gossip and depressing news. Whatever bleeds reads i suppose. Anyway, I like your idea of simple living and appreciate that, and I just wanted to point out how the net can also be a time waster that also many people. I found that limiting my time on the Internet to about 4 hours a week has significantly changed my attitude for the better.

50 Tammy March 18, 2011

@Lacie – I agree. That’s why I constantly take digital sabbaticals. But I have to say I strongly disagree with your judgment about my day to day life. You said, “It seems you spend a lot of time on your website away from face-to-face time with people.”

That is very far from the truth. I spent a lot of time with friends, family and volunteering in my community. Yes, I do spend time on the Internet. Just not as much as you might assume.

51 shel March 30, 2011

I’ve just found your website, and I love the idea of living simpler. I’m currently a nanny in an up-scale neighborhood, and let me tell you it has taught me about how not to live my life. Paying on a very large mortgage, commuting three hours a day to pay for it, hiring a nanny, a housekeeper, and a gardener (to keep up with the big houses’ HOA rules), shuffling kids to more activities than they should ever be in, spending weekends away from my spouse while one takes one kid to basketball and the other soccer, having to have “play dates” because your kids just don’t have time to play, and driving a land-boat of an SUV is not for me. I always knew I wasn’t into those sorts of material things, but I never gave a second thought to time and how pressed these families are for it (I didn’t really do any activities when I was younger and I turned out just fine haha) . Thanks for all of your wisdom! :)

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