Handling Negative People Telling You That You Can’t Do It

The most powerful force an entrepreneur will run into is a friend or family member telling her she can't do it. As an entrepreneur, I'm sure you've run into at least one person who'se opinion you value that couldn't understand why you do what you do. The most deadly action you can take is to internalize this negativity, for once you start to believe it, you're sunk.

Today I want to talk about handling the negativity that will come your way. This is one of the most important skills you, as an entrepreneur, can develop. It takes empathy. It takes patience. It isn't easy, however if you want to become successful, you need to stop listening to these folks. Even if the negative person, is you.

You have a choice

One of the first things I had to do when I got sober and joined AA was to remove myself from the negative relationships in my life that could lead to a relapse. I knew and fully accepted that, if I drank again, I would die; therefore, I left many so called friends behind. I really had no choice.

The same is true for any entrepreneur that wishes to be successful.

Now, some relationships are easier to leave behind. Frankly, one can always find more friends. With 7+ Billion people on earth, you're guaranteed to find more people that will like you. The odds are in your favor.

Other relationships, like those with your family, are not so easy. My parents, after 14 years, are starting to fully understand that I will never get a job. It's not part of my DNA. And that's alright. However, I've had many arguments with them over the years, mainly when they suggest I should get a job for reasons of “stability.” I will argue any day of the week that being an entrepreneur is more stable than any job on earth! But I digress.

Don't get me wrong – I'm not suggesting you leave your family behind because they aren't fully on board with what you're doing. My parents have been extremely supportive over the years, and I'm not about to easily or quickly leave that behind. And I don't suggest you do either.

Something more nefarious than friends or family telling you that “you can't do it” – be it starting any type of business, living the life you want, or whatever it is – is you internalizing this talk, and believing it. Worse than anyone whispering negative statements in your ear, is you telling them to yourself. Some people call these limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs are those beliefs that literally limit what you do.

Here are a few common ones I hear people share:

  1. I don't know enough.
  2. I'm not smart enough.
  3. I don't have enough time.
  4. I don't have enough money.
  5. I'm not good enough.
  6. I don't deserve it.
  7. Even if I do it, I won't be successful.

The list goes on and on, and I think you get the point.

Only We Limit Ourselves

Here's the bottom line my friend, and read this carefully: only we limit ourselves. The potential within a person is phenomenal. So many of us are walking around with huge potential, if only we can determine what that potential is! And that's where personal development comes in.

Years of schooling telling us to do things a certain way; years of getting trophies even if you don't win; years of being told things are either black or white; years of having someone swoop in and take care of things for you – all of this has limited your ability to see your true capabilities.

Is it true that some people are smarter than others? Yes! But so what?! I don't have to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs to have a beautiful life full of success and love.

Is it true that some people have more money that others? Yes! But so what?! I don't have to be Warren Buffet in order to have a beautiful life full of success and love.

Is it tue that some people deserve more than others? Absolutely not! Everyone deserves to have a happy life, and can choose to. Happiness is a choice. It's a choice.

And that brings me to the title of this post – handling negative people.

Let Empathy Lead The Way

I learned many years ago that the only thing we control is ourselves. Easier said that done, yet it is a true statement.

Jack Canfield has an equation: E + R = O. E stands for the event; R for our response; O for the outcome. Based on your response to an event, you get a particular outcome.

Happiness is a choice.

Try this the next time you hear someone tell you that you can't do something:

As soon as you hear the statement, let your response be one of empathy. Having empathy means that you seek to understand the feelings of another. So look at this person and think as to why they might be bringing a negative view.

  1. Is it because they tried the same thing and failed?
  2. Is it possible they were told for years that they couldn't do it, and have internalized it as fact?
  3. Could it be that they can't comprehend, due to limited knowledge, how it could possibly work?

I'm asking you to put on your empathy hat, so that you can have a more positive outcome for yourself. Happiness is a choice. So is success.

But what if the negative person is you? What if you are telling yourself that you can't do it for any of the reasons that we listed above? One way is to get introspective. Another is to question your assumption.

If you think you aren't smart enough change that thought around. Who is to say you aren't smart enough? No one. Are you really expected to be an expert from day one? No! Do you have to be to get started? No!

If you think you don't have enough money to do something, instead of focusing on what you don't have (money), focus on what you can do to get more of it! Is there something else you can sell? What expertise and skills do you have that could help you get more money? What expertise or skills can you learn that can help you get more money? There is such a vast amount of information out there in books, videos, audios, magazines, and websites, that you can learn almost anything you wish!

When those negative thoughts pop into your head, and they will, either because you or someone else put them there, you can choose to listen to them, or you can choose a different response.

Don't Let Anyone Tell You That You Can't

People are going to be negative. Often times, we won't know why. We have no control over these people. But what we can control is our response.

E + R = O

It's a powerful equation. It requires taking responsibility for your response, in order to create the outcome you want.

Happiness is a choice. Success is a choice. You define both of these for yourself. No one else can do that for you.

Once you realize that you are in complete control of your life through the choices you make, and you take 100% responsibility for those choices, your life can literally be changes overnight. Your outcomes can and will always be, positive.

So how do you handle negative people? Empathy, and choice. Seek to understand, enough, why this person is being negative. Understand that you have a choice – you can either internalize it and believe what they are saying, or know that they are incorrect.

Today, what choice are you making?


  1. I had this happen to me a couple of years ago when I finally decided to quit my full-time job to start my own business. I was told I did not have what it takes to run a successful business. It took me two years but I am still sticking with it. I must admit there has been a few hiccups but i can honestly say I have more confidence now than I did two years ago. My business was up and running completly this year Febuary 2012. Each passing day i am getting more and more confident.

    • Hi Alison – there is no one way to do a business, and if anyone tells you different, we both know they are wrong. A lot of it is trial and error, which is where the best lessons coming from.

      A little unsolicited advice that helped me – find a mentor and create a mastermind group. Highly recommended!

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