“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.” Nina Simone – Self-Preservation
What’s the best way to deal with negative people?
Negative people are everywhere, in the classroom, at home, or at the workplace. We often feel trapped and forced to be patient with people who bring us down. Sometimes we have the option of fleeing these situations, especially when negativity turns to hate. Escape from negative people can preserve our integrity and save our energies for people who bring out the best in us. Making smart choices about the people with whom we associate is really important for our chances for happiness.
This podcast explores the nature of loyalty and the struggle that everyone has in knowing when and if they should let go of the people who are bringing them down.
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Image source: Wikimedia | Ron Kroon | Anefo
Dan Fouts: 0:00
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here. We’re educators with a combined 50 years of teaching experience, who have created the Teach Different podcast to model how to have unforgettable classroom conversations using a super simple 3-step method with quotes from the world’s great thinkers. Our method works with any subject area or level, including diverse learners and English language learners, teachers, administrators, and social emotional learning specialists. If you’re looking for a unique way to think deeply, connect with others, talk about things that really matter, and bring a great tool back to your classroom, then you’ve come to the right place. Welcome!
Steve Fouts: 0:55
Our quote today is from Nina Simone, American civil rights activist and singer, “You’ve got to learn how to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.”
Sue Maurer: 1:05 – Claim
I just looked at it, but I immediately thought of middle school girls who are struggling with negativity from friends’ texts, and how it’s bringing them down. They’re not able to share with their friends that they can’t take on their negativity, which creates conflicts. When I read the quote, I thought of the young ladies who are in sixth and seventh grade who are sobbing because someone said they’re not their friend. There are a lot of problems.
Steve Fouts: 1:42
Friends are so important to them. You can’t diminish it. For them, this is the most serious stuff in the world. You mentioned negativity, and that’s what I gleaned out of the quote. What do you do with negative people in your life? Do you leave the table? At some point do you have patience, give people charity, and try to get along, or do you just have to leave?
Sue Maurer: 2:21
I think that’s a great question, too. It’s difficult because there’s a responsibility factor. Negativity often comes from depression or a lack of empowerment. There are many valid reasons why somebody is negative, but there is a time to leave the table. I think it’s trying to figure that out. Maybe you’re not the one to help them through that experience, and you need to advise them to go elsewhere. But that usually comes off very difficult. You may make somebody feel rejected, if you’re not willing to listen to their negativity. Then, you’re accused of not being loyal, and without empathy. It’s a very tricky situation.
Steve Fouts: 3:08
When I shared this quote with Dan, he said, are you sure you want to use this quote? It’s pretty serious. We could touch on some serious issues. I saw a lot of themes in it that people could potentially take to. I’d love your opinion about this. If you had to come up with a counterclaim to this, how would you approach it? Is it that you need to be patient, loyal, and tolerant? What’s a good counterclaim that convinces you? This is a tough one.
Sue Maurer: 3:59
It’s actually very tough, because it’s nuanced. It’s going to depend on the situation. From the standpoint of somebody being completely self-serving, and not looking out for the good of the whole, you’re assuming people come in with good intentions when you go the direction we did with the quote. That they’re coming in without a giving aspect in their heart. There is definitely a counterclaim out there, because you don’t always leave when you’re not being served, or not really.
Steve Fouts: 4:53 – Counterclaim
How about never giving up on people? You’re right, It’s a tough one.
Sue Maurer: 5:12
I like to never give up, but that doesn’t mean you don’t. It can be momentary. If you live with somebody who has severe depression, you have to get up and leave at certain points. You cannot just sit there through all the pain and agony.
Steve Fouts: 5:32
I think you’re right.
Sue Maurer: 5:34
Maybe the table will be served, but know when it’s time to come back. The counterclaim could be, you have to learn when to come back.
Steve Fouts: 5:52
I really like the phrase, you’ve got to learn to leave. I think that has a nuanced meaning. This is something that doesn’t come naturally. It’s something you have to learn to do. You have to learn that you can’t take the abuse or the negativity.
Sue Maurer: 6:25
Honestly, I will use this. I can’t help going to this young group. It’s pretty deep. Kids are talking about suicide. Up here we have the highest suicide rates in the nation. Suicide has been an issue throughout the United States this year with COVID, three or five times the rates. Huge numbers between the ages of 14 to 19. So, when a friend writes that they’re considering killing themselves, it’s not just to get attention. This is a real thing. They have seen suicide in their lives. Kids will text someone in a neighboring village saying, I’m depressed, I want to kill myself. Then, they come back to their other friends with more texts along the same deep dark subject. I talked about blocking texts from kids within our village. I said, talk to each other. It’s a little different when somebody is texting them from 80 miles away, but here there is a lot of misunderstanding. They’re not leaving the table. They’re trying to solve it on a text.
Steve Fouts: 7:39
That’s a train wreck.
Sue Maurer: 7:41
It’s a train wreck. I basically told these guys, you’re 12 and 13 years old. Your kids. Go play and have fun. They’re so relieved to learn that they can do that. We don’t need to try to solve this problem, because we can’t solve it. But, they’re getting a lot of pressure from the person who’s writing all the negative texts. That person says, you’re not my friend if you’re not listening to this. You’re not with me. You’re not mine. So, it’s a really bleak catch 22.
Steve Fouts: 8:20
It’s really tough. It is a tough one. Loyalty, it’s a wonderful word. It’s a wonderful virtue. It feels so good for someone to have your back, and for you to have someone else’s back. It creates closeness, and you can accomplish great things with it. But, it is one of the most destructive forces. I struggle with it. If there’s one virtue, or whatever you want to call it, that has this double edge to it, it’s loyalty. I don’t know what to do with it.
Sue Maurer: 9:13
I think loyalty is extremely scary. I don’t know if it should be classified as a virtue, because it sounds like there’s such a double edge to it. To be supportive is one thing. Loyal smacks of trouble. It’s cult like. It’s not a good trait. It’s a major problem with most disheartening breakdowns and relationships in history.
Steve Fouts: 9:49
Based on that, you become fearful of leaving. Let me know when you have to go, by the way.
Sue Maurer: 10:06
I’m checking. I’ve got four more minutes.
Steve Fouts: 10:08
Okay, good. You would like to think loyalty is a positive affirmation of the way that you feel about someone and what you believe, but as it plays out in real life, it becomes this fear of not crossing someone. It’s no longer an affirmation.
Here’s Dan. He’s coming on. He can say hi to you, as well.
Sue Maurer: 10:41
It seems that loyalty, by its very definition, means that you’re going to have trouble with another group or person. It’s not about humanity anymore. It’s about either this or that, and that is going to be another group of people or another person. I think you’re onto something. I don’t know if somebody’s spoken to this whole concept, but I’m sure that it’s bad.
Steve Fouts: 11:16
Dan, we’re talking about loyalty. Dan Fouts has to head off to another webinar in a couple minutes, but this is where we were going with this quote.
Dan Fouts: 11:29
That’s great, loyalty is right there as a theme in this quote.
Steve Fouts: 11:34
If you leave the table, you’re not loyal, and that’s an issue for some people. Dan, what do you think?
Dan Fouts: 11:45
I was thinking of loyalty as an angle to this as well. How strong of an impulse is loyalty, when you’re not getting the kind of feedback that you should get? Why should you stick with it? How much hardship do you want to take from people in the interest of just being loyal to them? That’s true with families and friends. I’m also thinking of teams. If you’re on a team, and many students in sports experience this, and you don’t feel like you’re getting enough playing time, and you’re not getting enough respect from the team or the coach, you have to decide, should I be on this team to be loyal, or do I need to have a little bit more acknowledgement in order to get something out of this? Some kids quit the team, and others stay on it. Teams are a good way to think about this quote. What did you say, Dan Fouts?
Sue Maurer: 13:08
That’s a great analogy.
Dan Fouts: 13:12
I know some parents take the tact that you made a commitment to this team at the beginning of the season, and so now’s not the time to jump ship. But, other parents might say, wait a minute, you’re not getting any better with your skills? Maybe it is time to move on.
Steve Fouts: 13:35
I like the team analogy.
Sue Maurer: 13:39
That’s a life lesson. The lesson is when to leave. When you talk about more serious loyalties, like loyalty to Hitler, or something that is both mind boggling and horrific, fear jumps right in. Fear and loyalty seem to be very closely tied. Dan, before you came in, we talked about the leaving of the Republican Party and what’s going on there. People are standing by.
Steve Fouts: 14:13
They’re right there, and they’re figuring it out on their own. Sue, it was great to see you. Thank you so much for popping in.
Sue Maurer: 14:29
Good talking with you. Bye Dan.
Dan Fouts: 14:30
Take care, Sue. Thanks for dropping in.
Steve Fouts: 14:32
We’ll talk to you.
Dan Fouts: 14:34
Thank you. Okay. Bye. Bye.
Steve Fouts: 14:38 – Essential Question
Here’s an essential question you can use to end a conversation like this, and start thinking about different ways the conversation could be used to connect with your curriculum. What’s the best way to deal with negative people?
Dan Fouts: 14:58
I like this essential question as a connection to curriculum, because when people want to make change in any way, they are going to run up against negative people. Let’s just take this into U.S. history for a moment. I’m a social studies teacher, as people know. If you’re teaching the women’s suffrage movement, think of the negativity that was thrust upon that movement at the very beginning and throughout the 19th and 20th century. What is the best way to deal with negative people? Do you push forward or adapt your strategy to try to win approval? You could get into how the women’s suffrage movement tweaked its approach over time to satisfy some of its goals. That would be a great connection, I think, and you could use any kind of movement in U.S. history,
Steve Fouts: 16:04
The civil rights movement would fall under the same kind of banner. When you’re not getting love from your own society, and you’re being treated differently by society because of your race with different laws, then you have to decide whether or not you want to work to make that society better, or separate and give up. It really is that same question. Different people come down on different sides on how to deal with negativity. There are a lot of examples in American history. The struggle for human rights and civil rights are ample for this type of question.
Dan Fouts: 16:58
Anytime there’s a process of change underway, you’re going to have negative people. It reminds me of the conversation we had a week or two ago about critics. If Malcolm X was talking about how you need to have critics, it’s probably an indication that you’re being successful in what you’re doing. You’re going to have to confront negative people. This is true on a personal level, and an historical level. It has the same spirit.
Steve Fouts: 17:38
How much patience do you have when you’re not being treated the way you should be treated? How much patience should you have? There are different ways to argue that you should stay at the table or you should leave. They’re all valid and situational.
Dan Fouts: 18:03
Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized with a great conversation to bring back to your classroom. If you see value in this 3-step method, then reach out to us at Teach Different. We offer workshops and online Zoom trainings for schools and we’d love to connect. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, don’t forget to teach different with conversations and make a difference every day.