Discouragers - How to deal with them

Have you ever set yourself a goal or a target and with great excitement and enthusiasm you’ve shared this news with a friend or work colleague and they have not reacted the way that you would have expected them to? Instead of words of encouragement and support all you get is a sigh, an eye roll or general disinterest? If yes, then you have just encountered a discourager.

Discouragers can come in many forms. They’re good at blending in with regular folk and spring out when you least expect them to. They launch surprise attacks targeting your confidence and self-esteem, often leaving their victims shocked and confused, hurt by the betrayal and bruised by the treachery. It can be especially hurtful when the discouragement comes from somebody close to you like a good friend or family member, with whom you have placed trust with your most precious of secrets and somebody who has seen your failures and your successes.


So, what makes a person become a discourager? What has led them to this moment to reveal themselves in this most ugly of roles? That’s not an easy answer and one you may never crack. However, there are a few different reasons for this and not all of them are as bad as they seem.


The goal or target is too great a risk for them

This type of discourager is a common one. They imagine themselves in your shoes and what it would be like for them to attempt what you’re proposing. To them, the goal is too great and too difficult. They can see themselves failing and carry the same negativity towards you. This discourager often comes from a place of concern and fear and these individuals often have your best interests at heart. They simply don’t want to see you fail and become disappointed in yourself. In short, their behaviour is protective and not necessarily sinister.

They don’t share your vision

For some people, seeing the full picture can be difficult. Perhaps they don’t have all the information they need to gain a full appreciation of the plan or maybe they just lack the skills to visualise the end game. This type of discourager will fail to recognise the reasons behind your choices and why it’s so important to you. They will make decisions of their own and will be surprised when you refuse to follow them. In a way, this discourager is attempting to help you through their advice and may be quite stubborn and unwilling to change their view. Although their heart is in the right place, the discouragement can be very hurtful and unhelpful.


Plain and simple jealousy

Everyone gets jealous at some stage, even if they refuse to admit it but when it comes from somebody close to you it can be incredibly challenging. This discourager will feel uncomfortable that the attention is focused on you and they may channel their feelings towards you in a negative way. This type of discourager may also feel a sense of inferiority or embarrassment at the thought of your success and will attempt to talk you out of it. The main difference with this discouragement is that it comes from a place of selfishness and self-interest, adding a more sinister element to the behaviour.

They don’t share your interests

If someone doesn’t share the same interests as you, this is potentially going to have a twofold negative effect. The first is that they are probably not going to be particularly well informed about the ins and outs of your goals (including the possibility of success). The second is that they are unlikely to see any of the benefits of you striving towards this goal, or they don’t understand the overwhelming achievement of reaching that goal.

So how do I handle these pesky individuals?

So now that we have identified the various types of discouragers, we can explore the best ways to deal with them. This is tricky and how you choose to handle them will depend on different factors such as:

  • Your relationship with the person;

  • Your personalities;

  • How you handle the emotional side effects of their discouragement;

  • What actions they have taken to deliver the discouragement; and

  • The motivation underlying their discouragement.

However, we have compiled a list of strategies that you can try:

  • Try talking to the discourager about how their discouragement affected you – this may be beneficial to both of you as the discourager may be unaware of how they have come across or they might not have understood the significance of your goal.

  • Don’t get defensive, hurt or angry – taking things personally isn’t going to help to diffuse the situation and encourage an open dialogue (easier said than done). Remember though, you don’t need to convince them of your point of view in order to achieve your goal – their support might make things easier when the going gets tough but it’s rarely going to be a make or break.

  • Consider not talking about your goals – this is essentially a ‘choose your audience’ piece. To illustrate, a family member once expressed outrage when I told them I was training for a 25km trail running event – they weren’t being nasty, they just couldn’t possibly conceive why anyone would want to do that. They are not interested in running and have never done much cardio fitness training in their life. Instead, I don’t tell them my goals or what I’m training for, I just tell them when I’ve achieved the goals and they are impressed.

  • Make the motivation for your goals intrinsic, not extrinsic – essentially, don’t look to other people to keep you motivated and cheerlead you along your journey. Write down your goals and why you want to achieve them. Think about how you will feel once they have been achieved and what sort of stepping stone of growth this creates for you in the future. If you have cheerleaders of course that is amazing, but don’t rely on them.

  • Have confidence in your own abilities – it is much easier to doubt someone when they seem unsure of their own goals. When someone is supremely confident in their ability to achieve something, the negative outside talk will often either be eradicated or substantially diminish.

  • Work towards SMART goals and be prepared to educate people along the way – first, make sure that you goals are SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) and that you have a plan in order to reach these goals. If you do, when you talk to someone who is not as knowledgeable as you about the subject and they express doubts then you can use facts and your plans to alleviate their concerns.

  • Surround yourself with enablers – if the discourager’s motivation is because they do not share the same interests then find your tribe of people who do share your interests and talk to them about your goals instead.

  • Use it as fuel and motivation – not that we suggest surrounding yourself in negativity, but take that discouragement and use it as motivation to prove that person wrong.


You can always try more than one of the above strategies if you find your first strategy isn’t effective.

Always remember though, you are the master of your own destiny and you have the knowledge to make wise decisions for your life. Take a deep breath, plan your next move and keep on chasing down those dreams Runnovators – we know you’ve got this!


- Craig & Nic

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