Have you ever met a "skunk person?” Oh, yes, they're out there — the pessimistic, constant complaining, energy draining, negative attitude people. And just like their black and white furry counterparts, they can make life miserable for those around them.

Skunk people come in all genders and ages. You find them in our family farm operations. You might even be married to one! It doesn't take long to “sense” their presence for they have a big effect on the environment and the behaviors of those around them. What's the fallout?

Decreased motivation — Negativists are convinced they have little power over their lives. Their victim mentality is contagious. Why bother to work through the challenge when the result is out of our control anyway?

Decreased energy — Available energy is spent defending yourself or cleaning up the mess. You just get tired of the battles.

Decreased creativity — You begin to censure your own ideas because you know they’ll be shot down. This cautiousness limits possibilities.

Decreased health — Stress lowers resistance, which can make you sick.

What do you do with a "skunk person?”

Remember, a skunk doesn't mind its own odor. You must take action.

  • Get rid of them, or at least put them where they can do the least damage. For example, you may not be able to fire your dad, but perhaps he can do repairs, marketing or recordkeeping while physically away from others.
  • Remove yourself physically and/or mentally. Acknowledge the skunk by saying, “You might be right.” That takes away a fight. Then leave and focus again on your goals.
  • Dilute their power. Surround yourself with positive people and resources.
  • Plug your nose, but don’t hold your breath. You decide their behavior will not affect yours. This means you may need to go it alone. Your initiative and informed optimism just might spread to others.

An important reminder: As you check your environment for skunks, don't forget to smell yourself!

Jolene Brown is a farmer and professional speaker based in West Branch, Iowa. She can be reached at 319-643-2429 or via www.JoleneBrown.com. © Copyright 2013 Jolene Brown.