“The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism”

Do you remember that phrase? If you’re my age you probably do. It was spoken by then Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (yes that was his real name!) on September 11, 1970 when speaking about the press corps that was following around the Washington insiders at that time. The accusation and statement was that the press is a negative group out to discredit the government and its officials (the power brokers of the time) with idle chatter, gossip, and constant negativity. They were accused by Agnew of being incompetent with their constant negative comments. The line was actually written by speech writer and author William Safire and is still around today. And so is that negativism because as far as I can tell, nothing much has really changed in that regard.

"The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism"

In fact, and I am sorry to say this, I think negativism has grown to epic proportions around the world. Being retired now I have some time on my hands, enough so that I sometimes watch the cable news channels and that’s a place you hear so much of that talk that it’s actually scary, especially in this election season. It matters not which network, they are all affected.

When I think about being financially savvy and looking towards a good financial future and happy life, I can’t help but be shocked by how many times a day we hear words that sidetrack us on that road to those goals. It takes a real effort a lot of the time to concentrate on the positive. I know there’s a direct link to positive thoughts and success. I have read about it, studied it, and tried to live it most of my adult life.

When I wake up each morning, I am almost always in a good mood. I’m not kidding. I most often have a song in my head and I start singing it in the shower. I usually look outside my window and no matter what I see—sun, rain, wind, snow—I can still feel like I have a plan for the day. Over my morning cup of coffee, I can jot down some notes and begin to organize myself. These days, it’s my routine to think about my posts here and keep up and sometimes even ahead of it. But invariably, something happens during the day which makes me lose some of my focus. It may be me, but I think it may be all of us too.

Sometimes those nattering nabobs are in our own heads, with thoughts that we can’t do things or we shouldn’t do them. Sometimes they come from outside. When we hear negative messages all day long, we start to internalize them and no becomes our default answer to everything. No might be good if you’re trying to avoid unnecessary spending, but no can also keep you from reaching your goals and aspirations.

If you are a bit younger than me, you may not be able to remember the Agnew quote, but you may remember the Reagans and the 1980’s. That’s when the word no became something that you heard daily in the news. When President Reagan was in office during the late 1980’s, negativism again came into our language only this time a little differently. It was the first lady, Nancy Reagan, who coined the phrase “Just Say No” referencing the need for young people to give up their epidemic use of illegal drugs. By the way, it still is that way and is probably worse than it was then. The campaign and its no never really worked but no was out there and being said an awful lot. And all of that got me thinking again.

No, although it had good intentions under Nancy and Ron, is still a huge part of our culture.  Negativism whether it is from or about our politicians, celebrities, comedians, songwriters, careers, finances (really it goes on and on) is all around us. It’s hard work to be negative and it’s also a real buzzkill. Just for a minute or two, I decided to see how much of no and negativism I could actually think of just to make my point… So here goes, no on parade.

No Way, No How, No Parking, No Change, No Speeding, No Love, No Way Out, No More, No Dice, No Mistake, No Swimming, No Running, No Jumping, No Cell Phones, No Talking, No Shirt No Shoes No Service, No More, No Hunting, No Trespassing, No $100 Bills, No Food or Beverages, No Cameras, No Entrance, No Exit, No Ifs Ands or Buts, No Means No, No Discussion, No Pennies, No Consideration, No Pardon, No Reprieve, No Mercy, No Refunds, No Returns, No Credit, No Appeal, No Availability, No Work, No Respect, No 2nd Chances, No Children, No Compromise, No Complaints, No Feelings, No, No, No.

And that’s just off the top of my head.

"The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism"

Words are very powerful and no is a word that is one of the most powerful there is. There’s no doubt that its use and meaning have some benefits. We teach our children the word no almost from the time they’re born. Usually it’s because we’re trying to warn them about some sort of danger, which as babies they don’t quite understand. It’s a warning, “No, don’t touch that” or “No, that’s hot!” and those kinds of things.

At some point in our lives, we are able to understand the differences between no to protect our wellbeing and the negativity we hear that can inhibit us and deter us from something bigger and greater than what we are right now.

Words like no can damage us, and negativity can seriously harm us emotionally. Our words should be chosen carefully and used to help motivate and cause a change in behavior that is positive and healing. Ok, I’m not the Dalai Lama, but you get my point here I hope. Being positive will really help you achieve your goals in life. It will help you overcome difficulty. You will feel better and you’ll make others around you feel better. I truly believe that our culture and for that matter the world’s cultures are so deep in negativity that it has become the new normal. Good news is rarely spoken about.

So, if you feel like you lack success in life or you’re unhappy about your finances, relationships, or failures, you can remain that way. It’s a choice you make. But what I’m telling you here is that you can change that when you wake up tomorrow morning. Hopefully, when you do you will have a song in your head and when you look out your window you will have a plan for your day just like me.

Do you feel there’s too much negativity in our culture? What do you do to stay positive?


  1. The Agnew quote is a little before my time, but remember the Reagan one very well. I just avoid the news to stay positive. 🙂 I don’t let thing outside of my control affect me. If someone negative pops up in my life I try to evaluate how important thy are to me. Its something we talk with our children about. If some random kid as school calls them a name why does it matter, who is that person to you. You can save yourself a lot of trouble if you have a good filter.

  2. Not having cable TV has helped keep negativity and sensationalism out of our lives. I envy you that you wake up with a song in your head, and that you sing in the shower. My disposition isn’t quite that sunny but I’m working on it.

  3. Sharon

    I’m 51. When I was growing up, you wouldn’t know the news of the day until you had a chance to sit down with the evening newspaper after your workday. I remember my dad would sit with the paper for at least half an hour after 5. These days as soon as you go online in the morning, you can get the news instantly. And of course we have 24/7 news channels. So many more opportunities to invite negativity into our lives. Plus on social media sites like facebook, they have trending news headlines, so even if you just wanted to go on and see what your friends or family are doing, there is usually some kind of breaking news headline that creates fear & anxiety. And since we have our own social media accounts, we can rant & rave too about every topic out there, creating more disharmony. While it’s great to be informed, do we need to be informed 24/7 when its causing all of us to become more & more stressed out? Sometimes being connected comes with a price.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Sharon. I couldn’t agree with you more on what you’ve written. It seems that everyone is caught up in the instantaneous ability to read and comment on everything and anything, including their lunch (with pictures). I am always trying to limit just how much negative influence I deal with and it sounds like you make the same kind of effort. I’m just afraid it’s going to get more difficult as time goes on and new technology comes into our lives. But we can try!

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