6 April 2020
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You've got to accentuate the positive.

Could feedback stop these negative SOBs talk down house prices?

Peter Switzer
17 October 2018

One of the greatest assets I have is my ability to cop a bagging! And despite the fact I have lots of followers thanks to my media exploits, there are those who don’t either like what I say because I’m at odds with their beliefs, or their positions in the financial markets, or they simply don’t like me!

My developed thoughts on who hates me have been sharpened since my team recommended that I tweet more often to generate interest in my writings. It has worked, with my twitter followers spiking, and one story I wrote last week generating a readership that was three times bigger than usual and twitter, facebook and linkedin are all to be thanked.

I have to say the nastiness that these social media platforms breed has worried me in the past, as negative people can really go for the jugular more easily than the good old days when someone would have had to write a letter, buy a stamp and go to a post box to have their say. 

When I worked at Triple M, when it had 20% of the Sydney radio market in the pre-internet days, one phone call or letter was seen as representing the views of a thousand people! And when I got a negative note I found it rattled me for some time, but I was young and easily destabilized, learning how to cope with being in the media and shoving my views down other people’s throats!

Dr. Raj Raghunathan, writing in Psychology Today, reveals something many of us might already have worked out and that is “how other people treat you is the single biggest determinant of your happiness.”

He goes on with the basics but I think a lot of people who dish out the bad stuff to their so-called loved ones, might not know how much unhappiness they are spreading or else if they do they are SOBs!

When people close to you are nice to you, you can’t help but feel happy; when they mistreat you or avoid you, you are bound to be unhappy,” the good Doc tells us. “The reason our happiness depends so much on the quality of our relationships is because humans are supremely social creatures.”

Dealing with negative people is a recipe for unhappiness.

“Constant exposure to such negativity can make deep inroads into your bank of positivity, leading you to either become negative—diffident, anxious, and distrustful—yourself, or to become indifferent, uncaring, or even mean towards the negative person,” Raj explains.

Over the years I have learnt to deal with negative critics in three ways. The first is to ask myself the question of whether or not the negative SOB might actually be telling me something I missed? I use it to test out myself, or my views, and so I turn a negative into a positive. I’ve actually thanked some of these nasty SOBs who might be brutal commentators, but they have shown me something I missed or didn’t know.

The second way is to ignore them, especially if they come back with vitriol.

And the third way is to explain my position, thank them for their observation and wish them luck. It’s funny I sometimes get a positive reaction and some might even say that they shoot from the hip watching my show while having one too many wines!

However, this very mature Peter Switzer was very different to the one who wanted to smack a radio colleague in the head who thought it was a great joke to bag me! If I had not been counselled by my very smart wife I might not be writing this column, have a TV and radio gig and instead would be a crusty, cynical old academic!

And by the way, that nasty radio colleague was not all wrong and his goading actually made me strive to be better at what I was doing.

Feedback is critical to success and I’ve made the point previously that much of my success was down to my wife Maureen deciding she would become my life coach when we first met, when I didn’t know I was in the market for one of those!

I told a conference in Queenstown only a few weeks ago that Maureen used to watch me like the way a Labrador eyes off a sausage at a barbecue. And she not only identified what I was doing wrong, but she had all manner of ways to share with me about how to fix my problems.

And it’s why I now say behind every successful man is a very surprised woman! And undoubtedly, someone who deserves endless appreciation for what they’ve done, often at the cost of their own success.

Negative people, according to Raj, crave respect, love, and control.

He suggests that helping negative people see the sources of their negativity and how it’s often their attitude, rather than the unfair world, can be productive. 

But this comes with an ironic twist as “people don’t respond well to critical feedback, and those feeling negative almost definitely won’t be open to listening—let alone accepting—critical feedback.”

Raj reckons he has a better bullet to hit the target with negative people.

“In a nutshell, this option involves three elements: compassion for the negative person, taking responsibility for your own happiness despite the other person’s negativity, and maturity in how you interact with the negative person,” he advises. And I think he is spot on, and, as if by divine intervention, that’s the way I’ve learnt to deal with my critics.

This column was inspired by my twitter debates on the subject of the media’s beat up of house price falls. 

Wanting to believe that a house price Armageddon is just around the corner seems to be the preoccupation of the media. And when I saw a mate of mine tweet something which suggested he was jumping on the bandwagon driven by a one-eyed and misguided media, I tweeted that not one credible property expert/economist is tipping a big price collapse in Sydney or Melbourne.

I’ve interviewed all of the good ones, or read their forecasts, and they all think the price pullback will be measured. So I don’t know why some quarters of the media want to be so negative, and worry people unnecessarily, which could affect bidding at auctions and hurt the economy.

And here’s a prime example with one media outlet going with a scary housing headline about NAB getting more negative on house prices. The news outlet told us that NAB said "Confidence has dipped to new lows, pulled down mainly by NSW and VIC, where property professionals scaled back their outlook for prices, particularly in VIC where falls are now tipped to be much bigger."

However, if you weren’t so scared and you were brave enough to keep reading the story, you would’ve learnt the following: “The orderly correction in house prices will continue over the next 18-24 months, with Sydney falling around 10% peak to trough and Melbourne 8%. This reflects a bigger fall than previously expected but would still leave house prices well up on 2012 levels."

Even their more negative forecasts say that over a couple of years or so Sydney house prices will fall 10% and Melbourne 8%, and that’s peak to trough. And remember the peak for Sydney was probably a year ago and it’s down 6.1%, so next year, according to NAB will be another 4%!

Sure NAB — one of the big lenders in the country — could be wrong but I reckon their price guessers have qualifications and experience such that they have a good chance of being right.

Gee I hope my media mates take this feedback as a positive suggestion aimed at helping their accuracy but as Dr. Raj pointed out — negative people don’t take kindly to criticism!

As a very negative ex-friend always used to say until I could take it no more: “Life sucks and then you don’t die!”

That was a double negative that just did not make a positive for me.

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