We had some discussions going on last week about negative thinking, and specifically about avoiding it at all costs. Well, I hate to come over all jargonauty and awkward here, but I have to disagree. I love negative people. Of all the personality types, of all the attitudes, they are the most useful to somebody like me.
I know, that must seem ridiculous. Who would choose to be around negative attitudes, and welcome that sort of input? What use, what benefit, can there possibly be?
Here’s one; negative people are a fantastic braking system for over-enthusiastic, multi-tasking creatures like me. They point out when I’m taking on too much, going off at pointless tangents or trying to engage others before they’re ready. They make me stop and think.
Here’s another; negative people are negative for a reason. They have seen good projects go bad, well-meaning ideas cause huge problems. They’ve experienced the damage that a handful of positive and unprepared Pollyannas can do if they’re left unchecked.
And finally, it’s character building. Being forced to justify my ideas and anticipate pitfalls helps me to prepare a better case for something I want to try. It pushes me to be realistic about my abilities, about the amount of support and resources I can call on, and the impacts I could be looking at if I’m not careful. It brings me back to earth and reminds me that I’m not so great and I’m certainly not infallible. I have to build the skills to communicate properly why my idea is worth pursuing, and to listen to alternative points of view.
So negativity is a barrier, yes, but it’s a barrier that can be negotiated if you see it for what it really is – people who know something you don’t, trying to stop you from making things worse. It’s another resource to call on.
I read this book years ago – Dealing With People You Can’t Stand. I always recommend it to anyone who’s having interpersonal issues with colleagues, friends or family. My copy seems to be missing today, which is a sure sign someone in the house is having trouble with somebody. I hope it’s not me …
There are several ‘types’ explained and analysed in the book, but the section on ‘the No Person’ is especially good. The tactic it recommends is using the negative thinker on your team as the issue spotter, the detail checker, the weather vane They will have fun finding all the ways you’ve failed to think ahead, and you’ll have a comprehensive list of all the things you need to tackle or mitigate before you implement your grand plan.
Seriously, what’s not to love?