As a positive thinker myself, I strive to see the positive in everything including the negative thinking patterns of friends and colleagues who are determined to rain on everyone else’s parade. The reality is that these negative types bring a lot to the table:
- they manage risk beautifully as they have foreseen and prophesied every possible danger or downfall including every aspect of the latest recession (if only we had listened to them)
- they keep the overly optimistic grounded and on their toes
- they are detail people – they see each detail in magnified technicolor so that the project or programme is managed efficiently and on time
- they ask the difficult or awkward questions
- they cause others to question assumptions
- they are loyal and grounded
- they make the positive thinkers (and impatient threes like me!) practice a virtue called ‘patience’
However…… the toll they take on others with their constant down beat predictions, constant complaining and de-energising affect is significant.
What the positive thinkers need to recognise is that these negative types actually ‘get off’ on their negativity.
If there wasn’t something in it for them, why would they do it? They control their anxiety by predicting the worst. Let them. Encourage them to go the whole nine yards in their negativity and eventually when they reach the point of the absurd, they may very well lighten up. In the meantime you have gained from their particular contribution as outlined above.
Unfortunately it’s not only the toll they take on others that is at stake but the toll they take on themselves as they live in a state of heightened anxiety prompting either fight or flight – either aggressive or passive behaviour – and that’s not a good place to be.
So what will help them?
Reassure them and don’t judge them for their anxiety. Be direct and clear, use humour to diffuse their fear and gently encourage them towards new experiences. Above all try not to over-react to their over-reacting!
If you are a negative thinker try to value your gifts but also try to stay close to people you can trust, who are positive in outlook and who can help you overcome your fears. Observe your fears without judging yourself but check the facts or evidence for them. For example, check out the number of planes that actually crash in a year. Learn to breathe and meditate.
Above all remember that none of us are perfect and that it is OK to make mistakes.
A question for you
Following the narrative tradition in which we work, we are very interested in hearing from you so a question for you to share your experience and/or knowledge.
For the positive thinkers; what other things have you learned from negative thinkers?
And vice versa for the negative thinkers; what other things have you learned from positive thinkers? Feel free to post below.
Photo: © fejas – Fotolia.com