Re-thinking ‘Negative’ People

27 Mar

criticizingIn this age where so often people engage their mouth before their brain, it’s important not to be so quick to label those who criticize something as being “negative”. This notion came to me while walking on the streets of NYC where I came upon a marquee in front of a church that read something like this: “Avoid being around negative people. They find problems in solutions.”

At first glance, the message is catchy and gets you saying to yourself, “Yeah, negative people are real downers and energy drainers. However, when thinking further about the message, I came up with a different conclusion. Let me explain. Imagine you are working on a project and present what you consider to be a solution to a challenging problem that’s been giving everyone on the team a fit. Would you like others on your team to simply support your suggested solution without giving it much thought in an effort to stay positive and be viewed as the team who “goes along to get along”? Or would you want team members to examine your proposed solution for the purpose of possibly finding any gaps or weaknesses? And if identified, would you want them to make their concerns or criticisms known?

My bet is that you would prefer the latter. What’s important to realize is that criticism by its very nature is rooted in some degree of negativity no matter how we try to soften our message. However, well-intended criticism, even though rooted in negativity, is meant to be helpful and move the process along, so that a successful outcome is realized. Sure, there are those who criticize and are negative for the sake of being critical or negative. They are the individuals on the team who either are unskilled in giving criticism or they have another agenda in mind and most often not a helpful one! It’s those who have the other agenda in mind that we need to view suspiciously and watch out for!

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).
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