Someone told me that I was negative. OK, what does that mean? I believe that we are bombarded with negative thoughts. For every positive/feel good story there is in the news; there are a lot of negative stories. After the bombing incident in Boston or the latest shooting incident, I would discuss gun control or homeland security. Was that being negative or was that a search for an answer?
I try hard not to be negative. I didn’t realize that every time I talked about how warm the house was that I was negative. I thought I was just making a statement of fact. How can you talk about something that you want to change without being negative? This becomes a bigger concern when my focus is helping people improve. I look for things that could be improved. OK, baby steps, I could have said I look for things that were wrong.
The negativity seems to come from the delivery of the message and interpretation by the recipient. I believe that part of the definition of being negative has to be your intention. If your intention was to prove someone wrong or make them feel bad, you are probably negative. Many times being negative is a perception. I don’t like being corrected, so I perceive that as being negative. When someone perceives that they are being challenged, they will tend to see the statement as negative.
If I take my example of the house being warm, I could get two different responses. If you agreed with me that the house was warm you would probably respond with – right, let’s adjust the heat. You were not challenged if you agree. If you didn’t agree with me, you might respond with – why are you so negative. If the statement is worded as a challenge, you get these results. The clue was when I said – I thought I was just stating a fact. But if I word it as my opinion and all about me there is no challenge. So instead I could have said “the house is getting too warm for me, can we adjust the heat?” If they agree, the temperature will be adjusted. If not, you put on a pair of shorts. The odds of changing the temperature is the same, but the odds of hurt feelings are much less.
The same observation pertains to an office. What if I walked into the work room and said the copier is out of paper? OK, a fact. What does that mean? Did someone forget to load paper? All of this challenges someone. What if I said; “I loaded paper in the copier so the next job would print.”
What I have discovered is that absolute statements tend to challenge. Instead, state how you feel or what you want. I am going to be doing a lot of copying, can we please make sure there is paper in the machine? Just saying the machine is out of paper is a challenge.
I also believe that there are times when a challenge is appropriate. There are times when you must be able to make a negative statement in such a way that they see the reality of the situation along with a solution that shows a course correction. You must first make sure it is your role to deliver this statement. At this point, it is important to have clarity with the statement, the purpose for the statement, and the suggested solution. Getting negative can be empowering because it allows you to see the reality of your situation and limitations. Without negativity, you may never find out that you could do better. I will admit that positive thinking produces amazing dreams, visions and goals. I am all for it. However negative thinking produces plans and strategies to improve. Make sure that your intention is to improve or help.