Don’t be negative. Most people agree with that statement. We see being negative as bad. If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything. Well, I don’t agree. While presenting your ideas in a constructive way is helpful, I don’t agree with those that try to discourage negative comments.
I understand that the psychology of many people has lead them to want confirmation and to dislike criticism of ideas they propose. And I understand our society has re-enforced the desire to see criticism as bad. Using better words and phrasing your comments more effectively to make your points and avoiding being seen as negative is good). But I wish more people objected to bad ideas instead of just letting them go because they were afraid of being seen as negative.
Yes it would be nice if they objected in some wonderfully polished way. It would however also be nice if people were not so insecure that criticizing an idea required being very careful not to be seen as negative. And if I have to focus on improving one thing (in an organization) it would be how poorly people react to a negative comment rather than trying to avoid negative comments. Now, in reality we don’t have to chose one, we can do both, but the choice I would make shows where I see the larger problem today.
People should try to be constructive with criticism. I don’t think there are many people that disagree with that. However, I think people need to learn how to encourage people to criticize their ideas. We want more people providing their thoughts, not less. And what I see most often from people objecting to “negative” comments is an attempt to discourage raising legitimate issues, using the claim of “negativity.” Obviously this is not always the case. But that is the problem I see far more often than the problem of someone that is just negative.
I want people to be open to new ideas. I want them to explore new opportunities. But I don’t care if they voice negative thoughts about why this won’t work here. Or saying that we tried that before and it didn’t work. Great, lets talk about why it didn’t work. Lets try to do something different this time. I don’t want people to ignore the negative feelings they have. Express them and lets deal with them.
Now there are some people that won’t stop just expressing negative opinions without exploring what that means about how we can cope with potential dangers and find more effective solutions. That is not very helpful. But overall give me more people that are seen as negative. We need more raising of problems. We need more people unsatisfied with the status quo.
Thoughts on, Two Sentences That Don’t Help: “That won’t work.” or “I don’t like that.” I think they do work. They are not perfect, if would be better to be constructive. But I would much rather hear that when it is what is felt than someone thinking it won’t work and being quiet because they don’t want to be seen as negative.
Related: Bring Me Solutions or Problems – The difference between respect and disrespect is not avoiding avoiding criticism – The Lazy Unreasonable Man – Financial Market Meltdown – Respect for People, Understanding Psychology