Difficult Behavior – Negative or Realistic?
We’re talking about what to do with negative people. I’m saying maybe it’s not them that’s draining you, maybe it’s you draining you by trying so hard to be upbeat when they’re around. All that focus on your mood takes you away from what is going on in the real world, all around you, all the time.
I had enough of the ‘me-me-me’ stuff in the 80s. There is more to life than being positive all the time, more possibility than what’s available when you surround yourself with people who walk like, talk like, act like you do, or like you want them to do.
Am I being negative? I don’t think so. In fact, I’m POSITIVE that I’m not. And I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the people labeled as negative have a different view of themselves. I remember another public seminar, this one in Topeka Kansas in 1988. It was a management program, and I talked a bit in the first part of the program about dealing with pushy, negative, and disruptive behavior on a team.
During the morning break, a gentleman approached me, and said, “Don’t turn around and look at him, but I came here today with an extremely negative coworker. I loved what you had to say about this, but you should know that he doesn’t think of himself as negative. He thinks of himself as realistic.”
That tickled my funny bone, and I laughed out loud. I told him, “I’d like to respond to this idea with the whole group, if that’s alright with you.” He said, “Sure, just don’t point me out, because then the guy will know I was talking to you about him.”
I waited until the afternoon to bring up the subject. I looked everywhere but at the guy and his coworker as I discussed some of the strategies for dealing with the ‘realistic’ people who can’t find their way forward. But I also couldn’t help myself. I repeated what had made me laugh. “Some people don’t think of themselves as being negative. They think of themselves as being realistic.” The audience laughed loud and hard, which I enjoyed, and then I offered my prescription.
A week later, the training company I worked for sent me a letter from one of the participants at the Topeka program. It was a scathing review of the day. It referred to my inappropriate laughter, my lack of insight and my rude attitude towards attendees. Interestingly, I scored a 4.7 out of 5 at that training, with 287 people turning in evaluations out of 308 in attendance. So, I think I did pretty good. After considering the math, I have to suspect the letter was from ‘that’ guy. It’s not uncommon for people in a negative frame of mind to become passive aggressive when they think they’ve been dismissed or written off.
More next time. I leave you with a negative metaphor, because I’m not done beating this horse. Perhaps thankfully for some, I’ll be back next time with my final installment on this series of posts.
While I don’t expect to hear from you, I’m certainly willing to be surprised!