I had a golf league and for three weeks I had people coming up asking me to not put them with Casey. Out of 60 people, 30 people had told me she was too negative to golf with. So now I had a dilemma, what was I going to do? Talk to her about her attitude? Ask her to stop golfing? Literally, every week the other people she golfed with would approach me and ask me to NEVER put her with them again. This left me in a leadership dilemma as to how to turn this around without alienating her and I knew the group was watching to see how I would handle it.
So I put Casey in my group for the next two weeks and observed her communication style. Casey is what I call a “socialized negative”- she gets her attention and fulfillment by focusing on and sharing with you the negatives of her day and life. To her she is connecting with you while to others she was repelling them. I knew that if I talked to her about it she wouldn’t be able to even “see” what I was saying as she saw what she did as “socializing” not as being negative.
When you run into someone like this, here are some tips on how to turn the negative person around so they stop draining you:
1. Ask only questions that can be answered positively.
2. Avoid any yes or no questions as opening conversation questions. Since the person’s brain is conditioned to go negative they will want to answer those questions from the depressing side or point of view.
3. When they go negative, don’t try to “solve” what they put out there. This only feeds the cycle and gets them to bring up more negative points.
4. If they drone on about something ask them, “What are you expecting of me? Are you wanting to solve this?” If they say “yes”, then you immediately move them to focusing on how they will solve it. Remember to make them solve it, not you! If they say “No”, then you simply say, “Okay since you don’t want to solve it, it is best if we just let it go. So let’s focus on..” and redirect the conversation.
5. In a team meeting, if you have a negative person make them play the “devil’s advocate” and look at things from the opposite perspective. Give them time to do this as, for them, it will be like pulling teeth.
Take Action: If you have a negative person on your team, take this week to try to actively change the way you interact with them and see if you can move them toward more positive outcomes.
People who are “socialized” negative just really want to connect and talk but how they do it drives every one nuts. They won’t see that until they start getting more attention from people as they frame things in to the positive.
Outcome Thinking® Training shows you how to change your thinking to move people to positive Action in every situation.