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  • Writer's pictureDoug Miller

Why Can't We Just be Positive

Are we just negative creatures?

With everything going on in the world today it's a challenge to stay positive especially considering all the undeniable negative events surrounding us whether that's the pandemic, the disparate treatment of our black Americans, civil unrest, or even taking a glimpse into our political leadership. Let's think about those things within our control our emotional reaction.

Why do politicians quickly focus on the negative regardless of someone's political leanings?

It's simple really because we fall for it almost every time

Are we just negative creatures?

Is that just who we are?

Are we just complainers by nature?

There are several reasons for our negative vibe:

#1 - Righteousness

Some of us really do believe that we have all the answers (and that those around us just don’t). Our way is the best way and impassionedly the only way. We are blinded by the ideas of others and reject other ideas unless (and only if) they align with our own way of thinking. And righteousness is greatly compounded when others stay silent or root-on the destructive behavior for their own self-preservation.

It sure is a shame – people who tear down others and side-step their personal responsibilities to those around them and fail to leverage differentiated thinking and creative ideas. If the righteous being is wrong, they avoid responsibility and skillfully find an opening to blame others. In their world, the failure was a result of others who have infected their perfect plan.

If their idea fails to deliver…see #2 and #3 below.

#2 - Deflector

For the vast majority of us – by accepting negativity and repeating it to those around us – any potential negative attention directed towards us individually is significantly reduced. Politicians do this all the time – put a negative spotlight on their opponent and their misgivings are forgotten. Leaders certainly use this tactic – deflect attention away from the core causes of failure (which many times is the leader themselves) and pin botched execution on others. This phenomenon is the ignorance towards Everything Pins to Leadership.

Courage begins with seeing beyond the noise and maneuver around the deflection to expose the epicenter or cause of the issue. This isn’t about double-downing on negativity, but rather to achieve the ultimate goal of realizing positive change.

The most successful leaders are vulnerable at the right times, skillfully navigate disappointments, and redirect focus to an objective of positive outcomes.

#3 - Lazy Rock Thrower

It is so much easier to throw stones at others than to work cooperatively with each other to seek understanding and to identify commonality and synergies. When thinking about ourselves, human nature likes to take us down an initial path of judgment and fill the unknown gaps about others with intentionality (assuming intent and projecting the reasons behind the 'why').

Once a scenario gets a wee bit tricky...becomes complicated or difficult to quickly understand – we tend to throw rocks at others or within our echo chambers. Simply put we get lazy. For example, talking about immigration in politics – once you dissect the issue, peel back the onion – it’s complicated. There is no easy or obvious path. This isn’t about your 60,000-foot ideological beliefs about immigration. This is about untangling the issues, looking at the issue in its entirety from various angles, imagining the experience through someone else's lens, and then making thoughtful decisions collaboratively with others to achieve a resolution.

Peeling back the many layers of a particular issue takes effort and vulnerability. It takes courage and cooperation to find common ground and to ultimately find success.

#4 - Addictive

It may only take one nugget of negativity to make us addicted. Think about how quickly a conversation with a level of negativity begins to take on a life of its own then it's hard to change to course. On a deeper level avoiding personal responsibility and not having to exert effort to work on ourselves is addictive. We have all come in contact with them – whatever the topic, negativity is simmering and may show itself subtlety or with great fanfare. When you encounter an addict, when the microscope is on them, it’s “yeah, well…but…”

In the end, for so many reasons, the negative bait is right there for the taking...and so many times, we take it. We gossip, we align with like-minded people, we naturally show a conformity bias, the biased thinking of people in power is quickly endorsed by others, and it's easier to prepare ourselves for disappointment by incorporating negative thoughts...versus being blindsided or feeling naive.

The best mechanism to avoid the addictive trap is to be self-aware and work consciously to change to tone, to identify some positive element to grab onto to change the course of the conversation. Recognize the feeling of being pulled into a negative spin.

#5 - It's a character question

To be real there are people who just say and do stupid things...statements and actions that are so harmful to others for the purpose of fulfilling their own self interests. There are events that unfold as a consequence of people's words and actions. When it becomes a character question there is a time and place to speak up while exploring any possible layers of complexity and striving to understand other points of view. In other words, there is a trap of falling into our own righteousness if we don't try to understand others and influence through reason and logic. However, sometimes we can't change stupid and we need to shift our efforts to the greater good and align with those who are willing to embrace the richness of diversity that surrounds us every day.


It’s not about singing Kumbaya around the campfire. Whether it’s your family unit, within your organizations, or with politicians the most diverse discussions, with the purpose of a common good, may get heated…and that’s okay. This heat extracts differentiated thinking. When we strip judgments about what we perceive are someone’s motivations, remove emotion, and remain keenly focused on positive collaborative outcomes incredible things can and will happen. The hope is that others are willing to take that journey with us not to be righteous, not to deflect, and not to be lazy rock throwers – to be open, accepting, and show a willingness to change.


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