When ‘Talking Bad’ Can Be Good

By Heather Campbell


By Heather Campbell >>

Messages about the benefits of positive thinking are so prevalent nowadays that people end up believing this is the healthy way to operate.  Thinking negatively in the privacy of one’s own head is bad enough, but heaven forbid that anyone would be foolish enough to express negative views openly. Optimism is good, pessimism is bad. Full stop.

Except, this just isn’t true.  There’s plenty of evidence to show that repressing negative thinking is bad for our health and living in the world of the constant optimist is fraught with dangers resulting from foolhardy decisions. Life is rich, and part of that richness is realised through experiencing the bad as well as the good.

Messages about the benefits of positivity have become increasingly widespread within the business world over the last couple of decades, and are brought to life through the way that people communicate every day. The phrase “there are no such things as problems, only opportunities” is just one example of this.

While we’re not a group of grumpy grouches at CommsMasters, we’re not living in a world of unremitting happiness and love either.  And, let’s face it, that’s true of life for businesspeople generally.

The problem is that, when it comes to communicating, too many leaders believe they should behave as if everything is rosy all the time – even when it clearly isn’t and everyone knows it. Communicating honestly about a bad situation is a powerful way to build trust and allow others to be open and honest too. Habitually putting a positive spin on communication or shouting down the more pessimistic views that people express ultimately leads to people and communication closing down.

And it isn’t just top-down communication that gets rose-tinted. Far too many business leaders operate in a situation where news that flow upwards is equally filtered to make sure that everything appears better and more in control than is actually the case. This leaves leaders in a position of making important decisions through pink spectacles – never a good idea.

Being honest takes courage and confidence. But above all, it takes great maturity. People have to accept that their boss may give them news they don’t like. Bosses must not blame when they hear unpalatable updates from their reports. Everyone needs to respect those involved as individuals who are doing their best in a tough, messy world. Seek to support, rather than find fault.

The clarity, authenticity and trust that this brings for all involved truly makes it worth the effort.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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