+Scott Watson

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Getting Past the Negative Talk of Problems

How demoralizing can it be when you are in a meeting with colleagues, full of brilliant ideas with your 'blue sky' and 'out of the box' thinking and someone puts a sharp stop to your creative genius? You know who I mean, you've met them at some point. I'll write separately about optimists and pessimists, but for now, here are a few approaches you can apply to help a perceived negative colleague/thinker to move beyond being so apparently negative.

So, here's how it goes for some. 'That won't work because...', 'That's a good idea, but the problem with it is....(reasons).

Some people seem to be so focused on anticipating and spotting potential and real problems, that they don't take the opportunity to consider any solutions before they speak. This can be quite frustrating when done one to one or especially as part of a meeting packed with 'solutions people'. So how can you tackle this situation effectively AND keep rapport, focus while appreciating the contribution the supposed negative person is making to the dialogue - and they really are aiming to contribute, just not in the way you'd like them to.


Please remember to set a clear context for your dialogue, whether one to one or as part of a meeting with many participants. Context creates meaning for human beings and the bonus is, when we have some parameters to work within, we know what is and isn't acceptable. Send a properly titled email or agenda for your meeting at least 48 hours in advance of meeting...and try this approach, designed to your own needs:

'The purpose of our discussion/meeting is to develop a structured way forward to ensure the smooth implementation of the new computer system to be launched on 1st October 2009. It is important that concerns re potential pitfalls are raised, and also, that each of us takes responsibility for developing practical solutions in/at this forum.'

The main message here is, if you anticipate a problem, share it BUT share YOUR SOLUTION too. Other ways to overcome negatives on why something can't happen or won't work are:

Objection -'This won't work because of.....'
Response - 'Good, now we know what won't work, please share with us 3 of your ideas on HOW IT COULD WORK'

Objection - 'It's impossible to do this by the timescale stated'
Response - 'What's impossible? To deliver any of the project successfully, all of it successfully or something else?'

Objection - 'Each time I've been involved in a project like this, they've failed. This will be no different.'
Response - 'It's good that you've had such experience in similar projects. Help me understand, what steps did YOU repeat in each project that contributed to the failure to deliver the outcome/s required?'

When we invite someone to share 3 ideas on how something COULD work, this can feel alien to them because it's the exact opposite to how they were thinking just moments ago. I always ask for a minimum of 3, firstly to interrupt the thinking pattern, secondly, because they may say 'I can only come up with two', which is brilliant anyway as it's 2 more than they had a moment ago, and thirdly, they may just want someone to shut up and listen to them......WHILE THEY THINK FOR THEMSELVES.

Put our own mark on questions such as these, use them ethically and see for yourself how thinking can change in a few minutes.

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