We all come across people that make statements as above. In his book Polar Bear Pirates, Adrian Webster describes them as Neg Ferrets. People that always seem to find ways that don’t work. And if they can’t find it, they we keep moaning until all your energy is drained.
In life we often meet people like this, and sometimes this can be in our families, among friends or in clubs we go for music and sports. Of course we also come across these Neg Ferrets in our businesses and TEAMS. Dealing with these negative characters is not always straightforward, because although sacking is a possibility, there are ways to engage and inspire Neg Ferrets too.
First of all you need to identify them, which is the easy bit. Neg Ferrets will always make sure they are being heard. They like to sow the seeds of doom and gloom in as many ears as possible, so they make it an art to do that. Around the coffee machine, during meetings etc… etc…
After identifying them, you need to ring-fence them. Make sure that they don’t have a stage to speak from. Avoid their speeches about problems, and if you hear them speak, ask them questions. The moaners and complainers only have a limited vocabulary and they don’t like to be challenged. They certainly don’t like to give a reason or explanation for their behaviour.
Another very good cure against these people is positivism. Being happy about what is happening, positive about change, forward looking about developments is something they hate with a passion. They will therefore avoid speaking up when you are around. Your positive outlook will blind their dark sarcasm.
It is therefore important to see how the group is divided. You will see that some people are waiting in the middle how an argument or conversation is developing. They do not choose sides, until it is clear who is winning. Making the negative people uncomfortable, will help them choose for the proactive and positive group. This will reduce this group of moaners and potentially close them down.
If you even want to put a positive spin on the complainers, then listen shortly to what they have to say. Quickly process if it is valid, in case they have a point, which you need to address. It could be that this critical observation is useful. Then quickly move on. In his book ‘Six Thinking Hats’ thought leader on Lateral Thinking Edward de Bono is encouraging that every idea is looked at by everyone from different angles. What are the facts? What are the benefits? What are the pitfalls? It is even worthwhile to quickly listen to the gut, what it is feeling about an idea or proposal. But only quick, as this is often guided by emotions.
By forcing everyone to look at the various angles, you will free up the conversation, because even the proposer has to look critical at his own proposal. And if there are Neg Ferrets in the meeting, they are forced to come up with benefits about a certain proposal or idea.
So, just a quick recap on dealing with the negative people:
- Identify them
- Ring-fence them
- Blast them with positivism
- Engage them with the ‘Six Thinking Hats’
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