A particular duck hunter once had a prized Chesapeake Bay Retriever who not only loved water and was by nature a very happy and affectionate companion, but also possessed a one-of-a-kind skill: it could walk on water. One day the hunter invited an old friend to accompany him on a hunt to the marsh so he could show off his valued partner. After a little while, they shot a few ducks, which fell into the bay. The hunter sent Chessie after them, and his friend witnessed the amazing dog run on the water to fetch the birds. Expecting a compliment, but not receiving one, the hunter asked his friend if he had noticed anything unusual about the dog. “Yes,” he quickly replied, “your dog can’t swim!”
Negative people are as plentiful as biting flies in the saltmarsh—and just as inhospitable! So heed this tale, because those who see the hole instead of the doughnut are the ones who fortify problems over possibilities. Don’t expect encouragement or commendation from them: they cannot soar with you. They provide no support, thrust or lift—only drag.
Negativity is a highly communicable social disease—and quite deadly to leaders. Insidious, especially at first, it creeps into our private thoughts, assailing innocence, faith and integrity with doubts, suspicions and fears. Its infectious poison then spreads into snide asides, spoken brokenness and disparaging deeds—while spurring dysfunction, inhibiting productivity and dismantling achievement. In its terminal stages, negativity pervades all aspects of a person’s mind, body and spirit, resulting in a truly tragic demise of all things good and healthy.
To combat such dire consequences, here are seven strong counteractive measures that positive leaders employ for neutralizing the negative toxins swirling all about them:
1. Don’t fight fire with fire. That only reduces everyone to ashes. Instead, squelch negativity on your own terms: keep interactions honest, fair, transparent, and respectful. Politely but firmly cut off belittling behaviors and unconstructive criticism. Return conflict with charity.
2. Use protection against penetration. The detrimental darts of negativity can fly as thick and fast as malarial mosquitoes in the swamp. Inoculate yourself against their barbs with self-directed encouragement, affirmations, and upbeat appraisals. Reinforce your defenses with inspiring reading and helpful study. You are what you think.
3. Filter your thoughts. Sift your thoughts through a mental strainer to remove and banish impure motives, adversarial attitudes, and rudely critical notions. Analyze your thoughts—and the actions they will ultimately produce—and conform them to the high standards of an uplifting philosophy. Purified thinking is better thinking.
4. Disassociate with perpetually negative people. In their case, familiarity does indeed breed contempt. Faultfinding spawns cynicism, small-mindedness, distrust, discouragement and unhealthy relationships. If you cannot persuade them to leave the dark side, you must leave them for your own survival. Seek like-minded, affirmative associates.
5. Set ground rules. In staff interactions, committee work, team projects and other collaborative ventures, establish and enforce pre-agreed parameters for communicating and contributing in positive, respectful ways. Maintain a cheerful example to influence how the others act and interact. Coach from a positive playbook.
6. Recognize problems, but plan for possibilities. Never be afraid to look Reality in the eye. Challenges, constraints, troubles and problems are never conquered by multiplying them, but by seeking productive, constructive solutions to overcome them. Believing in the dream beats nullifying it with nyets. To find the good, look for it.
7. Keep a secure watch. The snarky tendrils of negativity can reach far from their roots. They may attack from unexpected sources or assault with no advance warning. Be they blatantly hypercritical or subtly adversarial, their contrariness follows no rules of fair play. Set sentries at your eyes, ears, tongue and heart to recognize the enemy and yield no quarter. Guard against contamination.
MasterPoint: Lead best with a positive charge!