How Negative Are You?

Attitude 2Are you a negative person? Do you know a person who is negative? As we begin this post let me make one thing perfectly clear: I don’t think there is such a thing as a negative person.

Yes, I know many, many people will disagree with that. Let’s see if I can change some minds.

Think about it, for a person to truly be negative they virtually have to wake up, stretch and say to themselves, “I’m hoping today really sucks and if it doesn’t I’ll do whatever I can to make it suck.” They would almost have to want their day to be full of problems and mishaps.

It doesn’t make sense for a person to be negative. I think people wake up hoping for a good day, wishing for “things” to go well and then stuff happens. They spill their coffee, traffic is horrible on the way to work, they realize they are wearing one black sock and one blue one. Then they react negatively to that. Then they interact with you. Then you think they are negative.

These seemingly negative people are just like you except they have, at least momentarily, lost control of their attitude. Sometimes these people lose control of their attitude often and easily. Those are the people we think of as negative.

They really aren’t, they just do a poor job of controlling the attitude.

Now, here’s some hard truth: If you’re one of those people who can’t, or won’t, control your attitude then you will be thought of as negative. People will whisper about you behind your back. They will more carefully measure everything you say. Your credibility will be called into question because of your attitude.

You don’t get a vote in this. You can say you’re a positive person until the cows come home but if enough people think of you as negative, then YOU are doing something to cause it.

You need to have a serious, honest conversation with the person who stares back at you from the mirror each morning and decide that YOU will do whatever it takes to keep your attitude under your control. You must make the decision that you will not let things or people outside of your control rob you of one of the greatest assets a person can have: a positive attitude.

It’s your attitude and if you don’t control it you will be perceived as negative. Whether you believe you’re negative or not.

Now, a word to the leaders who are reading this.

If you have a member of your organization or team that you have classified as negative then you may well have some work to do. At minimum you should have a conversation with the person you believe is negative to determine if you can help them control their attitude. Telling them to change it is not coaching, asking them how you can help is.

You may also want to take a look at yourself. You are the “model” for your organization’s behavior. If you behave negatively or say negative things, then it’s a good bet your people will too. When you criticize people for doing what you do it frustrates them.

Frustrated people usually struggle to maintain control of their attitude.

Authentic leaders don’t merely dismiss a person as negative. They invest their leadership skills to determine if and how they might help. They have compassion for the person because they know that no one wants to be perceived as negative.

Are you a strong enough leader to coach a person to positivity? If you are then you’re an authentic leader indeed!


17 thoughts on “How Negative Are You?

  1. Hi Steve,

    Thank you for writing this, I really enjoyed it. I just wanted to give you the point of view of one “negative” person, me, and hopefully give some understanding on a reason that can cause us to be this way and more importantly make people realise that not all of us want to be.

    I was brought up in a very negative environment. For whatever reason my parents & family were negative, it doesn’t really matter why at this stage only that they were. So when you live in a negative environment throughout your formative years you become accustomed to it and think that is the way the world works.

    Not only do you act negatively but you are lead to believe that positive people are inherently dishonest and only out to “get you” to benefit themselves in some way.

    This is a horrible existence for anyone. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that this was wrong but it took me a lot of years before I started to do something about it. I have been working on changing this negativity for a few years now, it is impossible to just switch it off when it is so ingrained and you have been raised that way. But it is possible to change through time and a lot of hard work, I am much different today than I was a few years ago.

    So I guess what I am trying to say is that sometimes when you see someone being negative they don’t always mean it, they might just need a bit of empathy and most importantly they can be trying to change.


    1. Thanks Gareth, you make an excellent point. We are indeed affected by our environment and negative attitude are as contagious as the common cold.

      For some of us fighting negativity is a daily fight and we lose as many as we win. The first step towards being more positive is an awareness that we can control our attitude and it sounds like you are well past that.

      Congrats on your efforts. Once we decide that we WILL have a positive attitude every single thing in our life changes for the better.

      Keep up the effort!

  2. Steve,
    Great post! I think one of the reasons there is so much negativity in this country today is because of the polarizing affect of political pundits (on both sides of the political spectrum). People who follow these pundits get bombarded with a constant stream of gloom and doom. Is it any wonder they then see the world, and their life, as a series of unending problems they have no control over.

    1. I agree with your assessment 100%. It only takes a few days of Fox and MSNBC to assume the world is about to end.

      Like it or not we are a product of our environment and we need to be almost hyper aware of the effect that environment is having on our attitude. It’s also helpful, at least to me, to remember that just because someone said it doesn’t mean it’s really true.

  3. Thx Steve for posting this article. It makes my willing to be positive get stronger. It’s good to know a lot of people are like; struggling hard to be positive person. It’s not easy but it is possible.

  4. I’m glad I found this. I am thought of as one of those positive people and I tend to agree with you on the fact that a person can’t be inherently negative. Yes sometimes things don’t go well and it gives us a bad attitude. However, as they say a bad day is not a bad life. I’m so glad you shared my blog post as it brought me here. Great to meet you.

  5. Steve,
    My organization has been going through a rough spot and this is a good look in the mirror to see that a change has to start with me and be facilitated through me. Great insights. Thanks.

    1. You’re welcome Steve. It’s something I have to constantly remind myself of…. MY outlook on life and ultimate success is up to me, regardless of what anyone or anything else does. Keep up the good fight!

  6. Nice article Steve! I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow morning and have that mirror conversation. I will add this to my toolbag. Well done!

  7. Great leadership advice. I think that we are so immersed in our worries that we tend to forget how to be more positive and take the bad things that happen to us in a different prospective. This kinds of blog are just great for reminder of what’s important and inspiration.Thanks for it.

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