We’ve all been to creativity sessions. Depending on your personality and your history, you either love them or hate them. I personally love creativity sessions. I love the interactivity, the participation. However I was recently at one session where there was one participant, let’s call him “Mr Negative”, constantly shot down every idea, every suggestion. It was really frustrating. I used every trick in my arsenal to try and get him to be more positive and in the end had to resort to “OK, I want everyone to come up with three possible benefits if we decide to use this approach.” Subtle, no, but it got the point across, and from that point onward, the session improved.
Negativity has it’s place. We need to be realistic and to look at the possible downsides to potential ideas, but it has to come at the right moment. It definitely has no place when you are just starting a creativity session and are looking for a fresh approach and new ideas. In the wrong place, negativity just kills creativity.
Personally, when dealing with negativity in the workplace, I prefer to use questions and listen. Show the negative person respect, and then try to get them to re-frame their negative response in a more positive light. I find positive aspects amongst the negativity. I find positive solutions for the issues raised. In creativity sessions, I have a rule that says no idea is a bad idea and no negativity until the appropriate time. However it is a difficult topic, so I thought I would share with you 5 quick tips that help me:
- Avoid personalising. Don’t take it personally, don’t give into an emotional response, regardless of the provocation. Do not be defensive.
- Use “I” messages. Instead of saying “I can’t believe you said that!”, say “I find it difficult when I hear negative feedback.”
- Remain professional. Speak calmly. Use the UAR process: Understand, listen and provide feedback in a constructive manner. Apologise blamelessly. Resolve the issue by specifying actions
- Confront the negativity. You cannot just leave it be. You need to address it and address it quickly
- Turn things around. Negative people are also skilled at using sarcasm to destroy ideas. When faced with sarcasm, turn it around. If you are faced with “That is just what we need, more paperwork.” reply, “Yes, that is exactly what we need. paperwork that is actually useful, instead of what we currently have. Perhaps the current paperwork is the problem. When someone lists lots of reasons why something cannot be done, ask them for positive suggestions on what could be done instead. Be bold and be assertive!
I’d be interested in hearing how you deal with nay-sayers. What do you hear that just kills creativity and how do you deal with it?