Spend any time in Twitter and you are going to be buried in messages about the importance of being positive or surrounding yourself with positive people or the power of positivity.
Most of those messages will be paired with images of sunrises and rainbows and shooting stars. All of them will have a thousand likes and retweets. They are the gumballs of the Twitterverse — colorful nuggets that none of can seem to resist.
And there’s truth in those messages.
We SHOULD bring positive thoughts to the work that we do — especially since the human brain is hard-wired towards negativity. Being deliberate about “embracing the positive” matters when we naturally respond more strongly to the negative.
But here’s the thing: There really IS value in embracing the “negative” people in your school or on your learning team.
Here’s why: The vast majority of the people that you perceive as “negative” care just as much about seeing kids succeed as you do. Their negativity isn’t an attempt to “be difficult.” Instead, it is an outward expression of concerns that they have about the direction that you are currently moving in — and many of those concerns are worth addressing.
My friend and colleague Anthony Muhammad argues that reasonable, rational people resist change for four reasons: They don’t understand the work that you are asking them to do, they don’t understand why the work that you are asking them to do matters, they don’t know how to do the work that you are asking them to do, or they don’t trust you.
So the “negativity” that you see in your colleagues is most frequently a function of one of those four concerns — and all of those concerns are valid. They can’t be dismissed with trite comments like “that guy is always unhappy” or “we can never please him anyway.” Instead, those concerns highlight places where you haven’t been clear enough or where you haven’t provided your teachers with the support that they need in order to move forward or where you haven’t invested the time and energy to gain the professional respect of a peer.
That’s interesting, isn’t it?
Essentially, I’m arguing that when you see negativity in the people around you, what you are REALLY seeing is a problem that YOU need to solve. You have knowledge building or skill building or relationship building to do. The negative people in your organization are, then, essential for identifying gaps that you may have missed in your change efforts.
Now, are there people who really are just being difficult because they like being difficult?
But they are in the minority.
And my worry is that the constant “be positive” messages that we surround ourselves with make it easy to dismiss legitimate concerns as “people being grouchy.”
Any of this make sense?
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