Today, I’ve been given a question and the question seems nice and simple. How do we deal with negative people in teams?
Now, I’m sure we’ve all experienced it, it’s just one of those things, sometimes we’re allocated to a team and we see another individual is in that team and our heart sinks because we see that person as being negative.
“One of the things I would encourage though, is to try and not put labels on things. Whenever I’m starting out on a project, my viewpoint is usually everybody is going to turn up and do the best that they can.”
Now, if the best that they can do is different from my best or my perception, my interpretation of what’s possible and needed from them, then I’ll force myself to think of different opportunities to interact and consider engaging with them.
“I might go and have a conversation with them, but I wouldn’t start from a place of judgement by pointing something out that I think they’re being negative about, I’d just go and try and have an open conversation.”
So be careful here. Don’t go blazing in with your original idea that there’s something wrong with them or their behaviour and in doing so get them to solidify that conclusion that they’re just being unreasonable, because chances are if you go in all guns blazing shouting accusations, then they’re going to give you back what you want to see.
“When you enter in to a conversation with them, have a very open question in mind to do with an occasion you felt they were negative. “
For example perhaps ask them, when they asked such and such a question earlier- which you felt was quite negative- what was their thinking behind posing that question? Say something like “Can I ask where that query came from earlier, what your thinking was there?” By doing that, if we listen to their reasoning, we can often begin to see where someone’s coming from and what their, usually pretty reasonable, rationale was.
Now, if we believe that there’s an issue going beyond that, then maybe then we can start to think about engaging with them about their behaviour and having an open conversation to lead them forward.
“Hopefully that quick perception change just gives us an idea what’s really in their head. We may think we’re in the right, but as I’m sure we’ve all found out in the past, when we get a deeper explanation of something, it can change our perception.”
Maybe their perceived attitude is just the way they’ve been raised. Maybe those are patterns of behaviour that have got them to where they are, and it makes them feel safe by always taking this certain perspective.
“For me, if I start to call someone a negative person, I think about what do I mean by that?”
It’s a judgement from my perspective, but in order to make that judgement, I need to have an idea of what a positive person is. So, I would start to think about my own judgement, how I allocate those terms, how I begin to label people, and then I would begin to try and have conversations that remove those labels, to learn more about that other person’s view of the world.
“For some people that might be how they’ve trained to think and that thinking has helped them to get to where they are, and they’ve never considered how they’re talking as being negative.”
So, a quick example. I remember going on a training course about teaching and there was a person who kept asking questions, but when this person asked a question, he would then answer his own question, and the class found it really odd. In fact, they found his behaviour wholly negative.
We got to the end of the first day, and there was a conversation about him as we were walking out, people were saying, “I really don’t like what this person’s doing. It’s disrupting the class, its annoying, its big-headed, et cetera.”
We start on day two, and remember, we’re there to learn about teaching, and the person does it again. So, during the first coffee break, there was this little mutiny growing in the kitchen area about what they were going to do about said person, because if he carries on doing this for the rest of the week, it’s just going to be so disruptive.
Then I asked a very simple question. I said, “Has anybody worked out what type of thinker and processor this person is?”
It seemed a bit of an odd question, but people went, “Oh, I’m not sure”, or, “what do you mean by that?”
I said, “well, he’s probably a verbal processor.”
They went, “oh, well what’s one of those?”
I said, “he has to audibly ask a question. He then hears the question and only when he’s heard the question can he process the answer, but the only way he can process the answer is by also stating the answer so he can then process the answer.”
“Oh,” they said. The funny thing is, no one ever got upset with him after that because what they all said is, “oh, he’s just thinking.”
So there was a perception change there about what people perceived as being negative, once they understood a bit more about it, they were able to flip that round and once it was flipped round, it just blended into the background.
Be careful about what we perceive as something negative and how someone else perceives it because we don’t know what’s going on in their world.
So, I hope that helps.