Make space for negativity

There was a time a few years ago when ‘Good vibes only’ was all over the place – neon signs in gyms and yoga studios, glittery type on the front of greetings cards and notebooks.

The trend now seems to be subsiding, and it’s a relief. ‘Good vibes only’ is basically saying ‘I don’t want to deal with problems’, and when you don’t want to face negativity, you’re sweeping issues under the carpet, and that bulge under there will just get bigger and bigger until you can’t walk over the carpet anymore.

Of course we want to focus on the positive in life, but ignoring – or worse still, denying the existence of – problems will get you nowhere.

But how do we deal with problems, especially in the workplace? There will always be issues when a group of people is working towards a goal or trying to achieve something; the first thing to do is acknowledge them. Create a space for them so when you do encounter them, they’re not coming crashing in, to the surprise and shock of everyone.

When you’re creating this figurative space, try to make the literal language you use calm and rational. Avoid absolutes like ‘we must’ and ‘we have to’, and frame things as questions: ‘could we’, ‘shall we’, ‘ought we to’.

Problem-solving isn’t about assigning blame or fault. Rather, it can be looked upon as an opportunity to make things work better in the future, and trying to find creative solutions that everyone can collaborate in.

When this space for negativity becomes established and people are able to bring their concerns to it, it will hopefully reduce the number of problems you eventually have to address because they will be solved so much quicker than those lingering, lurking issues you used to shove under the soft furnishings.

After more than a year of a global pandemic, we all need positivity and optimism, but let’s ensure they’re served up to us in the workplace with a healthy dollop of realism, and that we can take the good with the bad.

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