Overcoming Negativity


A while back we talked about designers and negativity on the podcast. I hope you listened to it because it’s an important topic that can affect many of us in creative fields. Being constantly told ‘No’ or constantly taking criticism is difficult to bear sometimes, and it can sap a lot of your positivity.

Today, I want to talk about the other side of it. How do you deal with someone else in the workplace who seems inextricably trapped in their own negative perspective? 

Playing the Long Game

I’ve tweeted about this a lot. Good design is a long game, and it can be easy to lose focus when projects go a bit off the rails. But in order to overcome the negativity, you first have to remember to keep the long game in focus. Short-term setbacks are just that, short-term. Similarly, other people’s reactions to these short-term setbacks can’t affect you if you can remember to focus on the the long game.

People don’t always do this, but defining goals and principles for your projects and making them visible, can really go a long way to help you maintain the right perspective. After thinking about them and discussing them, I’ve put together posters with design principles on them, and hung them up around my work area, just so that when I need to take a mental break, I have something to look at that reminds me of what’s really important.

Additionally, when having discussions with those individuals, make sure to keep discussions focused on the task at hand. Don’t let conversations veer off topic. Of course, a snide comment can slip in here and there, but just let it go. If it persists, maybe acknowledge that they may feel angry or upset by circumstances, but bring the conversation back to what needs to be done. Always keep discussions focused on the task at hand.


Keep moving forward

Setbacks are inevitable. Things don’t always work out the way you plan. For negative people, these small setbacks just fuel the negative energy. So what do you do?

The important part is to keep the project moving forward. You may not like everything that is happening at the time, but it is far better to be the person who can move projects forward, than always being the person who’s holding things up. This doesn’t mean always being agreeable to bad quality. You’ll dig yourself a giant chasm if you do that. But compromises are ok, as long as they don’t compromise your design principles.

You may need to sort out some paradoxes. Welcome to the working world! Finding balance among seemingly paradoxical ideas is part of most jobs. Don’t let that aspect become a distraction. Move the project forward, and play the long game.


Separation is sometimes needed

If nothing else works, sometimes you just need to leave them alone. I don’t really advocate doing this, but sometimes separation can help. If someone is just really difficult to work with, you may have no other choice but to leave them alone until they cool off. Of course, it’s important to be a team player and you should do what you can to keep working with those individuals, but you’re also not a miracle worker. Your time is just as valuable as anyone else’s and there’s no reason that you should have to also have to manage someone else’s negative attitude about their work (unless you are, in fact, their manager).

Don’t be afraid to take back your time to focus on the parts of your job that really matter. If separating yourself from negative people helps you be more productive, then do it!

Remaining Positive

Throughout your career you will meet all kinds of people who deal with things in all different ways. It is a guarantee that you will encounter negative people. Heck, you may even have to deal with your own personal negative emotions. But hopefully, by playing the long game and keeping things moving forward (and separating as a last resort), you can remain safely above the dysfunction.

Lastly, here’s a link that with more info:

Overcoming Negativity

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