12 Most Negative Results of Positive Thinking

12 Most Negative Results of Positive Thinking

A fellow 12 Most contributor wrote an excellent post about online sniping, where she mentioned the “everybody wins” mindset. That’s the phenomenon of never saying anything negative, only giving positive strokes to other writers. After all, writing is hard. (Correction: good writing is hard.)

Having been in the working world for some four decades, I’ve noticed this tendency to adopt an “everything is awesome” attitude. It began sometime in the 80’s, I think, when we stopped calling things “problems” and started calling them “issues.” Fast-forward to today, to a generation of workers who grew up being told that their every thought, every gesture, every creation was brilliant. Every kid makes the team, and every kid gets a trophy. Everybody wins.

Except they don’t. The problem with all this positivity is that it leads to some seriously negative outcomes. If you can’t stand the slightest bit of criticism or any degree of failure, these are the potential results.

1. Shallowness

This one needs no explaining; if you’re shallow, you won’t know it.

2. Mediocrity

If it “is what it is,” it never gets good.

3. Laziness

Pointing out problems (oops, issues) means you might have to do something about it.

4. Danger

Dude, like actual bad things can happen to you if you don’t see them coming.

5. Blind-sidings

It may not kill you, but an inability to think critically leads to nasty surprises.

6. Isolation

Let’s face it: most of the world’s problems are caused by other people. To avoid problems, you’ll have to avoid people.

7. Lack of recognition

Finding and fixing a problem before the boss does will get you pats on the back.

8. Inauthenticity

Some things are not awesome, like babies with cancer and life in a nursing home. No amount of saying they are fine will make them so.

9. Meanness

Allowing someone else to go blindly and blithely down a wrong path isn’t nice.

10. Cheapness

Poverty and other social ills are true problems; if you don’t acknowledge the problem, you’re off the hook for putting some cash to it.

11. Annoyance

It’s infuriating when Mr. Awesome is sitting on his can while the rest of us go fix the totally-not-awesome problem. Here’s where positive thinking leads to “jerkdom.”

12. A bad legacy

Spend your life deciding everything is hunky-dory and that all efforts, no matter how lame, get a prize, and that’s what you’ll teach your children.

We need to decide that critical thinking is a good thing, in order to find out what’s not working so well and to make it better. If I’m harshin’ yer buzz, I’m sorry. For a positively awesome book on the problem with positive thinking, read Brightsided by Barbara Ehrenreich.

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Featured image courtesy of César Rincón licensed via Creative Commons.

Kim Phillips

http://www.getlucid.net/blog/

Kim Phillips is the founder of Lucid Marketing and author of the Lucid at Random blog.  With over 30 years of experience in corporate advertising for a major financial institution, sales and marketing, Kim provides clients with marketing communication strategies, branding, content management and creative services.  She is a teacher and speaker, and she finds time for musings and the occasional rant on her personal blog. 

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35 comments
Kim Phillips
Kim Phillips

Do check out Barbara Ehrenreich's book. She documents where it comes from. 

LipingFeng
LipingFeng

Awesome post.  I thought I was the only one suspecting there's something not quite right about all this "positivity."  I wish to hear more about how adults are handling this.  Most of the criticism I've seen deal with how we raise children.  So I really appreciate the bit you wrote about workplace practice.  I'm going to look for more on how this affects intimate relationships.  Thanks a lot, Kim.

 

LuisDeBogota
LuisDeBogota

@terrinakamura I was telling @pratNala that I was creeped-out by all the people doing positive quotes when I first came to twitter.

susie_parker
susie_parker

@9INCHmarketing hello, Stan! How are you today?

MikeLehrOZA
MikeLehrOZA

Great job on this Kim, but I guess I shouldn't think too positively about this, should I? I tried to figure out the ones I really liked, but I liked them all.

dbvickery
dbvickery

I thought this was an incredible post, Kim. I've written the social media sports analogies, and I've touched upon the subject you mention - everybody making the team and everybody getting a ribbon. I do think it has hurt our society and a couple generations (not just the latest one).

 

It is easy to see the shallowness, also. It can be a fine line with some social media communications because you build a tribe based upon their similar interests and ability to encourage you pursuing those interests. However, you always need that accountability group that doesn't always gloss over your failures, blind spots, etc.

 

And if you come up with a hare-brained idea, somebody needs to help you vet it out to see if it is viable. Otherwise, the strength of relationship needs to be there to help you realize perhaps that is an idea you should NOT pursue.

afmarcom
afmarcom

@SteveCassady That link didn't work! It was a 404. Is there another?

roz_the_rose
roz_the_rose

@chattyprof Brilliant truth SA government should read this !

ncjks
ncjks

Makes the cynical cat purr!! @tedcoine @12Most 12 Most Negative Results of Positive Thinking By Kim Phillips http://t.co/dy84N6cX

Sysparatem
Sysparatem

Great post here. I had a director once who kept going on and on about "learned positivity" Any criticism of real urgent problems in the business were dismissed with "you've got to practice  positivity!"

 

He will never know how close he came to death...... :-)

Zorbitor
Zorbitor

@amberrisme @12most : so called "positive thinking" is mostly self-centered & individualistic - It's sometimes a barrier to forming groups.

nischala.murthy
nischala.murthy

This is an excellent post.. I think what's important is to be realistically positive... And life is actually full of positives n negatives.. Looking back I think I learnt more about importance of positivity from the negatives

JodiOkun
JodiOkun

Kim this is a great 12Most..my kids did grow up with everyone makes the team and everyone is a winner...this did nothing for them in their adult lives...

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

So timely Kim!  On the way in I was just talking to a friend about a situation his son and a girl (high schoolers) GOT THEMSELVES into.  Silly high school stuff, but the girl's reputation is now stained.  What do the parents of the girl want to do?  Make the boy go away so they can pretend what happened didn't happen.  Never at any point did someone say to the girl: yes, this is terribly difficult for you, but your  own actions caused it.So, the boy is transferring and everyone can 'start over.'  

What happens when the girl makes a silly decision that effects her professional reputation down the road?

 

Lesson Unlearned because nobody was willing to be "mean," i.e. honest.GREAT post. We need more of this sort of thinking. 

WineEveryday
WineEveryday

Agree! The problem with raising children this way is they don't know how to deal with 'problems' (YES, problems!) when they get out on their own.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this post!

terrinakamura
terrinakamura

@LuisDeBogota I know what you mean. It sorta surprised me PPL like that had such huge followings. I guess it proves how much PPL like them?

kitchenmage
kitchenmage

@notahuskerfan I know. Short, sweet and to the point.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

 @dbvickery Triberr  is a great example of this. I don't RT anything I haven't read, and if it doesn't fit my brand I won't do it... curse words, vulgarity etc.  People get miffed.  We still get to be critical, right??

RockTique
RockTique

@BruceSallan1 Reminds me of a recent article I read about 'stop telling your kids Good Job!' Kids know when they've done well, telling them so every time they accomplish something will begin to sound redundant and have no meaning. Use other words, or none at all, save the praise for the 'big' stuff :)

SteveCassady
SteveCassady

@afmarcom It looks like the site is having problems. May be down for maintenance.

Kim Phillips
Kim Phillips

 @AmyMccTobin Thanks... and you're right, no adversity means no character. There was a time when, if a kid messed up, it was his own fault and he had to make amends. If we got in trouble at school, it was assumed the teacher was doing his or her job and we were distracting from that. Having taught a sixth-grade class, I can tell you that now, it's never little Jakie's fault. At work, no negative feedback means no learning. I can't tell you how many times I was called on the carpet, and it was always for the better.

LuisDeBogota
LuisDeBogota

@terrinakamura A couple of them are best-selling authors.

notahuskerfan
notahuskerfan

@kitchenmage And I just got the book because of that. I have believed this for some time, and I want to read more.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

 @RockTique  @BruceSallan1 Too funny.  My very bright daughter is incredibly bossy (don't know where she gets it from...).  She'll try to tell me how to drive, how to cook etc.  I said to her last week: "Adelaide, you DON'T know everything."  She got REALLY upset and almost cried and kept saying "Yes I do.  Say that I do."  I said "OK, what's 10 + 10 (she's 4). Of course she had no idea.  I said - "it's 20.  See - there is lots you don't know."She was astounded.  And some people think that was mean!!!!

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

 @Kim Phillips And THIS is why I strongly advocate for your online community managers to NOT be inexperienced interns. Not to rag on the young, but we've raised a generation of kids who don't know WHAT to do when their own actions cause problems.  

RockTique
RockTique

@AmyMccTobin Omg, I'm sorry but that is hilarious! Not so much what you were saying, just the 'tell me I do!' part...can't stop laughing! My son is 4yrs old so I can totally relate. He knows a ton about cars, to the point where I think it's akin to idiot savant BUT, he still doesn't grasp the concept of, for ex: Ford is the brand & Mustang is the model. When I try to explain this to him he cops such a totitude "Mom. Mom mom mom. *I* know way more than you'll ever know about cars." So even though I do tell him he's wrong, nah ah, he's having none of that! I'm still waiting for him to have that wake-up call reaction that your daughter had. Must be nice! Thx again for the laugh :)) @BruceSallan1

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