We’ve all been there. You’re working on an important project and one of your team members, co-workers, or even manager is the eternal pessimist. I like to call people like this, Eeyore. You remember Eeyore, the gloomy donkey from Winnie the Pooh. The words and phrases you often hear from pessimists are things like, “it won’t work”, “I can’t”, “why?” Not only can these people de-motivate others they can also derail a project.
So what do you do to assist the Eeyores in your life? Ignoring them is not the right answer although many of us choose this as the solution, thinking that they can’t be helped.
You first have to remember that they didn’t start being a pessimist last week. They probably came out of the womb looking at the world in a negative light. So any change that does occur is going to be small and slow. So be very alert to the smallest positive change and praise them for it when you observe it!
When I work with leaders who are focused more on the negative, the challenge is to get them to open their eyes to more options than what they initially see. In fact often they see no options. I will also challenge their beliefs that often lead them to a negative conclusion. For instance, if I hear “I can’t” from someone, the next questions are: What makes you believe this? What proof do you have? How solid and reliable is the proof? The goal is to get them to start seeing things in a more balanced realistic way.
The other part to the process of managing the pessimist is to get them to see how they are impacting others around them. A good first question when someone claims “I can’t” is: If you can’t do it, how do you think it is going to impact others on the team? What resources or assistance do you need so you “can”?
It won’t happen overnight but if you take action and don’t ignore the pessimist you will start to see some positive changes.
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