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How to Constructively Manage Pessimists

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Bring the Impact of Pessimism to Their Attention

Some people may not realize that they're persistently pessimistic, and they may have no idea of how their attitude and behavior affects the rest of the team.

Sit down with your pessimists one-on-one, and explain how their negative attitude influences others. Cite specific examples, so that they understand the effect of their behavior. As part of this, you may want to use Role Playing to act out scenarios that show more positive and productive outcomes. These exercises can encourage your pessimists to develop more constructive ways of contributing to the group.

Reframe the Conversation

Many pessimists lack self-confidence, so they're quick to say "I can't…"

Work to shift your pessimists' attitudes by pushing them to look at how they could do something. For example, what resources or assistance do they need to accomplish a task? How can you help them?

These questions force your pessimists to look for a way forward, instead of simply making blanket, negative statements that hold them back.

Find ways to reduce the "fear factor" for your pessimists. For instance, ask them to explain why they believe a project won't work. Plot the risks they highlight on a Risk Impact/Probability Chart , and work with them to create contingency plans for the most likely factors. Your support will reduce their feelings of fear or hesitation, and the work that you do together will benefit the team.

Increase Their Confidence

Many pessimists fear failure . They shoot down ideas and initiatives because they're afraid that if they get involved, they won't succeed.

If you suspect that this is the case, focus on building their self-confidence . For example, work with your pessimists to achieve some quick wins with a new project, or set them up with opportunities that build their skills for an upcoming initiative. Express your confidence in their ability to meet this goal or objective.

When your pessimists achieve their goal, congratulate them and, if appropriate, share the good news with the rest of your team.

Next, work with your pessimists to beat self-sabotage . Ask them to write down their negative thoughts throughout the day. When they identify thoughts like "I can't do this" or "this will never work out," they can start to replace those negative thoughts with more positive ones.

Last, coach them to counter these thoughts with positive affirmations , such as "I can do this!" or "I know I have the abilities and skills to make this project work." You can also suggest that they use the ABC Technique to overcome pessimistic thinking.

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