Have you ever heard someone say that negative thinking won’t get you anywhere? Or maybe people have told you to just stay positive.
Maybe you’ve been told to stop thinking negative thoughts and you’ll be better off. Negative thinking never helps anyone, and it won’t help you.
Well, today I’m here to rock the boat and tell you that negative thinking can play a crucial role in shaping our perspectives, attitudes, and decision-making processes. In other words, negative thinking can be very helpful.
I recently finished Gabor Matte’s book, When the Body Says No. In that book, Matte states that negative thinking is a willingness to consider what is not working.
Simple as that.
What isn’t working?
What needs to change?
What needs to pivot?
Being a positive thinker to the point of ignoring reality and denying negative emotions can be toxic and harmful. It can create unrealistic expectations and lead to feelings of disappointment, frustration and inadequacy. Maintaining a balanced outlook and acknowledging both positive and negative emotions can be much healthier.
Negative thinking can prevent unrealistic optimism (…which by the way, is mostly annoying when it is happening in real time). It also prevents overconfidence, and encourages a more balanced practical view of situations. Negative thinking can actually lead to better decision making in the future. Negative thinking can also help you to avoid big mistakes, allow you to be more aware of potential problems, identify blind spots, and it allows for you to really analyze a situation from all sides.
Now I know that some of you are thinking.
Nope. Not going to do it.
I’m way too positive to let negativity slip into everyday thinking.
Have you heard the term toxic positivity? It actually refers to the unhealthy practice of suppressing or denying negative emotions and experiences. So yah, if you want to be positive I encourage it. Just don’t suppress any negative emotions that are swirling around.
And even though (toxic) positivity seems like a good thing, and it comes from a place of good intention, it can have negative effects on your mental and emotional well-being. It can prevent you from processing and dealing with your feelings, in a very unhealthy way. If you don’t believe me, read Matte’s book. You might be surprised how those negative thoughts and emotions eventually play out.
Oh, and by the way, there is no data to support the health benefits of being overly optimistic.
On the day to day, it leads to an unrealistic perspective, often with the intention of making others feel better. I get that. You don’t want to be that one person who points out what can go wrong, or who points out how this isn’t going to work, or who has to tell someone that their research might have some flaws.
But you know what.
We need you.
We need to have someone who embraces their negative thinking.
And says it outloud.
So, my feedback to you is to embrace those negative thoughts. Be mindful in your responses to people, try not to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. But never suppress your emotions. We have earned the right to have negative thoughts, so please don’t hold onto them.