Worried About Being Labeled a Negative Nelly?

“How does one correct imperfections without noting them, when noting them means being tagged as negative? “ was the question I recently discussed with one of my librarian contacts.  It’s a question that comes up a lot in my work these days with managers and their teams.  I realize that I have answers to that question that may help so  I thought I’d share.  I hope that one or more of them may help you if you find yourself worried about being labeled a Negative Nelly:

  • Response A:  keep noting the problems cause it’s important and others may not see things from your vantage point.
  • Response B – If you’re sick of getting seen as negative, change tactics and see if there is a way to help people see the issue that doesn’t make them defensive so they can hear you.  It’s more work but in the long run, it pays off.   Try “I have a concern about…”  “I’d like to share my thoughts about…”  “When would be a good time to talk to  you about…?”  “I have another perspective…”  or trying stating the reason why you think something is a problem that’s related to the libraries mission or how your solution better matches the mission.
  • Response C – one person’s imperfections are another person’s solution.  Be open to the possibility that they might be right.
  • Response D – Some of us care deeply about things and tend to want to fix things that aren’t in our sphere of influence.  Whether we are “right” or “wrong” it may be that the Serenity Prayer is your best choice.  Particularly the part that says, “give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed”.

After thinking about all of these answers, I realize I use another tactic sometimes, which is a combination of the serenity prayer and what I teach in my stress management/change resilience workshop.  We humans tend to think that things are either going to stay the same (think about something that isn’t changing that you’re frustrated about) or that once something changes it will be like that forever (think of something that’s changed recently that you don’t like.)  Neither are true.  So you can always try saying something to yourself like “Apparently, this isn’t the right time given our current resources and structures, but eventually, there will be an opportunity to address the issue”  😉

Are You Listening?

Everyone seems to be saying….

  • We need to be responsive to our communities!
  • We need to innovate!
  • We need to do things differently!

They may be right, and the question is HOW do we do these things?  I believe there is a set of skills we need in order to get where we want to go.  And, one of them is learning how to really listen.

I’ve asked thousands of people if they are good listeners and more than half of them say they are.  Then, we do an activity to test whether it’s true.  It turns out what most people think is listening is really preparing an answer, or judging the other persons grammar, or waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Then there is the kind of listening where the listener is on a mental holiday– thinking about what’s for lunch or whether they need to get to the store to buy cat food.  There’s the all-too-common listening that involves the voice in your head saying, “Why won’t she stop talking already?”  And then there’s often a judging voice saying something like “Well, that’s a stupid idea” or “Tell me something I don’t know” or “No way, I know ten reasons why that will never work.”

Listening involves more than standing in front of another person and refraining from talking.  Listening requires openness, suspension of judgment, belief in the possibility that something of value is being transmitted, patience, and the ability to reduce one’s own internal distractions.

If we trained all staff to do this kind of listening – real listening — we just might find ourselves more responsive to our communities, more innovative, and open to doing things differently.  What do you think?