Pessimism might be misunderstood in the workplace

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Health Assured team

28 March 2017

  In the workplace, pessimism is often seen as the antithesis of corporate culture. Pessimists are typically considered to be difficult to work with, and constantly need to fit-out from the crowds of populists. Other times, they are highly regarded as being more analytical and realistic in their visions and guidelines. This alludes inevitably into the fixed versus growth mindset discussion stirred, more recently, by Stanford University, as well as the significant research conducted by Dr Carol Dweck.   In a paper titled The Examined Life, researcher Stephen Grosz spends considerable time focusing on the reasons behind why we feel pessimistic about our approach, our future, and our companies. He quite rightly points out that it is the presence of the community and not the absence that provides vital insight to the pessimistic individual or company, to enhance his or her growth.   Roderick Kramer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, adds to the research by Stephen Grosz and mentions, “Some people are dispositional pessimists whose knee-jerk reaction is to see the negative in everything, while others may be expressing a pessimistic point of view based upon informed logic.” (As stated by HBR)   Essentially the aim is to look at pessimism as a symptom rather than a problem.   Excerpt from Your Story, read the full article here   Assertiveness Assertiveness is the ability to express yourself and your rights without violating the rights of others. Acting assertively will allow you to feel more self-confident and will generally gain you the respect of your peers and friends. It can increase your chances for honest relationships, and help you to feel better about yourself and your self-control in everyday situations. This, in turn, can improve your decision-making ability and possibly your chances of getting what you really want from life.   Assertiveness or aggressive behaviour? Before we can look at techniques that can help you to become more assertive it is important to look at the differences between being assertive, aggressive and non-assertive.
  • Non-assertive behaviour: The act of withdrawing from a situation. This is a passive approach to a situation, allowing others to choose for you. Examples of non- assertive language would be – “Oh, it’s nothing”, “Oh, that’s all right; I didn’t want it anymore”, “why don’t you go ahead and do it; my ideas aren’t very good anyway”. Its not being able to say No
  • Aggressive behaviour: The act of over-reacting emotionally to a situation. Aggression can also take the form of a lie or a misrepresentation of the facts. This is a self-enhancing, egotistical approach to a situation and not allowing others to choose for themselves, but choosing for them. This develops hostility, defensiveness on the aggressor’s part and hurt, humiliation on the receiver’s part. Examples of aggressive language- “You are crazy!”, “Do it my way!
  • Assertive behaviour: The act of declaring that this is what I am, what I think and feel, and what I want. This is a non-egotistical, active, rather than passive, approach to a situation. The result is an open, direct self-expression of your thoughts and feelings, allowing others to choose for themselves, mutual satisfaction at achieving a desired goal. Examples of assertive language- “I think we should”, “That seems unfair to me”, “Can you help me with this?” , “I appreciate your help”.
  Specific techniques for assertiveness Body language can help you to improve your assertive behaviour:
  • Eye contact and facial expression: maintain direct eye contact; appear interested and alert, but not angry
  • Posture: stand or sit erect, possibly leaning forward slightly. Don’t fold arms across chest
  • Distance and contact: stand or sit at a normal conversational distance from the other
  • Gestures: use relaxed, conversational gestures
  • Voice: use a factual, not emotional tone of voice. Sound determined and full of conviction, but not overbearing
  • Timing: choose a time when both parties are relaxed. A neutral site is best. Listen as well as speaking
  Be as specific and clear as possible about what you want, think, and feel. The following statements project this preciseness:
  • “I want to…”
  • “I don’t want you to…”
  • “Would you…?”
  • “I have a different opinion, I think that…”
  • “I have mixed reactions. I agree with these aspects for these reasons, but I am concerned about these aspects for these reasons.”

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