How to Turn Negative Nancy into Positive Pam

Dear Dan,

How do you distinguish between a true Negative Nancy and one who just has an eye for identifying areas that need improvement?

There are folks who have the ability to immediately spot improvements not as a way to be negative but as an opportunity for improvement.  Yet coworkers seem to view these folks as negative because it seems that things are never good enough.


Dear SEJ,

Great question and observation about Negative Nancy.

Negative Nancy isn’t trying to cause harm. She’s trying to help.

Trying to harm co-workers isn’t negativity. It’s evil.

First inclination:

It’s normal to see what’s wrong before you see what’s right.

Imagine little Mary showing her mom a picture she just colored. Imagine Mom’s first words are, “You went outside the lines three times.”

Negative Nancy seems negative because she’s thrilled with her own ideas and disrespectful of other people’s work.

Negative impact is the triumph of good intentions over people skills.

How to Turn Negative Nancy into Positive Pam:

#1. Admiration precedes improvement.

If someone’s work is so bad that there’s nothing to admire, that person has the wrong job.

#2. Small improvements of other people’s work cause loss of enthusiasm.

Ask yourself if your tweak is worth low vitality.

Enthusiasm goes further than discouragement.

#3. Develop a reputation for affirmation and admiration.

It’s easy for Negative Nancy to become Positive Pam. She can choose to affirm and admire every time she feels the urge to tweak.

#4. Negative Nancy will do better if she takes the assessment and does the exercises in, “Emotional Intelligence 2.0.”

#5. Encourage people to improve their own work. (Keep your tweaks to yourself.)

  1. What will you do differently next time?
  2. What suggestions might you have for me if I did this project?
  3. What does taking this project to the next level look like?

What suggestions do you have for Negative Nancy?

How do you distinguish between someone who is truly negative and someone who is trying to make things better?

Bonus material:

There are 10 articles on How to Ignite Positive Energy in the Complete Works of February 2020.

Nitpickers Usually Cause More Harm than Good (Bud to Boss)

How to Deal with a Co-Worker who Points Out All Your Wrongs (Chron)

5 Tips for Handling Negative People in the Workplace (Inc)