How Negative Thinking Can Help You Get Ahead BY JILL KRASNY @JILLKRASNY
Negativity can make you fixate on problems, and there are times when that is exactly what you need.
Negativity has a reputation for making things worse. When people are down, they tend to fixate on small things, which makes them seem more sensitive than usual. But some types of negative thinking can actually be useful at work, according to Psychology Today. For one thing, anxious employees are more focused on detail and their negativity helps them consider both sides when making a tough decision.
Here are three ways negativity can be a powerful thing, and why the trick may be figuring out when to put it to use.
Attention to Detail
As I’ve written before, the upside of bad moods is becoming more detail-oriented. Since you’re so attuned to everything around you–and presumably why it’s not what you want–poring over the details becomes far less arduous than it would be when you’re feeling uplifted. The reason: Negativity makes people more narrow-minded, leading them to scrutinize things they would normally overlook, from a partner’s meaningless tic to the measurements involved in drilling into a wall. For air-traffic controllers, worry can be asset when lives are at stake and every blip on the radar is an airplane.
As Julie Norem explains in her book “The Power of Positive Thinking,” those prone to imagining the worst-case scenario are often motivated to come up with strategies in order to avoid them. At work, that can mean better defense strategies for business, and in the long run, more shots at success. After all, a leader who knows her weaknesses is usually better able to work around them.
Getting It Right
Sometimes a bad feeling leads to smart decisions later on. According to the New York Times, anxious people can benefit from some ill-feeling–or what researcher Rebecca Mitchell describes as “distress, irritation, boredom, tension, upset, and hostility–when they tap other colleagues for their opinion. The sad people know something is wrong with their thinking, and they don’t trust themselves or others, so they question perspectives while pursuing objective data. This is especially helpful in environments “where everybody’s being super-cooperative, and everybody’s trying really hard not to rock the boat,” Mitchell told the Times. If the office is full of yes-men, that one voice of doubt may be the voice of reason.