Learning to Listen to Negativity

Photo by JD Hancock

Photo by JD Hancock

More and more people around me are upping their listening skills, showing more interest in hearing others' ideas, seeking feedback, and wanting to work together to improve. We're becoming more relationship-aware. It's incredibly exciting, and it's not an easy journey sometimes. Especially when we get to the area of negativity.

Negativity can be tricky. Complaints are given voice, and victim stories may be shared. Strong emotions might be present. It can become toxic. This year I've been learning to listen to negativity better, and it's been cool to connect more deeply with people as a result. I've noticed that when negativity comes up, some people shut down. Other people argue against it. They might try to put a happy face on it. For whatever reason, someone cannot listen to the negative stuff or process it, and they might have a strong reaction against it--whatever was said is confronting them with something they don't like.

Why on earth did I choose to focus on hearing negativity? Partly because I started to notice it floating around practically everywhere. And because I encountered this idea from CRR Global:

A complaint is simply a dream door.

That idea was weird enough to get my attention! Complaints are pointing to unfulfilled expectations--dreams that have not come true. The person might not have even recognized what they wanted until it didn't happen, and now it's coming out of their mouths in a way that can be hard to hear. Tune into that channel, and you'll have all kinds of information to mine for possible improvements--incredible! Listening to negativity becomes much easier in this reframing and asking questions opens up totally different conversations.

There are people who speak negativity rather fluently. They might be rough on the exterior; I sometimes think of them as the Waldorfs and Statlers of real life. And it's quite possible that they are disagreeable givers, the most undervalued people in our organizations who we should listen to more:

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.