Dear HBR:
Dear HBR:
Apr 4, 2019
Overcoming Negativity
Play • 31 min

Do you ruminate endlessly on difficult work situations? Dan and Alison answer your questions with the help of David DeSteno, a psychologist at Northeastern University. They talk through what to do when your boss constantly criticizes you, you’ve been fired unexpectedly, or your coworkers complain about you to your boss.

From Alison and Dan’s reading list:

Book: Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pride by David DeSteno — “In truth, emotions are among the most powerful and efficient mechanisms we have to guide good decisions. They’re the first such mechanisms we developed, too. Emotional responses existed long before we acquired the cognitive abilities to plan ahead… The trick to success, then, comes in understanding that emotions don’t only happen to us; we can use them to help achieve our goals — if we develop the wisdom to call upon the right emotions to meet the challenges at hand.”

HBR: How to Bounce Back from Adversity by Joshua D. Margolis and Paul Stoltz— “So how do you react? Are you angry and disappointed, ranting and raving to anyone who will listen? Do you feel dejected and victimized, resigned to the situation even as you deny the cold reality of it? Or do you experience a rush of excitement—perhaps tinged with fear—because you sense an opportunity to develop your skills and talents in ways you’d never imagined? The truth is, you’ve probably reacted in all those ways when confronted with a challenge—maybe even cycling through multiple emotional states in the course of dealing with one really big mess.”

HBR: 3 Ways to Better Understand Your Emotions by Susan David — “There are a variety of reasons why this is so difficult: We’ve been trained to believe that strong emotions should be suppressed. We have certain (sometimes unspoken) societal and organizational rules against expressing them. Or we’ve never learned a language to accurately describe our emotions.”

HBR: How to Respond to Negativity by Peter Bregman — “Countering someone’s negativity with your positivity doesn’t work because it’s argumentative. People don’t like to be emotionally contradicted and if you try to convince them that they shouldn’t feel something, they’ll only feel it more stubbornly. And if you’re a leader trying to be positive, it comes off even worse because you’ll appear out of touch and aloof to the reality that people are experiencing.”

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