Tip #935:  How to Convert Negativity into Constructive Dialogue

“I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.“ Sugar Ray Robinson

The most effective way to deflect negativity and convert it into more constructive dialogue combines techniques from an unlikely duo: the fields of improvisation and negotiation.

  1.   The Improvisation Technique of “Yes, And”

“Yes, and” is a cornerstone concept for improvisation.

When a person says “Yes, and” in response to another’s comment, the conversation builds in a constructive and cooperative fashion. The responder’s “and” works off of the first person’s statement and offers additional supportive or expansive ideas that relate directly to what was said.

The trainer or meeting facilitator can say: “Yes, I see what you mean, and now let me add some more information or suggestions that pertain to what you just said.”

  1. The Negotiation Technique of Reframing

“Yes, and” also works well to reframe negativity.

When a participant brings up negative historical concerns, one reframing technique is to move the complainant’s focus from past wrongs to future remedies.

The first step is to acknowledge that the complaining individual has issues with past actions (without agreeing or disagreeing with that viewpoint). The second step is to focus the individual on identifying possible future remedies so that past (real or imagined) problems are not repeated.

The trainer or meeting facilitator can say: “Yes, I see that you are upset about things that happened in the past and I am sorry you experienced them. What can we do to avoid a similar circumstance from this point on?”

When the verbal attack is personal, instead of getting defensive, the trainer or facilitator can reinterpret the personal attack as an attack on the problem.

The trainer or meeting facilitator can say: “Yes, it is clear that you are very upset, and I share your concern. Let’s see if we can find a workable solution to the problem.”

The “yes, and” technique (from the field of improvisation) and the two reframing techniques (from the field of negotiation) require the trainer or meeting facilitator to pay close attention to the verbal and nonverbal messages of the negative individual.

The fact that the expressed concerns have been heard and acknowledged is often very gratifying to the complainant. This can calm the situation down and lay the groundwork for more cooperative and constructive interpersonal communications.

Contact Deborah Laurel for additional tips on how to reframe negativity.

May your learning be sweet- and safe.


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