Negative feeling, positive thinking?

John Tropea turned up this brief report of this research by Annefloor Klep. The gist is summaried in US News thus:

Work teams who openly express their negative feelings share more information have greater solidarity and are better at solving complicated analytical problems a new study has found.

If you dip into the author’s summary you get a richer picture. It fits with what I blogged the other day about increasing emotional bandwidth: socialising feelings, as well as actions and meanings, actually makes for more creativity and better analysis.

“Negative” is a piece of shortand used to distinguish feelings like sadness or anger but this gives them a bum rap. All these feelings are legitimate and have clearly played vital roles in our evolution. By labelling them “negative” we risk deterring the sharing that the research suggests is useful.

I’ll also add that we kid ourselves if we think we can avoid sharing our feelings. They leak out like crazy, as anyone will recognise when dealing with difficult situations. You may hear people claiming “not to do touchy feely” but of course they’re generating a big felt impact on others whether they acknowledge it or not.

6 thoughts on “Negative feeling, positive thinking?

  1. Steven

    So true. All feelings are valid. People mistake the idea of always aiming to being positive, with the reality of all feelings being valid.

    Bottled up feelings that are not expressed, like anger, pain, sorrow, hate, simply lead to dis-ease and manifest themselves in unpleasant ways for the people who aren’t expressing themselves fully.

    This doesn’t mean go out and rant at people for your own sake, that’s just self-indulgence 🙂

  2. Dwight Towers

    Thanks for this research headsup. One reflection and one book tip.

    – best indicator of a surgical team not screwing up (amputating wrong kidney etc etc) is not experience of surgeons, quality of kit but the flatness of the hierarchy (e.g. the new nurse feeling she can say out loud “um, is that right” without being torn a new asshole by some tyrant doctor). Feedback, can be a life-saver.

    booktip is Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Smile or Die” about the cult of ‘positive’ (sic) thinking in the United States.

  3. John Tropea

    Hi Johnnie,

    Not long ago I posted on this very concept of emotional bandwidth and the mammalian brain…we thrive on trust and social interaction…providing conditions for this to occur improves work (happiness, productivity, meaningfulness, belongingness, purpose…)

    My post is a long one but mostly is comprised of excerpts from Stowe Boyd, Rob Paterson, and Larry Irons and others


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