5 Ways to Prevent the Negative Effects of Being Positive #peopleskills

Prevent the Negative Effects of Being Too Positive!

Is your positive attitude helping yourself and others? It often can. Yet, have you ever met someone who overlooks empathy and drives their positive attitude on others?

When extremely positive people don’t account for others’ needs, their positive outlook can backfire.  They can come across as patronizing, controlling, and oddly enough, insensitive.

Negative Effects of Being Positive image is Smiley Face Cube Glowing

Negative Effects of Being Positive Image by Kristin Resurreccion via Flickr.

Grateful to Kristin Resurreccion for the image via Flickr Creative Commons License.

5 Ways to Prevent the Negative Effects of Being Positive

I have a very positive attitude about life and deliver inspirational keynotes to lift others up. I have also met people who try to convert me to their version of optimism before seeing how positive I already am!  This turns me off to what they have to offer.

To prevent this misstep …

  1. Listen in the moment and understand others’ perspectives.  Listening builds trust through respect of others’ needs.  Sometimes people are so busy encouraging others to be positive they don’t stop and detect what others need at that moment.  Everyone is on a journey and they travel at different speeds.   Some get to a positive attitude faster than others.  Some don’t even want to go there.  

    Exception: If you are a leading an organization through change and a true resistor is slowing the pace with negativity, you will need to address that very clearly to ensure the momentum of change.

  2. Acknowledge and empathize.  Empathy doesn’t mean you agree. It means you matter, we matter this matters. Connect with empathy to build the trust needed to influence others.
  3. Coach only when asked.  In everyday life, don’t elect yourself someone else’s life coach.  Even positive words like “I would like to encourage you to …” are somewhat arrogant if the person didn’t ask for your help.   Live and enjoy your own positive attitude but don’t declare yourself Ruler of PositiveLand and issue decrees.  You may become known as a royal pain in the tail.
  4. Blend optimism with realism. It opens the door to empathy and builds credibility. It is much easier to connect and trust someone who has their feet on the ground as they reach for the stars.
  5. Disagree honestly and with respect. Become comfortable with honest respectful disagreement.  People disagree in life.  Working through disagreements often delivers great results.  Yet sometimes extremely positive people patronize during a disagreement because they seek immediate harmony.  Disagreement can be a positive if it is done respectfully.

Live positively and let others see your optimism and positive choices. Blend it with empathy and realism and you ascend to trust, respect, and the long reach of influence.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Leadership Optimism: Keeping It Real
When Strong Leaders Use Empathy

©2014 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.



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22 Responses to “5 Ways to Prevent the Negative Effects of Being Positive #peopleskills”

  1. Joe Williams says:

    Fabulous post, Kate. Since I share your positive outlook on the world, I read your words very carefully. I concur with all three of your steps. In particular, for #1 I approach with this question for the recipient: “I have some feedback for you-would you like to receive it?” If the person says no, I don’t share it at that time and wait for another opportunity when I get a “Yes.”

  2. Pattie Roberts says:

    Very interesting twist on positivity, Kate. I agree with your steps, and would say that following them with an open mind and heart can have a “passively positive” effect. Nobody wants to be “herded,” even if such herding can improve the quality of their lives. As you say, people choose how to live, and there is nothing more important than respecting the right to choose. So I would add that passive positivity (e.g., “Happy Monday!”; “Cute purse!”; “Let me get that door for you”) that doesn’t challenge a person’s choices, but that also allows me to be who I am in everyday life, could be helpful.

    There’s a yin and yang to everything, no?

    Happy Monday to all!

  3. Kate Nasser says:

    Joe & Pattie — Spot on!

  4. julie says:

    Kate, this is a great post. I’m also a positive person, but I like to think of myself as a positive realist. I believe in facing reality squarely while choosing to enjoy what I can in any situation.

    But positive attitude cannot be pushed on others. You’re right, it often backfires. I think we just have to lead by example.

    Thanks for this post.

  5. Kate Nasser says:

    From Marleen G. (with her permission)
    Go Kate! I love this. No one is positive all the time but some people pretend to be. I like to make lemonade out of life’s lemons, but I would not be honest if I said I was always positive. However, I try not to be too negative and try to turn my negative thoughts into a positive solutions when I can.

  6. Steve Williamson says:

    Another excellent article Kate. Those three tools, when used correctly, create some interesting conversations and great relationships.

  7. Jyotsna Nath says:

    Hello Kate, I agree with your thoughts on being positive and over positive. Sometimes a lot of us tend to go far from reality and rationale trying to stay or look positive. That does not mean that I’m always very rational but I try to stay positive without disregarding the limitations or challenges involved.

  8. Larry Bradley says:

    Wonderful article and right to the point. Firm believer in leading by example not by “herding” anyone along the path.

  9. Michael Winwood says:

    Being positive and offering challenge are two distinct aspects of how we might work with and nurture people we care about or are wanting to motivate. My experience tells me to keep them both apparent and real along with empathy and appreciation.

  10. Kate Nasser says:

    From Brian Curry (Used with his permission)
    Hi Kate,
    There’s a lot of truth in this article, and yes, it can become patronizing. I just switch off.

  11. Kelly Gabel says:

    Great article, Kate. Everything you noted was right on the mark. Well done!
    Kelly L. Gabel, M.Acc, CPA
    Manager, HR/Marketing
    Amper, Politziner & Mattia, LLP

  12. Lynn Marie Caissie says:


    I always knew this, but hadn’t ever found a way to put it in words. I appreciate very much that you did. 3 steps for building trust through respect – simple and straightforward. Perfect.

    I am in transition, and have been so for about a year. I am unflaggingly positive: there’s something to grasp and learn at every turn. I’m not sure the hordes of others in transition with me are so willing to embrace this as an opportunity. I’ve learned that being personally positive is an inspiration to them, but they have to work through their stuff on their own. The only other helpful thing I can do is acknowledge where they’re at and give them some space to express their discouragement.

  13. Kate Nasser says:

    I am glad you find the 3 steps helpful. Also, I love your phrase – “give them some space to express their discouragement.” Perfect.
    Thanks for contributing to this post.
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

  14. Samantha says:

    Excellent post Kate!

    You hit the nail on the head. Delivering optimistic decrees before extending empathy reveals a lack of care and concern for the reality of what another person or group may be going through.

    This is precisely where positivity is actually negative in disguise. When it is used to control, foster denial, or to prevent discomfort in ourselves at the expense of others who may be genuinely hurting or going through a painful time.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Kind regards,

  15. This article really spoke to me.
    I am positive, but I agree that we aren’t all the same “kind” of positive people.
    I can for example be a little too realistic and that can get in the way of other’s people positivity. I’ve learned to pace myself and listen rather to just try and convince others my opinion is the best one. In the end, I’ve learned a lot more doing that than I would have just trying and get others to think like me. This is kind of obvious but it does take a lot of personal work.

    Your article is spot on Kate. I really enjoy reading your posts, and I feel quite close to your vision of positivity. What I love is that you always take other’s point of view and feelings into account. That’s in my opinion the key to successful relationships.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Aurelie,
      I am very honored by your comment that I always take other’s point of view in to account. It is something I strive to do and to get this feedback is quite special.

      I like your phrase “pace yourself” — for it is in those small pauses that we take time to listen, understand other’s feelings, and show the empathy that prevents our optimism from overrunning others.

      Thank you for adding your voice to this discussion. So grateful.


  16. Kate,
    Love point 3, “coach only when asked”. I find it frustrating when you just want to have a chat with a colleague, perhaps vent for a few minutes then move on and they fall immediately into coaching mode. It can actually put you off communicating with them, which is a real shame.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Absolutely Peter. I very much agree. One of the most important steps with people is to sense what they want/need instead of appointing yourself their coach!

      Many thanks for your comment. Very grateful.

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