PMP:030 Three Simple Ways to Respond to Negativity

In PMP Episode 30, I continue responding to listener and reader questions.
This week’s question was: What’s one of the biggest leadership challenges you face right now? One principal wrote back, “How can I respond to negativity among teachers about their students, colleagues or the community?” The answer to that question comes in three parts.

1. Check yourself first.

There is no way we can combat negativity unless we’re committed to being positive leaders first. How often are you speaking of those with whom you work in positive, rather than negative ways? If the primary comments we use are negative, how can we influence others to be positive?
It may not be a popular concept to consider whether or not we’re modeling negative behavior, but a school climate can only increase in positivity if its leaders also embrace positivity.

2. How can you look for the positives in your school so you are overwhelming the negativity?

Come to work each day looking for positive moments and encourage them by celebrating and publishing them. Will Bowen, in his book, The No Complaining Rule, explains how a habit of complaining infects others to be negative too. How much different would our days be if we responded with positive comments when asked about our day?
One of my former colleagues, Brooks Walton, was known as a legacy in teaching because of his incessant positivity. When asked, “How are you?” he would respond with “I’m just living the dream!”
Yes, you will always people in your building who drink grumpiness for breakfast, but err on the side of positivity yourself, and celebrate positive moments so often, negativity becomes secondary to the positive.

3. Take action to combat negativity with your own positive responses.

Here are three ways:
A. Kudos emails: when you do walkthroughs, follow up with a list of great happenings and email them out to your staff. Try to include as many moments as possible.
B. Capture photos of teachers and students doing great things. You can use these for newsletters or social media.
C. Take videos of exciting moments and share them with parents and others. Almost everyone loves seeing student learning in action. Share, share, share.


When you are sharing the positive, you are being part of the solution. So choose the high road and encourage that out

Now It’s Your Turn

What are some other ways you can combat negative behavior and comments among fellow educators? Share with the rest of us!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker